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…

Logitech MX Revolution

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. 😉

Exposeé: Application Windows

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.

Overflow

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.

16 Comments

You know, despite being able to have a mouse that has buttons for shortcuts, and even a keyboard for shortcuts, I can’t be assed into using them.

I guess that I’m just so used to accessing the "old fashioned way" that even when I have it available to me, I never try to use it.

Hell, only recently have I started using the keyboard shortcuts. Either I just forget easily, or prefer to be lazy about being lazy. 😀

Funny you mentioned this, my MX Revolution turned up yesterday and I spent today setting up some key actions.

Every time I use a Windows machine now I’m always trying to click my scroll wheel to bring up Expose. Too bad it never works. 🙁

As for app launching, I tried Overflow a while back. It was nice enough, but just not convienient for me. I’ve since settled on Quicksilver (you’ll hear a lot about it, I’m sure). Instead of clicking a few times and searching through icons, I just hit Option + Z, press the first letter key for the app I’m looking for and press enter. It’s amazingly convienient, and unlike Overflow, Quicksilver is free.

Oh man… I can’t wait to have my own iMac. Damn that stuff always looks hot. By the way Matt, how do you like using an iMac till now? Since I’m considering to buy a 20" or 24" iMac, but I’m not sure if I can handle it proper as I’m a Windows user since 3.11. And you handled em both so… which one is best and most comfy? Ow yeah… Can it run Quake 4 rock solid in OS-X?

@Jordan: I hear you. I’ve never been one for keyboard shortcuts. Hell, I couldn’t tell you a single tool shortcut in Photoshop and I’ve been using in daily for about 7 years now.

@Glenn: You got a whole box of goodies from Logitech, didn’t you? 😛 (just saw your keyboard shots on Flickr)

@Ronald: Logitech actually released a control panel for OS X. Very easy to customize the actions, but I’ve heard it has been crashing quite often for others. Been ok for me, though.

@Andre: I tried Quicksilver. It’s too much of a "this was clearly made by developers for developer types" type of thing for me. Plus, what you just described is a whole lot of extra steps compared to the 2 clicks it takes for me to open Overflow and click and app. There’s no hunting around as you place icons where you want, unlike other launches like Todos.

@Auke: I absolutely love my iMac! You’ll be fine making the switch. Everything is 10x easier in OS X. So if anything, you’ll feel like you’re being spoiled using it after so many years in Windows.

Haven’t bothered with any games on the Mac, though. That’s what my Xbox 360 and Wii are for. 😉

I really can’t want to switch out my PC Desktop for an iMac!

Ever since we bought our MacBook, I never touch my PC desktop for everyday activities like email and web surfing.

Although, still have to use it for my work – as I’ve built up my list of software programs on the PC.

But, one day soon it will be gone – and I’ll definitely look into buying this Logitech mouse!

Yeah, I’ve tried Logitech’s official software with my MX518, but half the time it doesn’t recognize my mouse.

Damn!

Your desktop rocks 🙂

I’m still a PC user, but thinking about switching to Mac. Got enough of win xp, and Vista.. let’s face it… 😉

Anyway… Maybe some day you’ll have some time and post an article about your desktop? This could be quite an interesting read…

I’m lovin my Logitech MX Revolution also, though I use it on my PC. Been thinkin about buying another for my Mac, you just pushed me over the edge. Thanx for the right up.

@Auke, and @everyone else for that matter: I love(d) my mac. When I started doing web design more professionally, I started being annoyed with my windows-based PC… Got a mac, worked for 2 years without one complaint. Until…

…my house got burgled last week and I have had to switch back to my old windows-based PC. I totally agree with Matt, if you need stuff done professionally, get a mac. If you want to play, get an XBox, or a Playstation, or a Wii, whatever is made for gaming 🙂

The only real resaon I posted this comment was to show my greatest appreciation to Matt, whose design has just blown me away! Keep up the absolutely-terrifically-amazing work dude!

Hey Mac noob. Now that you’re diggin’ all the shortcuts, check out Quicksilver It’s an awesome app that does more than launch apps. There are a variety of YouTube tutorials â€" needless to say, it’s great.

Hi there, just to suggest an app to substitute Overflow.

Namely is quick app launcher that works like spotlight but way much faster and focused on apps.

You just type the first letters of the app and a list starts populating from your apps. I assigned it to a button on the MX Revolution and works like a charm.

Less eye-candy than Overflow but works better and faster to me.

Thanks

I use the expose to get from window to window amazingly quick. I just scroll to the right bottom corner to show all windows, select the one I need and go to it. Then I set the left bottom corner to show the desktop.

Taking files from the desktop, to applications, or switching through windows is made simple with these options.

I’ve recently decided to take full advantage of my MX518, which has just about as many buttons as your Revolution :). I use the Back for it’s default function, the Fwd button is now Ctrl which allows me to Ctrl – Scroll to change text within a browser window, and top button (equivalent to your search button) I use for copy, although it’s a bit too far back on the mouse to use comfortably. The scroll wheel button is of course paste. 😉 There are a couple of extra buttons which change mouse sensitive which I’ve left intact, and which were especially useful during my Battlefield 2 days.

I’m definitely interested in either the MX or the VX revolution, depending on which mouse fits me better size-wise. I’m looking to map either the side wheel or the zoom button (on the VX) to zoom +/- in Photoshop. And I’m also looking forward to trying a Mac at some point.. Your way of doing things is definitely food for thought.

-Alex

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