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OS X El Capitan: The Missing Manual by David Pogue

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Spaces (Virtual Desktops)

Mission Control’s other star feature, Spaces, gives you up to 16 full-size monitors. Ordinarily, of course, attaching so many screens to a single computer would be a massively expensive proposition, not to mention detrimental to your living space and personal relationships.

Fortunately, Spaces monitors are virtual. They exist only in the Mac’s little head. You see only one at a time; you switch using Mission Control or a gesture.

But just because the Spaces screens are simulated doesn’t mean they’re not useful. You can dedicate each one to a different program or kind of program. Screen 1 might contain your email and chat windows, arranged just the way you like them. Screen 2 can hold Photoshop, with an open document and the palettes carefully arrayed. On Screen 3: your web browser in Full Screen mode.

You can also have the same program running on multiple screens—but with different documents or projects open on each one.

These desktops are also essential to OS X’s full-screen apps feature, because each full-screen app gets its own Spaces desktop.

Now, virtual screens aren’t a new idea—this sort of software has been available for years. But the Mac was the first to make it a standard feature of a consumer operating system.

It’s still what most people would consider an advanced feature, and it’s definitely confusing at first. But it’ll be here when you’re ready for it.

Creating a Desktop

Mission Control generally starts you off with just one Space (or “desktop,” ...

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