Become a Multitasking Master With These 6 Mac Exposé Tips
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Spread out over several articles, I’ve mentioned that I’m sort of a multitasker 6 Apps to Help You Focus & Be Productive [Mac] 6 Apps to Help You Focus & Be Productive [Mac] Read More . Not a very good one though, I have to admit. And every Mac user will concur that aside from Spaces How To Organize Your Mac Desktop With Spaces How To Organize Your Mac Desktop With Spaces Read More , Exposé is one of the most useful tools to help you triumph over the land mine that is multitasking.

From Panther to Tiger to Leopard and now, Snow Leopard, we’ve seen Exposé slowly maturing from a young cub to the ferocious beast it is today. There’s just so much more you can do with Exposé now compared to a year or two ago. And sticking with the multitasking motif, I’ll show you 6 different ways you can make use of Exposé in your daily workflow, shaving precious seconds off your regular routine.

Quick Look in Exposé

Quick Look is now integrated into Exposé, allowing you to preview a window without exiting Expoé. Invoke the All Windows Exposé view and while your mouse cursor is hovering over a window (highlighted by a blue rim), press Spacebar. You are now previewing that window in full resolution but wait, you’re still in Exposé. You may either press Spacebar again to return to the All Windows view or click on the preview (or press Enter) to select that window or the Escape key to exit Exposé.

This works wonders if you have a lot of windows open and they end up being generated as tiny thumbnails. There’s no more guesswork involved. You can now be sure of the window you’re selecting while still in Exposé.

Cycle through apps

In Snow Leopard, Apple introduced Dock Exposé, where you can now click and hold on any Dock icons to invoke an Application Window Exposé view. While in that view, you can press Tab and cycle through any running application. Pressing the accent (`) key will reverse the cycle order.

You can achieve the same effect via the Application Switcher. Press Command+Tab and hold the Command key. Keep pressing the Tab key until you reach an application you want to view in Application Window Exposé view and hit the 1 key while still holding on to Command. You can now release the Command key and press Tab or the accent key to cycle through applications on your Dock.

Reorder windows by name and type

If you have loads of open windows, viewing them individually and finding the right one in Exposé can be tricky. The order in which Exposé windows seem to be arranged in Snow Leopard remains a mystery to me. However, you can arrange the windows alphabetically if you hit Command+1 while in Exposé. Pressing Command+2 groups similar apps together in no particular (known) order.

In the screencast below, I tried to demonstrate the difference between reordering by name and by type.

Select window by name

Let’s just say that you’re working with a lot of windows and you’d like find a specific one while in Exposé. By typing the first few letters of the window you’re looking for, Exposé will refocus the highlighted window to the closest match.

In the screencast below, watch my mouse cursor as it highlights the ‘Music’ folder. I begin to type “thi” and the highlight jumps to wrap around Things. Press Enter to select that window and exit Exposé.

Quit and hide apps

Notice that now, even in Exposé, the Dock is still in view. If you left-click on any dock icon, a contextual menu will pop up to provide you with options to quit, hide, keep in Dock, open at login and show in Finder.

In the same vein, you can also quit an app while using the Application Switcher. Press Command+Tab and hold the Command key. Hit the Tab key until you reach the app you want to quit then press the Q key, still holding on the Command key. The app in question will quit without interfering with Application Switcher.

In the screencast below, I’ll demonstrate how both of these methods look like when they are performed.

Only show windows from current Space

As I said above, Spaces is another friend all for mutitasking. Alas, a caveat — when invoking Exposé in Snow Leopard with Spaces activated, all windows from every Space is shown. To make Exposé display only the windows from the current Space, a little Terminal magic is required.

Launch Terminal then copy and paste these commands in one at a time and hit Enter after each one.

defaults write wvous-show-windows-in-other-spaces -bool FALSE

killall Dock

To restore Exposé back to its original settings:

defaults delete wvous-show-windows-in-other-spaces

killall Dock

So there you have it, 6 useful tips to help you manage Exposé and multitask more efficiently. I hope that they come in useful.

If you have any more Exposé tips, feel free to add them in the comments section.

Image credit: James the photographer

Explore more about: Application Dock, Multitasking.

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  1. B. Moore
    November 23, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    anyone know of a great Exposé clone for xp?

  2. Noah
    November 23, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    You can't wait for Ubuntu - chrome OS remix? Great!

  3. Roger Harris
    November 23, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    Windows 7 borrowed its UI from Mac. And just wait for all those yummy viruses. We'll see if Chrome can outperform Mac. But for now Mac is still the leading OS.

    • Ray
      November 23, 2009 at 11:44 pm

      Maybe Microsoft did borrow some of its Aero UI from Mac but have you even tried it? Everything just feels so much more fluid. I never thought I'd say this but they really hit the nail on the head with this one. It is the first time I feel an operating system out of Redmond is way and I mean way better than OSX

  4. Robomaster
    November 23, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    I don't use a mac - I prefer windows 7. Can't wait for Chrome OS!

    • Jackson Chung
      November 23, 2009 at 3:54 pm

      I doubt Chrome OS will have Exposé lol

      • Noah
        November 23, 2009 at 3:59 pm

        Why not? It'll have features like it, as long as you can install Compiz or a different WM.

        • Jackson Chung
          November 24, 2009 at 2:01 am

          Because it'll defeat the entire point of ChromeOS

        • Noah
          November 24, 2009 at 2:33 am

          Why do you say that? These aren't bloated features, they are light features. They take up next to nothing to run.