Spaces: The best Mac OS feature and understanding the little green circle

I think this feature is going to be a big deal for a lot of you, but it’s nothing new. What I am about to describe has been part of the Mac OS experience since at least 2007 (to the best of my knowledge). It is known as Spaces.

Whether in person or remotely, I have watched all of you use your Macs. Nearly all of you keep multiple applications open at once. There is nothing wrong with that. Your Mac is a powerful system. Having a word processor, an internet browser, the Photos app, and Mail open seems like par for the course for the average consumer or small office Mac user.

Then I have this "chalk on a blackboard," creepy moment watching you drag windows around the screen. You move them around. You drag them off the screen so only 1/4 is showing. Then you drag them back up later. Let me introduce you to a better way.

Of course you know that there are THREE DOTS in the upper left hand corner of every app window on the Mac. Red means close. Yellow means hide (down at the the lower right of the screen on the Dock — I hate this one), and then there is the GREEN DOT. I see many of you using the green dot, thinking it is what it always was. I think your unfamiliarity with its new function has only compounded your window management problems. The green dot used to mean, "expand this window to the maximum possible size (with the dock still showing down below and three dots showing on top)". Delete that from your memory bank. The GREEN DOT now means, "put this app in FULL SCREEN MODE." Full screen mode is different than maximum size. When in app is in full screen mode, it literally takes up the whole screen. The dock hides at the bottom and the the top of the window dots are hidden as well. Many Mac clients have told me that they feel lost when it happens. Some figure out on your own that if you point your cursor to the top of the screen, the dots re-appear and clicking the green dot moves the window back to its previous size.

Now you understand the changes of the green dot and the basics of full screen mode. I am recommend that you accept these changes and get to know the Spaces function to make your life on the Mac easier. It is good or even advisable to push the green dot on every app you are working on, unless you have a specific reason not to. The full screen mode allows you to focus on exactly what is front of you. Here is where Spaces comes in. Let’s say you have three apps open and you have pushed the green dot on all of them. How are you going to switch between those apps? Are you going to go up to the top of the screen with your mouse and shrink them down? NO NO NO.

You need to know the super simple short cut to switch between all of your open, full screen Mac apps. Are you ready?
Ctrl (Control) key + right arrow
Ctrl (Control) key + left arrow
* You can keep cycling through your open apps until you get to the right one. Hold the Control key and keep pressing the right or left arrow. Let go of the keys when you want to stop. It is as easy as flipping cards on a Rolodex.

If you have a Mac laptop, you also have one more option. In Apple menu >> System Preferences >> Trackpad , you can set enable a Gesture that allows for a three-finger left or right swipe to allow you to flip between open, full screen apps. Note: I generally advise most clients to turn most gestures off, except for the two-finger scroll.

The bottom line: understand the how the green dot works today, use it, and flip through all of your open apps with ease by using Ctrl + left / right arrow keyboard commands.
Spaces is even more powerful than I have described here, but I think don’t want to give you too much to practice at one interval.