Making Spaces Suck (Just a Little) Less

I’m not a big fan of Spaces. It’s a good idea – no, actually it’s a great idea – that’s worked quite well in Linux-land for a very long time now. In OS X, though, it’s just not right. OS X’s Spaces seem to be carved around applications and that’s just not how people work. Okay, maybe I’m over-generalizing, but it’s certainly not how I work. Do a bit of reading and it appears it’s not the way a lot of others work, either.

Even so, I tried it their way. I did. I identified my most used applications and targeted a space for each. My spaces were roughly aligned by task, but a rough approximation was the best I could do in this model. I worked that way for a few months before giving up. My working environment was too fractured using this scheme and it threw me off my game.

I didn’t want to give up on Spaces entirely, so this is what I did to recover:

  1. I removed all application-Space assignments.
  2. I assigned a few, carefully selected applications to Every Space. Adium and Colloquy are two applications that I like to travel with me because I find myself in and out of them quite often and somewhat erratically since I’m not entirely in charge (others can contact me). They’re also not task-oriented for the most part.

Now I have task-centric Spaces for:

  • Development (Eclipse, Firefox, Backpack – via Fluid, etc.)
  • Browsing (Safari, Google Reader – via Fluid, etc.)
  • Work (Remote Desktop)
  • Windows (VMWare Fusion)

I also have two additional spaces that can be used on an as-needed basis for short-term, focused tasks.

For the most part, this works pretty well for me until I need to open multiple windows of something – usually Firefox or Safari. As a keyboard junkie, I’d like to bring the application into focus via Cmd+Tab and hit Cmd+N to open a new window. Unfortunately, the way Spaces is configured the Cmd+Tab process lands me back on the Space where there’s an existing window. I can still get where I want to go by creating my new window, then hitting F8 and dragging the new window where I want it, but I haven’t saved myself any effort and may have even added a bit. Ugh. QuickSilver also just brings an existing window of the selected application into focus.

My other option is to move my mouse down to the dock (which I hide and never, ever touch because I’ve become a slave to QuickSilver), right-click on the application that needs a new window and select the New Window option. Also ugly.

Yesterday, though, I read an article on Signal vs. Noise that might help. I’ve just finished installing the OS X hack it references. Here’s to less suckage.

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