[0:11] February 26, 2023, and this is show number 929. Well, remember how I got laryngitis over the holidays?
And then while we were in Antarctica, I got another wee cold that took my voice out yet again.
Well, this past week we went to Disneyland to celebrate the lovely Sienna's upcoming three-year birthday.
She's free at Disneyland until she's three years old. On Wednesday night, I was thinking how my voice was finally, not gravelly for the first time in two months.
On Thursday I woke up with a cold and I lost my voice again.
Now I had a nice meaty topic I was going to tell you about myself, but I think you might appreciate this story next week when I'm expecting to have my full voice back.
The good news is that last week during that short intermission when my voice was actually working, I recorded a lovely chat with Ed Tobias, also known as Mr. Ed, in the live chat room about some geeky stuff he's been doing.
To help me through the chaos of these last couple of months, Bart recorded ahead of time a fabulous segment about Mac OS Spaces. I think you're really going to like both segments.
They're both pretty long, so there will be just these two segments. That's more good news because it means you won't have to listen to much of my voice even though it is mending again.
Allison On The Automators
[1:24] I'm excited to tell you that I got to be the guest on the Automators Podcast number 122 with David Sparks and Rosemary Orchard. They asked me lots of great questions about automation, which you wouldn't be too shocked to find out.
And I focus mostly on things that I do on the Mac.
I manage to squeeze in some information about programming by stealth, of course, and what we've been doing there.
But my favorite part was when they asked me, what are my favorite tools for automation?
I had a really great answer to it, and I don't think it's what you would expect, but it's an answer that Mike Price really enjoyed. Anyway, check out this episode of The Automators at relay.fm slash automators, and it's episode number 122.
And of course, there's a link in the show notes.
Mr. Ed On Better Touch Tool To Fake A Stream Decks
[2:08] Before we talk to Ed, I have to give a disclaimer. The subject of our conversation is how he used BetterTouchTool to do some automation to kind of fake his way into making a stream deck, but using his keyboard.
Before we started recording, I told him, I got a swore and somebody had very recently talked about BetterTouchTool on the show.
We racked our brains trying to remember who it was and what they'd done with it, but we couldn't remember.
I even searched podfeed.com, and as you hear in the recording, I found mention of BetterTouchTool from 2009, but nothing recent.
But I was sure somebody had just talked better touch tool.
At this point, I'm betting about 90% of you are hollering into your phones that it was Alistair Jenks who talked about how he's using BetterTouchTool to control his stream deck just one month ago.
[2:59] Now I've confessed many times that I don't even remember what I talked about even a week ago, so this is on brand for me. I went back to listen to Alistair's piece on BetterTouchTool and how he's using it to control his stream deck, and I do remember the recording now.
I blame the fact that I listen to it, I don't think I listen to it on the ship but maybe on our way back on the plane and I blame too many penguins, too many breakfast croissants and too many white Russians front and that's why I don't remember who it was. With that preamble I still think it's a fun conversation with Ed on what he's been doing with BetterTouchTool and after relisting to Alistair I'm even more excited to jump in and learn the tool. Ed talks about about the price of BetterTouchTool, which is $22 for a lifetime license or $10 for two years of updates.
But I wanted to make sure you knew it's also available with a Setapp subscription.
With that long preamble, let's listen to Ed and my conversation about what he's been doing.
[3:55] Well, back in 2009, Matt Hillier talked to us about BetterTouchTool and evidently it's come a long ways and it does some other stuff.
I'm shocked that in, what is that, 232, I can't do subtraction, a long time, is that 14 years?
Anyway, a long time ago, it did some things and apparently it does more.
And I've asked Ed Tobias, good friend of the show, good friend of Steve and mine to come on the show to tell us about something fun that he just did with it this week.
How are you doing today, Ed?
Pretty good, pretty good. Yeah, I hadn't used better touch tool in a long time either.
I kind of did a revisit on it myself.
Yeah, so I love the way Ed did this. All he did was he sent me a screenshot and said something like, my new stream deck or my pretend stream deck, my fake stream deck.
Yeah, it's kind of like a pseudo stream deck. Yes, I can't afford a real stream deck.
They're on sale this week. Oh, good.
[4:53] But Ed is the kind of guy that would prefer to build his own with baling wire and strapping tape, right?
Yep, that's it. A little duct tape and baling wire and that'll work. You can get it done.
Yep. All right. So this all has to start with an itch you want to scratch. What problem were you trying to solve?
[5:11] So every time I do some coding, I work on my own web server and I do coding with Home Assistant and a few other apps.
Every time I set it up, it's I got to launch the browser, then I got to launch terminal, then I got to launch the code, VS code, and all those things.
It'd be nice to be able to just press one button and have my entire setup happen, All the apps launched and all the windows configured just the way I like them.
So I was looking for a solution like that.
Um, and I started going down the path of going to shortcuts, you know, the Mac OS shortcuts and that sort of worked.
I combined it with Moom and things like that, but it seemed a little clunky and it doesn't always work all the time.
So by the way, Moom is a tool that allows you to place windows on screen and then memorize the location so you just pull down to Moom and you say, set this up and it, and it puts things in place. Great tool, great tool, but the combination was clumsy.
Yeah, it was, it was a great tool and it actually, uh, that's what led me to better touch tool again, because in the shortcuts app.
[6:27] I was able to launch all the applications and then I wanted to, uh, trigger the Moom configuration to arrange all the windows the way I wanted them And the shortcuts app, the way it did it was it actually went through better touch tool to, to send a command key sequence to Moom.
Ah, and you're thinking, well, why do I need to do it twice or go through that to do it?
Exactly. I'm always trying to simplify things. So I started looking at better touch tool and looking through all the different options and it's like, wow, this thing is really powerful.
So explain to us what better touch tool is. I hear a lot of people talking about it, people all excited, but I don't know what it is.
It's basically the same as keyboard maestro if you've used that a lot.
You can take inputs either from keyboard shortcuts that you can define, or gestures on your trackpad or.
[7:24] Actually, it takes inputs from stream deck too, as well as a lot of other things, including a Siri remote.
You can actually program your Siri remote to control your computer.
There's all kinds of stuff like that.
Yeah. I think there's MIDI controls where you can actually use a MIDI device of some sort to control your computer.
It's just phenomenal, there's all the different ways.
Okay. Just so people know, it's 10 bucks for two years worth of updates, 22 bucks for a lifetime, or it's in Setapp.
That's right. You know I'm installing it while you're talking, right?
Well, the neat thing about it is you can go on the Mac and you can create keyboard shortcuts for any app.
But this one will allow you to assign a keyboard shortcut and create several actions that happen just from that one keyboard shortcut.
So that's what attracted me to this because then I could do one keyboard shortcut and it launches all my other apps that I need, and then arranges them in the window configuration that I want.
[8:35] For example, I have one, and then to make it look more like a Stream Deck, I actually printed out the icons of the different applications and pasted them on my keyboard.
So that's the picture you sent me.
That's the picture I sent. Yeah, it's, I have one of those extended keyboards with the number keypad and it gives you the F keys that are like 13 through 19. So things you never use, right?
Things you'd never use, yeah. So I use that to assign those actions and I just pasted those with label maker tape and kind of printed out the icons on them. So it's real classy looking then.
Oh, it is. Yes, yes. That's the duct tape version. But it works really well. And I have one that's got Discord on it, and it launches Discord as well as the YouTube channel at petepotty.live, and then that way I'm ready for the show at five o'clock on Sundays.
Oh, I love it. I love it. So can it take you all the way into the right server on Discord?
[9:49] Yes. You can do it with certain key combinations, but that's the only one I go to. Oh, okay. It's yours.
So, well, it's kind of funny. This will probably air before it happens, but I'm, going to be on the Automators podcast. And one of the things we were talking about was applications that make it hard to actually control some of these automation tools and, The talks rosemary talk specifically about the fact that discord is not a standard app and has all these weird buggy behaviors and it's really hard to control it so it's good to know you actually can do that.
Yeah yeah you can not only that you can instead of just launching safari i can actually tell it to go to this URL so it'll take me wherever i want so it's very kind of very handy that way it's got a lot of other features too.
It's got a thing called where you can do a hyper key.
[10:45] And it's basically it's you know how you do the shift control option command with all the fingers on your hand.
Right. And then and then hit something else where you can assign shift option control command to the caps lock. I hear so many people do this and it makes me crazy because I use the caps lock key as nature intended. I use it for caps lock.
See, that's the thing. If you use Caps Lock and then another key like Caps Lock W, that'll use the hyper key.
But if you just hit Caps Lock, it turns Caps Lock on. I take back my growl of annoyance. That's interesting.
Yeah, so you keep the Caps Lock functionality, but you also add to it by making it do that.
And the nice thing is the shift control option command is is something that most applications don't ever use all those. So you won't be interfering with any applications natural key commands.
It's kind of interesting that it's that set of keys because that's exactly what people use in keyboard maestro.
Yes. It's almost like there's a common language now between these kinds of applications, I guess.
Yeah, it probably is. Yeah. I got keyboard maestro a long time ago, but I never really got into using it. It could just seem very complicated to me. But this one just seems very natural.
[12:12] But there's all kinds of things and there's things I've learned by looking online.
There are game changers to me, like holding the shift key down and moving two fingers on my trackpad up and down changes the volume.
Oh, that's interesting. Once you try it, it's just like, this is life changing.
It really is. Tapping with two fingers brings up a finder window and they have a thing where- These are default built in?
No, you just set them up, but they're pretty easy to set up.
And then there's one where I set up where it's got its own clipboard manager.
And you can use, like I've got it set up where if I have two fingers on the trackpad and I tap my left, the left of the two fingers, it launches the keyboard or the clipboard manager within better touch tool.
That seems like it would take dexterity. Hold two fingers down and lift the left one.
I might be able to do that, but I'd have to think.
You have to use your brain to do that, don't you? You kind of do, a little bit, but it's not too bad.
And it's got, when you do that, you can favorite some of the things that you've captured in the clipboard manager and they stay.
[13:32] Okay. And it's your favorite. So they're kind of like, you know, like every time I want to create a new HTML page, all that glop that you put in the beginning of an HTML page, I save that as a favorite so I can go right to it.
Oh, that's cool. So when you do that weird keystroke, it's showing you your list, but then you can favor it within that.
[13:53] Okay. Now, where did you get the ideas of to do these things, like bringing up the clipboard manager or swiping with two fingers with the shift key to do volume?
No, I just kind of searched YouTube for better touch tool videos and tutorials and I got a lot of them from that.
Oh, okay. So that's kind of a good idea to get ideas from other people of like, what have they done with it? Because right now I'm looking at the screen and it says, add first trackpad gesture for all apps. It's like, well, I don't know what kind of things can you do?
Yeah, you can do lots of things. You can even draw on it and it'll do things. That's crazy.
The power just keeps going deeper and deeper. This clipboard manager, I just want to finish up on that. It allows you to paste things converting everything to plain text. So if you, copied something that had formatting on it, it'll automatically remove that.
Oh, that's cool.
[14:54] It'll save the text that you just copied, and it's on your clipboard.
You can save it to a file, create a new file and save it to that.
It's just got all kinds of stuff there.
You can even, from the thing, you can run shortcuts, macOS shortcuts, from within the Clipboard Manager.
So some shortcuts take text as input, you know, so you can configure it to do that.
Now, the shortcuts will fail just like they fail if you run them manually on a Mac, right?
Yes, yes. But you can trigger them more elegantly when they're going to fail. You can, you can.
And you can set up any kind of trackpad or keyboard shortcut on BetterTouchTool to trigger shortcuts directly too.
I got one where I hold the shift key down and I force touch four fingers.
Where you press hard on the trackpad and it sends a message to shortcuts to tell Home Assistant to turn all the lights on in my house.
[15:55] Oh that's interesting. That's crossing several streams but it does work.
Yeah, I was going to say. So why do you have to talk to Home Assistant to talk to shortcuts?
No, no. Shortcuts talks to Home Assistant. Oh okay, okay. Unfortunately, BetterTouchTool can talk to shortcuts but it can't talk to Home assistant. So I have it talk to shortcuts to tell home assistant to turn on all the lights in my house.
I love it. I love it. Now, what I do like is while you do seem to automate to a ridiculous degree, you and you've got to spend a lot of time on this, there are always things that actually solve real problems. You aren't doing it just because it's fun to do you doing it because it actually solves a problem for you.
Yes, yes. And it's useful in that.
[16:47] Especially just little things that make it easier. Just the two-finger tap bringing up the Finder window.
I hate going to the menu bar and saying, open new Finder window or doing even command, control, shift, M. I can never remember what that is. Yeah.
But there's just certain things. It's funny how some of the littlest things when you describe them, it sounds stupid that, oh, is it really that hard to press the up-down volume on your keyboard?
But you know what you have to do?
You have to take your eyes off the screen, you have to take your hands off the keyboard, you have to look down and go, oh, there's the button and then press it.
[17:23] Yeah, exactly. That does take a while. That does take mental load and visual load and it gets you out of what you're doing, but just holding the shift key down and scrolling would be really cool. I like that. Yeah.
You can also do, like I said, different gestures on the keypad.
So there's trackpad gestures, there's keyboard shortcut gestures, or actions, and I don't have a Stream Deck, but you can hook up your Stream Deck to do actions.
And there's, once you've gotten all these things in there, you can get lots of these built up, you can actually take all of those and assign them to a configuration.
So you can have multiple configurations within BetterTouch tool.
And what do different configurations do for you?
[18:17] Actually, they're presets. Presets? Yeah, so you can have...
[18:23] For example, maybe you have a set of presets for when you're using your Mac to do Zoom, or you have another set of presets for when you want to use your Mac to do coding or recording or, anything video editing, and you can just change the presets and then all those keyboard shortcuts.
[18:44] Can go and do something different.
Oh, okay. So you could say, I don't know, turn the brightness up on your screen instead of turn the volume up also with the shift to two fingered stroke.
Exactly. So you can reuse a keystroke. Exactly. Or you can use it to fast forward and back in a video clip.
Okay. You know, you can do all kinds of things like that.
That's kind of hip, baby. And you can import them. It is. And you can export them and import them so you can actually share them with other people.
Oh, so give me all yours. Okay. Maybe the audience would like them too.
Especially that Discord plus pod feed at com slash live. I mean, who wouldn't want that one?
I know that's that's one of the top ones.
But no, but it's very useful to I just started looking at it a couple days ago when I sent you that image and it's just I've been kind of studying it and I haven't even scratched the surface.
But the author has been updating it like crazy. So it's just, over the years, it's just gotten more and more useful.
[19:52] I've heard it's sung its virtues for so many years. I don't know.
I felt like, I actually think my son Kyle might've told me about it first.
But the problem it was solving was some gesture you couldn't do on a trackpad that he wanted to be able to do on a trackpad.
I feel like he told me about it, you know, a hundred years ago, like when he was in high school or something. I mean, it was a long, long time ago.
Yeah. Yeah. has been around for quite a long time.
[20:20] Let's see, now it's bothering me how long is, yeah, it was 14 years ago.
I was checking my math to see if I was actually right on doing subtraction.
[20:31] Yeah, there's, let's see, let me, if I can quickly read off the list, there's touch, it'll do the touch bar, so it'll maps to that. If you have one of those Macs with a touch bar, You can take inputs from that.
It does stream deck, magic mouse, trackpad, keyboard shortcuts, key sequences, and typed words.
So you can actually be typing along and execute something while you're typing.
I actually use that with, I think it's with keyboard maestro.
I have it trigger raycast, and just so it's got some place to type it, and I have it type it's showtime.
I really should have never done this because when this runs, it runs, I actually have it set to run automatically at quarter to five in case I haven't set everything up yet.
But I'll be working away and just all of a sudden stuff just starts flying all over my screen and it scares me.
So I think I actually shut it off, but I needed a place for it to be typing those words because otherwise it would just start typing like in the middle of the application I was in.
[21:39] Yeah, I can see that. Yeah, it's sort of like, uh, um, Oh, what's that shortcut thing you use for, for text?
Uh, Oh, text expander, text expander.
So it kind of acts like text expander only it executes an action instead of expanding some text. Nice.
Hey, you want to really mess with yourself? You can add a virtual touch bar to your Mac.
You know, I tried doing that on my new M1, uh, error.
Oh, and it doesn't work.
It doesn't seem to work. I don't know whether it's because it's an M1 or what, but I couldn't get that to work.
Oh, nuts. Because I thought that that'd be a really good embedded circular logic problem to put that in.
So now you're going to have to use your cursor to touch a virtual touch by something.
[22:29] Yeah, you can definitely get out of control with this. There's no question about it.
It does sound fun. It does. Well, so anything else to tell us about that you know so far?
It sounds like this is something maybe you'll be back later to tell us more, it can do as you learn more. I'm going to definitely dig into this. This sounds too fun.
Yeah. I think the hardest part of all is just remembering what all the keyboard combinations were, and that's where the stickies help to go on my buttons here.
Yeah. I go back and forth on that. I love having the Stream Deck, but I so often I'm working on my Mac when I'm not plugged into my big display into the dock and all that stuff, so I don't have the Stream Deck.
I forget to use it because I am trying to memorize those keystrokes that make the same things happen.
I tend to use it during the live show a lot, to trigger the live show and do some of the actions afterwards, but I've memorized the keystrokes, So now it's like, well, like I've already got it in my brain to do.
[23:32] There's a, it's when it said that you could change it for different apps and you can, you can have different actions for different apps. It's just like my brain would just explode trying to keep all that inside.
Right. Having the same action do two different things.
Yep. Maybe if you could think of like the same category of things, like volume up down sort of does feel like scroll sideways in a, in a video, maybe.
Yeah. One thing I thought of was assigning the actions to the F keys on the top of the keyboard.
Then when I launched the app, it just also launches like a little thing on the screen at the bottom.
Yeah, like a little screenshot of the keyboard and telling me what all those actions are.
I wonder if you could- Sort of like that old thing you used to do when you hold a command key down it would show you all the shortcuts in the app you're in?
Yes. That still exists on the iPad, by the way.
Does it? You fill down the command key. Yeah, a little thing comes up and shows you what you can do.
[24:33] Oh, cool. I wonder if that's still in the Mac. I know there's a Mac app that you can use for that too.
Okay. Here's what you do.
There's extra, it's, oh my gosh. Cintra Sorjas is the guy who wrote the Touch Bar Simulator.
He's the same guy that wrote Velja, the browser switcher that I did a review of recently.
And he wrote it and it's open source.
So I want you to download this and rebuild it, but make it where what it's showing isn't the real touch bar. It's what you've assigned those buttons to.
OK, go. I'm going to go.
[25:10] I'll have it for you in a second. You will. You know you're going to look at it.
Yes, I know. That's the problem is that it does help with the ADD, because once I start opening up things manually, I start, oh, that's fun. Let's do that.
Yeah. One of the things I talked about on automators is things that I'm likely to forget a step in doing, forgetting to open a piece.
Like you say with doing your coding, Maybe you want your FTP client open too, and you always forget to open that. But if you have a button that opens everything you need each time, then that's even cooler.
Yes, yeah, it really helps out a lot.
And then it also, you know, arranging the windows the way you like them too is real nice, because then you don't have to spend all that time doing that.
Does BetterTouch tool help with the problem of what if a button doesn't have a command?
Like a perfect example was the six hours I spent trying to automate pushing the little checkbox on preview for the alpha channel.
[26:15] I don't know if you remember that one, but I managed to work like a 3000 word blog post out of trying to do that.
And I could never get it to work. I ended up using ImageMagic in a shell script that I embedded inside Keyboard Maestro in the end.
But that's the bane of my existence is Keyboard Maestro not being able to talk to an app because there's no labeled button or anything it can talk to?
Yeah. That is one thing I did on Keyboard Maestro 2 was I couldn't find a way to, in the keyboard shortcuts where you can tell it to turn on and off the F keys.
That button, there's a little checkbox in your keyboard settings that allows you to turn your F keys to be either what they show the pictures as or just as regular F keys.
Yeah, whether you use the function key or not to flip right? Yeah, and and there's no way to.
[27:09] Uncheck that checkbox and in keyboard maestro. I I just had it open the window up and then it would have to go down to the third.
Item in the window showing and then click on it kind of a thing That was in keyboard maestro and that was very very difficult way to to do that, Okay, and I better touch tool doesn't have anything like that where you can have it click in a certain area of the screen or Anything like that. Oh it doesn't okay. Well as I talked about on the automators this morning, That never works. Anyway, I mean Well, the worst part is it just gives you enough hope, like it works the first time and you're like, yes, got it to work.
And like 10 minutes later, it'll stop working. Or as David was talking about how he wanted a button.
[27:59] He wanted to hit the button to select a tab group in Safari.
And it turns out if the tab groups already selected, the background's gray.
So it could never find it if he'd already selected it. And the whole macro would fall over in a heap because of that.
Or the developer changes the color, changes the font a little bit or something, and all of a sudden it's like, I can't find it, I don't know what to do.
[28:22] Yeah, this first started out with my automating, where I'm uploading photos to my website and stuff.
I get back from vacation, I dump all these photos on my computer into a folder, and then I don't, you know, getting them onto my website is complicated because I have to figure out which ones I want to put up there and so forth.
So I wrote a shell script that I attached to a shortcut that takes all the photos, goes into their EXIF data, and then puts them all in folders based upon their date that they were taken, and then also changes the file name to the date that they were taken.
Then I can go into those folders one day at a time and favorite them or not.
Then I press another shortcut and it sends them all up to the website. That's cool.
Yeah. So it's all- So you can embed shell scripts inside shortcuts?
Yes. You can have shortcuts, execute a shell script.
Okay. All this stuff is...
Very powerful that way. I keep trying to figure out a use for shortcuts on the Mac and it never does what I want it to do.
But if I could put a shell script inside it, that might be fun.
Yeah, you can actually write the shell script inside the shortcut.
[29:45] And what I did was have it just the shell script says, go execute this shell script that I wrote on my computer.
Okay, so it points to existing shell script.
You are an automation crazy person. Oh, I am. It's going, it's getting crazy.
I need to automate my automation writings. That's what I need to do.
There you go. We'll just go pick up a couple, just ask chat GPT to do it for you.
There you go. All right, Ed. Well, hey, I told you we could milk this for quite a while.
He said, I don't have enough to talk about, but I knew you would.
This is really fun. If people want to follow you around and stalk you on the internet, is there a good place other than maybe the podfeed.com slash slack?
Well, I haven't started posting on it yet, but I did open up a new Mastodon account. Oh, good.
Yes. So, um, Mr. Ed, uh, I think it's Ed Tobias, uh, uh, Ed Tobias on, uh, Mastodon.social. Very good.
Very good. Yeah. I think I'm one of your followers and I, it does say Mr.
Ed when you find him, but the real, the way you look them up is Ed Tobias at Mastodon.social.
And we'll put a link in the show notes for that.
Well, this was fun, Ed. Now I've got more stuff to go play with.
[31:02] Yeah, I'll keep digging in on it. And if I find anything else interesting, I'll try and write it up and send it to you.
Sounds good. Thanks a lot, Ed. All right, take care.
Support The Show
[31:12] Well, if you're finding value in what you learn here while listening to the Nocilla cast, chit chat across the pond, programming by stealth, or by reading the blog posts, please consider expressing your appreciation by going to podfeed.com slash Patreon to support the shows.
Evangelising Macos Spaces
[31:27] Hi folks Bart here all by myself. I promised Alison I would record a segment for her when she got back from Alaska, Antarctica and needed some extra content.
And then she got loads of extra content because all of you guys rock.
So you're going to hear this a little bit later than planned.
But anyway, a few weeks ago, Alison and Ron had a fantastic interview segment where they talked about state manager, which is Apple's latest attempt at solving the problem of too many windows. And I really enjoyed the piece. Now I was pretty sure Stage Manager wasn't for me and after listening to it I was absolutely certain it wasn't for me, but that was a feature not a bug. Because actually I think one of.
[32:12] The things I loved absolutely most about that piece was that they made the point that Stage Manager isn't for everyone. But not only that, they helped you understand whether or or not stage manager would be for you.
Would it be the kind of feature that made you happy?
Would it be the kind of feature that drove you potty?
And I fall into the second of those two categories with stage manager, but I entirely understand that spaces, or to give it its proper name, mission control, is exactly the same.
Some people will love it and some people will hate it and the reasons will be the same.
[32:55] I basically I want to take a lead from Alison and Ron's segment and try to explain spaces and help you think about how or whether spaces may or may not actually work for you.
So let's just start with a core concept. Spaceless has been around for so long that it actually has quite a bit of history and actually I'm going to take you on that journey.
So before there was such a thing as spaces, your Mac had a single desktop, which is basically a sort of thing of a super window within which all of your windows live.
It's one view of the world and it contained four important things.
There's a background layer which has a bunch of icons. They represent files or they might contain icons for attached storage devices, depending on how tidy you are.
May be a very cluttered place or may be a very clean place, but the background there with a bunch of icons, which is literally your desktop.
[33:51] Then all of the windows for all of your applications are floating in front of that desktop.
There is a dock of icons for currently running and your favorite apps on the recycle bin and that is by default along the bottom, but mine's always on the left.
And then there's a menu bar along the top, which is it has some permanent icons like the Apple menu and the clock and then anything you have running in your menu bar.
And it has the menu for the currently focused app. So those four things sit inside this one super window that is your view of the Mac world.
And as our Macs became more and more powerful, we became liberated to run more and more apps simultaneously.
The idea that you would start something, turn it off so as not to consume too many resources and then start something else, that's just gone now. I mean, we just open app after app after app after app, which means that we have window after window after window after window.
So we just have this mess in front of us.
[34:47] And Apple have tried to solve that problem in all sorts of ways over the years.
But one of their first big changes was, well, I started with a very simple question.
If everyone's one desktop is too cluttered, why not have more?
Why not have multiple desktops that you can distribute your windows between?
And that's pretty much what the first iteration of spaces gave you.
So you could have multiple desktops, but you didn't get multiples of all four things.
Right. So you remember I was saying you have your background layer, all of your windows, your dock and your menu, but you don't get different copies of all four.
What you get is different collections of windows, but each of these spaces, as Apple called them, contained the same background layer with the same icons.
Now you can actually have different pictures these days, but the icons are the same.
You have the same menu bar, you have the same dot, you have a different collection of windows.
[35:47] Other operating systems have actually tried to do similar ideas without much success.
But Apple's implementation started off good. It started off actually having bells and whistles that the other operating systems have never gained frankly. So I guess the first thing that has always struck me about Apple's implementation of spaces is that it has always been very visual and very spatial. Spaces are logically arranged in a row and when you trigger the spaces view, your current desktop shrinks a little bit and a strip of thumbnails appears across the top of your screen which represents all the spaces that exist. There's a plus button on the right which lets you make more spaces and you can drag and drop your spaces to change the order and you navigate between your different spaces by clicking on those thumbnails. So whatever the currently zoomed out spaces view then can be triggered. So you basically enter this spaces view, your desktop zooms out a little bit and the strip appears. You enter into that either with a dock icon or a dedicated button on the Apple keyboard. It's the button for mission control. You can also get it with a keystroke or you can get it with a gesture on your trackpad. The keystroke by the way is Control Up Arrow, and the gesture on the trackpad is a three-finger swipe up.
[37:13] So when Apple first released this feature ages and ages and ages ago, they called it Spaces.
But today, it's actually become part of a bigger feature that altogether is called Mission Control.
So Spaces is now a part of Mission Control.
And when they made Spaces into this bigger thing called Mission Control, they didn't remove any features from Spaces.
They added more stuff to Mission Control and they changed the vocabulary.
And they also added the ability for that thumbnail strip across the top to be able to contain more things.
They've actually linked in the show notes to Apple's official documentation on the Mission Control features so that you can see all of the proper lingo and jargon and Apple's description of everything if you would like.
So that zoomed out view where your current desktop is shrinked a little bit and then the strip of thumbnails appears across the top.
Well that view is now called mission control.
And the icon in your dock, you use to launch this, what I still call spaces, but is now Mission Control, is the Mission Control button. If you hover over it, that's what it says.
It's also, if you have a proper Apple keyboard, it's the one with the picture of little boxes or the old F3 button.
That's the Mission Control button.
[38:26] The strip of thumbnails is now named, it is called the Spaces Bar.
And so initially it could only contain collections of windows.
So one space, two space, three space. But now, this is where Apple put the iOS style features on the Mac.
They put them into that same spaces bar.
[38:47] So if you full screen a Mac app into that iPadOS style full screen mode, it will now appear as a full screen space in that spaces bar.
And if you do that iOS, sorry, iPadOS style multi-app split screen thing, we can have two apps next to each other.
They're called split views now, according to Apple's official documentation, and they can they also go into that same spaces bar.
So your spaces bar has regular window, you know, regular collections of windows, regular spaces.
It has full screen spaces and it has split screen spaces or split views.
So I actually before going any further, I need to draw your attention to something I've been saying it but haven't highlighted it. So your spaces are not collections of apps.
[39:40] They are collections of windows. Each window is an independent unit so you can have 20 finder windows and you can distribute them across as many spaces as you want. It's not that the finder goes in a space. Each window gets to go to a space, but each window is on its own and they can all be moved around independently. So your spaces are collections of windows, not collections of apps. And it's very important to remember that if you're going to become a productive spaces user.
So to move around between spaces, remember I said it's all...
[40:18] It's all very special and if you have a special brain that really works nuts i think it works for me see the run this strip.
Of spaces you move between them you can do it with keyboard shortcuts or gestures.
So the keyboard shortcut to enter into the mission control the zoomed out view is control up and the keyboard shortcut to leave is controlled down.
The gesture to go in is three finger swipe up and the gesture to come out is three finger swipe down.
[40:50] So three guesses what the gesture would be to go left or right by one space.
While it's control left or control right or, three finger left and three finger right. And what's particularly cool is that exact same keyboard shortcut and gestures work whether you're in the normal working away mode or or whether you're in that Mission Control Overview mode, the same gestures work.
So you can be working away fully in your normal mode and use those swipe gestures or the shortcuts to move between your spaces.
Or you can be in that slightly zoomed out mode where the strip of thumbnails appears and you can still use the same gestures to move the current space around.
So that is really nice that the shortcuts are so consistent.
And again it's very very spatial.
The other reason I describe it as spatial is that you can, so you can move the windows by just you know in that zoomed out view you can drag any window you want into any thumbnail you want that will move the window.
But you can also move the windows without going into that zoomed out mode by just dragging the window and banging it off the edge of the screen and just pausing for a second.
[42:00] And then you will navigate into the space that is adjacent to you in that direction.
And then the window is still with you.
Then you can just drop it into the next window. So it is, if you mentally imagine yourself, as being in a place on that strip of thumbnails, it really does work like that.
Like I say, very, very spatial.
[42:21] So before I go into the power features of how you can make spaces do even more stuff than the basics, I'm gonna hopefully help you answer the question of is spaces for you?
Because if it isn't for you, well, you probably don't care about the rest.
But if it is for you then please do stay tuned. So I've already hammered this point a few times but first and foremost if you think spatially, you are likely to like spaces because of that spatial range.
But I think the most fundamental question is how you feel about not seeing the things, not in your current space. So do you see it as a feature or a bug that the stuff you're not working on is completely 100% invisible? Because the reason Allison like Stage Manager is that the The little piles of apps are visible at all times.
[43:21] Whereas the reason I hate Stage Manager is because the little piles of apps, are visible at all times.
So the reason I need spaces is because I need to remove completely, totally, and utterly, everything apart from the thing I'm trying to work on.
So if I'm trying to get a task done, I will make a space for that task, I will drag in all of the windows I need for that task and I distinctly want zero other windows to be in any way visible whatsoever at all, at all, at all.
And that's why spaces works for me. Like I say, if you want to be able to see the other stuff so you remember it's there or whatever, right?
Different people have really different ways of working. So this is not a judgment.
This is just, if you like being able to see your piles of other apps, then you should be using stage manager.
If you want the stuff you're not using be 100% invisible to you then you probably want spaces.
The other thing I would say is if you're going to become a heavy user of spaces you're either going to go potty and give up or you're going to become.
[44:29] So comfortable with either or both the keyboard shortcuts and the trackpad gestures that you do them unthinkingly.
Reflexive muscle memory is what they need to be.
So that you're not thinking, oh, how do I move around? You should just be moving around as naturally as you walk up and down the stairs in your house or as naturally as you breathe in and out.
If navigating those spaces is something you have to stop and think about, you're going to end up not liking spaces.
You need to develop that muscle memory to the point where it is completely and utterly intuitive and natural and use unthinkingly navigate around your space as your heart's content.
[45:05] So at this stage, if that sounds like you, if you think spatially, if you want the stuff you're not looking at to completely disappear, and if you're perfectly happy with gestures or keyboard shortcuts that just become your natural thing, then stay tuned because I'll describe some of the extra features that you can enable or tweak. Basically you can do a little bit more than what I've already described so I'm gonna talk about spaces for power users. Again this doesn't work for you. Allison and Ron did a great job of describing Sage Manager. Give that a go because it possibly is for you. Okay so for those of you still with me what can spaces do as well as all of this right? So again another reminder spaces is for arranging windows not apps so if you want one safari in one space and three in another no problem at all just make the windows you want and then put them in the space you want and there they are I will very very often have lots and lots of finding windows spread across my space.
[46:07] If you plan to give it a real, if you plan on really giving spaces a fair shake then, if you're going to actually give it a go because you think it really might be for you, then go into system preferences and navigate to the mission control settings area and in there there are four settings that determine how the Mac treats spaces and make a proactive decision.
I don't know what the right choice for you is but actually make a decision on each of these four toggles app will present to you.
Now they don't name these toggles don't have names. These toggles have paragraphs, which is weird.
But anyway, they do. So there's four of the toggles and I'm just going to through them in the order of them in the interface because they don't have name.
[46:50] So the top toggle by default. The Mac Mac OS will behind your back when you're not looking, rearrange the spaces in the spaces bar so that the most recently used ones are always to the left.
Now, I'm a very spatial thinker. I do not, under any circumstances, want the thumbnails in my spaces bar to be rearranged ever.
The whole point is I think spatially, I have a sense of where I am.
Don't rearrange the city behind my back. That would be like the Hogwarts staircase to me.
Rearranging themselves behind my back.
So the very, very, very, very first thing I do on pretty much any Mac ever is turn that build a desetting off. That drives me absolutely potty.
So the second question then, by default if you click on an app in the dock, you're in a space, there's an app in your dock and there are windows for that app but they are not in your current space.
And in your current space there are zero windows that belong to that app that you just clicked on in the dock.
By default the Mac will do nothing. It will change the menu bar at the top of the screen to the app you just clicked on and I guess you could then go file a new window or whatever.
[48:10] But that's all it'll do. So you've just clicked on a dock icon for an app and the app, as far as you're concerned, hasn't appeared.
I don't understand why this is a good default, but this is the default Apple shows.
If you toggle the button the other way, how does it work?
If you're in a space and there are windows belonging to the app you just clicked on in the space you are currently in then those windows will come to the front and you won't go jumping around between spaces you'll stay right in the space you are and the windows for the app you just clicked on will just come to you.
Which is what you'd expect.
But if you're in a space and you click on an app in the dock and there are zero windows belonging to that app in your current space, then you will automatically shift into the most recent used space where there are at least one window from that app.
That to me is the most logical thing that could possibly happen when you choose an app that's not in your current space.
And again, I don't understand why the default is what it is, but anyway, make a proactive choice which of those two behaviours you prefer and toggle the button appropriately.
Moving on to the third paragraph linked button.
So by default...
[49:22] Your windows are sort of evenly spread out when you go into that zoomed out mission control view.
So your current space shrinks back a little bit and all of the windows in your current space sort of pull apart so you can see them all. And by default the windows just spread out as if there was no relationship between them. They just each are completely independent of each other.
If you change this button from its default the windows will collect into little piles, and they will have grouped themselves by the app that they belong to and at the bottom of each pile will be an icon representing the app and that icon acts, as like a way of capturing the group of windows together so if your current space has three finder windows those three windows will be grouped together behind a little finder icon. If you drag that finder icon the three windows will come with you and then you can take those three windows and drop them into to another space.
Now if you have 20 Finder windows in another space, they're not affected at all, right?
You're still only dragging the windows you can see.
But if you want to take all of the windows belonging to an app from the current space to another space, then I just find it really handy to have the windows arranged by app.
And so I always toggle this to on, but again, do what works for you.
[50:40] And then the final setting is the only one I actually leave at the default.
So, and this only applies to you if you're a multi-screen user.
So if you connect more than one monitor to your Mac, then the question is, how do you want each of your spaces to span both screens or do you want each screen to have its own collection of spaces?
And to me, it very much depends on the kind of multi-screen setup you have.
So if you have a laptop screen and an external monitor, I would say that you want them to to be separate, which is the default.
[51:18] And that means that your laptop screen has one or more spaces and your desktop screen has one or more spaces.
And when you do that zoom out thing, both screens will zoom out and each will have their own separate spaces bar.
And you can grab apps from one screen to the other, you know, from a space on the main screen to a space on the laptop, whatever, you can drag them around to your heart's content, but they will be two entirely separate collections of spaces.
And when you swipe between them with the various gestures, you're only going to be changing the one that you're currently on.
But if you have two identical monitors and you have them mounted side by side, so effectively what you have is one extended desktop between the two, it probably actually makes sense to have the spaces changing in unison.
So I think how you want that to behave is going to depend both on your view and on the kind of screen setup you have.
[52:13] So the other power user feature you have is that you can right click on any app in the dock, and under options when you expand it out there's a heading assign to and that's actually controlling spaces so by default each app is assigned to none which basically means that the app doesn't have an affinity for any specific space. If you say assign to all desktop what that means is that, that every app for that window will exist in every space.
[52:48] So when I said that, you know, if you have five Finder windows in one space and five Finder windows in another space, they're completely different Finder windows.
That is true unless you right click on the Finder and say, assign to all desktops, in which case every single Finder window will be in every single space.
That is not useful for the Finder because you actually want task specific Finder windows space but it is useful if you know this won't help Alison but this is useful if you're the kind of person who likes music or something and you might want your music player to follow you around on every single space I often have one password assigned to every single space kind of depends on the way the screen real estate I have and so well my max I do and so I'm actually don't but if I assign one to all desks up it's very often either iTunes or and or one password the other thing you can do is you can say this desktop and when you do that what you are not doing is saying that every single window belonging to this app should be somehow glued into this space. What you're saying is the default when I launch the app is that all of the windows go into that space. So that is useful because it means that if I click on the app in the dark and the app isn't running it will...
Open the app and jump to the space where I've assigned the app to be But I can still take a window from that app and manually move to another space. So I do this.
[54:17] My most my left most space is my distraction space and that is the only space I assign things to and I assign male teams, All social media junk. They all get assigned to space one And so if I click on the teams icon and teams isn't running it will open in space one and jump into space one.
[54:35] Because I just I always want the distraction up going to space one and so that is why you might use the assigned to thing but useful for that kind of so anyway that is that is how spaces work that is the kind of thing I think is the you know the kind of people I think it will be useful for if you're curious about how I use it and I really use it in a task oriented way with the one exception being my distractions are all on space one and then every space that What's not space-borne is a task-specific space.
[55:09] So when I am writing show notes for Let's Talk Apple, there will be a space which will have everything I need for Let's Talk Apple, which is going to be a byword window for writing my markdown, it's going to be pocket, it's going to be a few safari windows, it's going to be a few finder windows.
If I'm simultaneously also getting ready for the next day's security bits, that will be in a separate space where I will have a different collection of windows which will have some overlap between the two.
If I also happen to be working on a little bit of a programming project in the background, be in another space if I'm doing what I should be doing and doing my accounts from a business, that'll be in another space. So the amount of plates I'm spinning simultaneously, the amount of hats I'm currently wearing, the amount of tasks I'm currently working on, that determines how many spaces I have at any point in time and spaces come and go as tasks come and go. And I apply the same logic in work, you know, so if I'm doing a bit of coding and I generally speaking have a space for data, so a space for distractions, a space for day to day calls, and then a space per task I happen to be working on.
And I really do use that approach pretty much everywhere.
[56:10] And I generally speaking only assign things to space one. And for the rest, I just let them float about.
Anyway, that is how I use spaces for me. I don't think I could use a Mac without spaces anymore.
I think I would go absolutely potty. I would feel utterly constrained.
I'd feel hemmed in and feel boxed in.
And I know I'd be a lot less productive.
So to me, Spaces is as much as part of the Mac experience as the dock.
Right. It's as integral.
But that's just because that's how my brain works. You may very well find that you find stage manager to be way more to your liking, in which case listen back to the show, Alice in a Run recorder, because it was absolutely fantastic.
OK, I've rattled on for long enough. I'm hoping that was helpful to you all.
Until next time, happy computing.
[56:56] While I absolutely love this explanation of spaces from Bart, I really wish I'd heard this years ago when I first gave spaces a good college try because it makes a lot more sense now.
I totally did not understand that you only put windows, not apps, in different spaces.
I would have put every one of the toggles Bart mentions here into the opposite setting as the way he did it, but now I understand that those controls are there and help it work the way you want it to work.
By the way, you don't have to choose between stage manager and spaces.
It turns out you can have stage manager with spaces and each space gets different piles of apps.
Anyway, thanks so much Bart for such a great review and explanation and getting into the nitty gritty details that really explain how spaces work and how maybe they can work for you.
I do have to say I am a very, very spatial thinker but I'm a very messy desktop user.
I don't put a lot of junk on my desktop but I have lots and lots and lots and lots of windows and I want them all at my fingertips. No, I want the right one at my fingertips at all times, but I'm not organized enough to use spaces still, I don't think.
But just being spatial, I don't know. I think one of the problems that I had was, that it would rearrange what space I was going to. So I couldn't always count on the one to my right has this thing and the one to my left has that thing.
They were getting reordered. And I think that's part of one of the settings that you mentioned.
But in any case, I may give it another try, but I'll have to take a look at those settings first before I do.
[58:24] Well, that's gonna wind us up for this week. Hopefully my voice will be back in shape next week and I can tell you what I was gonna talk about this week.
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