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Workspace grid for MacOS without external tools

Mikk Pristavka
I care about code quality and productivity, constantly trying to expand my skills and learning new tools while helping others do the same.
Updated on ・2 min read

Also posted to Medium

I discovered a neat trick that greatly reduced the time I normally spent to switch between my open apps. Additionally, it helped me organize everything so that finding a specific app is just a keystroke away.

It was under my nose the whole time

The “trick is extremely simple – all you need to do is create 9 different spaces and assign specific hotkeys to switch to each one.

I personally use Cmd+Ctrl+the nine leftmost letters on the keyboard as a 3x3 grid (QWE, ASD, and ZXC with my layout). I have my Caps Lock doubled as a Ctrl key, so pressing “Caps Lock + Cmd + D to switch to the 6th space doesn’t feel as awkward as it seems. 9 spaces seemed enough to accommodate all my apps, but there can be up to 16 different spaces.

Here’s an official article on how to create new spaces:

You can’t assign these unless you already have created the 9 desktops in Mission Control

To bind hotkeys to switch to a specific space, go to “System Preferences > Keyboard”, choose the “Shortcuts tab and “Mission Control on the left sidebar.
These key combinations will be available only after you actually create the extra spaces.

Every app has a home now

To take the most out of this, I assigned my apps to specific spaces and organized the spaces thematically so that I could instantly switch to whichever app I need without thinking very much.

My most important apps are in the top three spaces (Chrome and iTerm generally), the middle row is for communication (email, Slack, Skype etc.)and the bottom three spaces are for note taking apps, Finder and Spotify.

To make the apps actually stick to their assigned spaces, I manually set their desktop preference using the Dock.

This makes iTerm always open on the 2nd space, easily accessible via Cmd+Ctrl+W

To keep the spaces in the preferred order, there’s another option to uncheck in Mission Control preferences: “automatically rearrange Spaces based on most recent use”.

You wouldn’t want your Spaces randomly rearranging themselves, so uncheck this

I use Spectacle to easily divide windows into halves or thirds in case I want to see multiple windows in the same space simultaneously. Not having to manually position them is another time saver.

This is how far the system allows me to go, though – if I ever feel the need for additional functionality to my grid of spaces, I will most likely consider using Totalspaces instead.

What other simple productivity tools and tricks are hidden in MacOS, I wonder?


The initial idea that drove me towards finding this solution:

Here are a few tips on how to reduce the animation speeds and overall motion:

Discussion (1)

bizzibody profile image
Ian bradbury

Do you know - I am a massive fan of spaces. But it never ever occurred to me to create keyboard short cuts to switch between. Genius!