Being a Windows user for so many years, one of the things about OS X that always bothered me was all the floating windows all over the desktop. For the most part in Windows, you run applications “maximized” and therefore, you hardly ever see the desktop. In OS X, you can always see the desktop. Small detail, big hurdle. Being a web designer, I have a few select apps I run all day long that I need quick access to. At some points, I find myself switching between the lot of them and bouncing back and fourth. I developed a habit of simply clicking the edge of an app I could see in the background to switch and in a very short time, started feeling overwhelmed and cluttered.
For the first month or so, I was using the Wireless Mighty Mouse that came with my iMac. I really liked it – who wouldn’t like a nipple at their finger tip all day long? 😉 But the right button crapped out on me and instead of making the drive into Toronto to get a replacement, I went out and bought the Logitech MX Revolution. Suddenly, everything came together. The MX Revolution is stocked with 2 scroll wheels – each clickable, and 3 extra buttons on top of the standard left and right buttons. Take a look at how I’ve mapped the 3 extra buttons…
Hide the Current App
In order to keep things tidy, as soon as I need to switch to another app, I tap the button just below my scroll wheel and the current app instantly disappears. For those Windows users – think of it as “minimizing” the app. It’s not closed, simply hidden.
Select a Running App
The odd time, usually if I’m doing CSS changes on a live site, I will end up with a few apps open and in focus. In a case like this where I need quick access to my FTP client, CSS editor and browser, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to be hiding them. Instead, I’ll leave them layered on top of each other and click the bottom thumb-button on the side of the mouse to invoke Exposé’s Application Windows. This spreads all the open apps across your desktop and lets you easily select the one you want – either by clicking on it with the left mouse button or pressing the bottom thumb-button again. I find this actually faster than finding an edge of a buried app to click on… and come on, I could never get tired of the smooth animation of the apps fly around my desktop. 😉
Launching New Apps
There are lots of ways to launch apps in OS X, but all of them require multiple clicks or scrolling to find what you’re looking for. Luckily, there’s lots of app launchers out there and I’ve settled on Overflow for my app launching needs. With it, I’m able to sort the apps I use for work from those casual apps I use in the evenings, and I even have a separate section for utilities. Talk about handy! The top thumb-button brings Overflow into focus where I make one click and I’m off.
But Wait, There’s More!
What about the second scroll wheel and scroll wheel buttons? No no, I haven’t forgotten about those. By default, the thumb wheel is setup for “fast app switching”. It brings up the good old Command-Tab (or Ctrl+Tab on Windows) menu of currently running apps. Being a Mac n00b still, I’ve got my Control, Option and Command keys setup Windows style, so the thumb wheel doesn’t work for me. All is not lost however – I click the thumb wheel to bring up Dashboard. The main scroll wheel also has a button, but I’m using it to switch between ultra-wicked-smooth-scroll and old-and-busted-clunky-click-scroll modes.
I’m sure I’m not the first to think of doing things like this in OS X, but it seems every person that checks out my iMac is blown away by how fast I can move between apps. I figured it was worth mentioning for those that perhaps haven’t thought of it themselves.