Discoveries in Mac OS X Snow Leopard: The Dock, Exposé, and Spaces


If you’re wondering why I’m writing about these items together, it’s because Exposé and Spaces are both related to window management (with Spaces at a higher level), and in Snow Leopard they built Exposé into the Dock so it comes along for the ride.

Spaces hasn’t really changed in Snow Leopard. Where the real change comes is Exposé itself, which is slicker than before, and some Dock changes to invoke it.

How I Organize

The screenshots below make more sense if you understand how I organize my apps/windows. Put simply, I use six spaces as an integral part of my work. Each space generally only has 1-3 apps in it, so clutter in any one space is minimal.

Exposé Alone

Let’s say I’m in space #5 and invoke Exposé. I use a gesture (upper right screen corner) to invoke the “All Windows” option, and see this:


This shows me “all windows” for the space I’m in; you can see I’ve got three windows in this space.

It should be immediately apparent what’s different about Exposé in Snow Leopard. Instead of lining up willy nilly, the windows are lined to a grid. Further, instead of being unlabeled until you move the mouse over them, they have permanent labels. Finally, there’s a dark blue border around the “selected” window under the mouse (in this case, iPhoto). Aside from clicking the selected window to switch to it, there’s a new feature you can perform that we’ll get to in a minute.

Spaces Alone

Now let’s say I go back to space #5, and instead of invoking Exposé I invoke Spaces (gesture to the lower-left corner). I’ll see this:


I’ve got a lot running for the purposes of this article (yet at this point it’s not all displayed). Notice that space #5 has a darker background than the others. That’s because it’s the currently “selected” space (i.e. under the mouse).

So now you’ve seen each feature invoked on its own. Click on a window in Exposé and you go to that window. Click on a window in Spaces and you go to that window and space. Simple enough.

Exposé and Spaces: Together

The beauty of Exposé is that it works with Spaces. if I’m showing all my spaces, and then invoke Exposé’s All Windows option, I see everything. (Obviously, if  you don’t use Spaces then Exposé’s All Windows option always shows everything.)

Go back to the spaces picture above and imagine if I invoked Exposé from there. In other words, if I quickly moused to the lower-left and then upper-right corners (a natural movement since I’m right handed). I get this:


Now I get a picture of all opened windows on the Mac. Notice the mouse is over a window in space #4. The space has the darker background, and there’s a dark blue border around the selected window. A cool new feature in Exposé is that the selected window can be previewed for a closer look. Just hit the space bar to see this:

Expose Window Zoom_SL

This is really nice when using Spaces and Exposé together because the displayed windows can get small– especially on my 13” MacBook. Sometimes the window title will be enough, but with similar titles the preview feature is a great way to ensure you’ve found the window you want. Just click the preview to move to that window.

(Windows 7 provides previews, too, but if you click it the whole thing disappears. Instead, you must click the small tab from which you generated the preview. Not a very wise implementation.)

And It’s Only $29. But Wait, There’s More!

Exposé’s additional polish and window previews are great, but there’s even more, and here’s where the Dock gets involved. Let’s say I’ve done some work in the Finder, and then from any space or application I just click and hold on the Finder icon in the Dock. I see this:

Finder Dock Expose

Three windows displayed, and in a similar style as we saw before. But one of them is drawn below a fine white line. What’s this?

Dock Minimize PrefWell, there’s a new preference for the Dock that allows windows to minimize to the app’s icon instead of a separate slot in the Dock. If you choose to use this option (I love it), minimized windows display in Exposé below a line on the screen.

Once Exposé is invoked you do not need to continue holding the mouse button down. This allows for some other great features. For example, assume I’m still at the screenshot above, and I click on the TextEdit icon in the Dock. I get this:

TextEdit Dock Expose

So I can quickly switch Exposé from one app to another. In fact, I can cycle Exposé through every open app by repeatedly pressing the Tab key. Sweet.

Whether alone or with Spaces, and no matter how you invoke it (gesture, the Dock, keyboard, or mouse), the bottom line is you click an Exposé window (or its preview) and you’re there.

It’s Too Much! My Head’s Gonna Explode!

Well, yes, if you tried to use every method you’re head might explode. But the way you work will lend itself to certain methods that make the most sense for you.

Personally, I think Apple added the Dock access so more people would discover Exposé. The Dock makes invoking it more accessible. And by making the windows line up neater, with labels, usability is enhanced no matter how you invoke it.

As for me, I’m a Spaces guy, too. The lower-left and/or upper-right corner gesture as needed is easy and natural. I can quickly have a space’s — or all — windows right in front of me. Yet as I’m working I rarely have more than a couple apps’ “clutter” to deal with at once.

I don’t think I’ll use the Dock for Exposé very often, I love using the gestures. But the neater grid, labels, and previews are something I’m already taking advantage of.

Previous Articles in the Snow Leopard Discovery Series:

Hey Microsoft, I Fixed Your Windows 7 Upgrade Chart


Microsoft created an upgrade chart for Window 7. Bottom line is it says if you want to upgrade to Windows 7 you should buy a new PC. Oh sure, you can “upgrade” without buying new hardware, but you’ll be in pain and probably traumatized for life. Who needs that?

So, with the understanding that new hardware is the best way to go, I’ve taken the liberty of simplifying the chart considerably:


Now you only have to worry about which one of the many different OS editions you’re coming from, not which one of the many different OS editions you’re going to. The destination OS has just a single, “ultimate” edition. It’s as simple as that.

No need to thank me, Microsoft, just trying to help out.

Windows 7 Starter Edition: No Desktop Picture For You


The Supersite for Windows has some nice screenshots of Windows 7 Starter Edition (i.e., the edition for netbooks).

Starter edition is crippled over the other editions in several ways, such as fewer provided games, fewer utilities, no Aero interface, etc. But the crippled feature I find most interesting is that you cannot change the desktop background; you can’t customize the desktop.

It must be really sad for Microsoft to have so little faith in the upgrade from Starter — Home Premium — that they have to make you stare at a generic desktop picture in order to help spur you to upgrade. Apparently, they don’t think Home Premium’s features are enough enticement on their own. I mean, what other purpose could there be for such a stupid desktop restriction on Starter other than Microsoft fearing that if you could customize the desktop, you wouldn’t really “miss” anything else, and therefore have little desire to upgrade?

Windows 7’s various editions make less and less sense as each day goes by. When Mac OS X Leopard gets here, I think I’ll just get the “Ultimate” version. Oh, that’s right, that’s all they sell. It’s yet again a good time to be a Mac user.

Apple vs. Microsoft OS Family Packs: Microsoft Loses

As more and more households have multiple PCs, the idea of a “family pack” (i.e., a piece of software with multiple licenses for use) makes a lot of sense. With Apple and Microsoft set to release new versions of their respective operating systems this fall (Snow Leopard in September, Windows 7 on October 22), it’s interesting to look at the family pack that will be available for each.


Microsoft finally ended the rumors and speculation of a Windows 7 Family Pack, announcing that there would indeed be such a product:

The Windows 7 Family Pack will be available starting on October 22nd until supplies last here in the US and other select markets. In the US, the price for the Windows 7 Family Pack will be $149.99 for 3 Windows 7 Home Premium licenses.

It’s not that paying $150 for three licenses is a bad deal, it’s just that the paragraph above pretty much constitutes the entire announcement, and that’s bad because:

  • Home Premium. Where is the Family Pack for Professional? What about Ultimate? Sadly, there is no such thing. Why isn’t Microsoft bundling the other editions in similar “family friendly” offerings?
  • Until supplies last. Huh? This is a software product on disc that comes with a three-user license, there are no “supplies” to run out. The only thing that can run out is Microsoft’s desire to provide this value to the consumer.

So, Microsoft will punish those who desire Professional or Ultimate by requiring full licenses even if they want to run it on all the PCs in the house. It’s practically an engraved invitation to pirate the software.

Further, after some as-yet-unnamed amount of time passes, the Home Premium deal will be withdrawn. Is this just a maneuver to juice up early sales for PR purposes, and once they can report big numbers of licenses sold they’ll just end the deal?


By contrast, Apple’s upcoming Snow Leopard will be sold in family packs for $49 with five licenses. This is a much better deal than Microsoft’s in many ways:

  • Obviously, $50 for five license is a much better deal than $150 for three.
  • Unlike Microsoft, Apple doesn’t mess with crippled editions. Their family pack will consist of the full (“Ultimate”, to use Microsoft’s term) version of Snow Leopard.
  • There is no expiration date on availability.

I think it was a great move for Microsoft to offer a family pack for Windows 7, but I believe they’re misguided to limit it to just the “cheap” edition, and even then to make the offer short-term.

TAB – It’s The Little Things: Command Line Improvements to Mac OS X

Recently, two articles appeared on TechRadar documenting various command line tweaks for various apps and functions of Mac OS X. While I didn’t find anything new there, it’s nice to have two articles that summarize a bunch instead of tracking them down one by one across countless bookmarks…

Read the rest of this article on theAppleBlog >>

TAB – Apple Mac OS X Window Management: Way Ahead of Windows 7

Much is being made lately of Microsoft Windows 7 and it’s new taskbar. I’ve been running the beta myself and consider it a nice improvement over Vista. One of the improvements is in the area of window management. The new taskbar shows previews of all the open windows in an app when you hover the mouse over it, and will switch to that window if you click it. 

While the above is nice, I’ve seen a few comparisons of this windows management to that of Apple’s Dock. The problem there is that OS X’s windows management is not handled by the Dock. About the only “window management” you get from the dock is that if you right-click an icon the popup menu will list open windows. Big deal. 

If you want to compare Windows 7’s windows management to that of OS X, then you have to compare the new taskbar features to that of Apple’s Expose and Spaces. In this comparison, in my opinion, Windows 7 falls far short…

Read the rest of this article on theAppleBlog >>

TAB – Apple and Microsoft: The Difference in OS Sales Models

In a previous article I discussed Apple’s approach to cloning and how far they should go in shutting down that business. This led to the question “why can’t I just buy Mac OS X and install it on any hardware I want?”, which led to a pretty typical answer that the boxed OS X is sold as an upgrade, not a new (or full) license. This answer is sometimes challenged, and brings up the idea of what an “upgrade” is in the Mac world as opposed to Microsoft.

This is not an Apple vs. Microsoft argument. It simply attempts to outline the difference in each one’s approach to OS sales, and why each uses the sales model it does. Rather than claim one is “right”, I believe each is right for the business model it supports. 

Read the rest of this article on theAppleBlog >>