Tip of the Day, September 3rd, 2008

Today’s topic: The Desktop.

We love The Desktop. We put all of our stuff there. And then we open up Safari, or Mail, or something else, and we cover everything up. When we need something from The Desktop, Step One (and Step Two, and Step 3) is “move all those windows out of the way so you can see The Desktop.” Very inefficient. No one likes it.

Today we are going to learn how to use “Exposé.” Exposé allows us to get to The Desktop with a single keystroke. It will save you a ton of time.

Exposé can be configured using the System Preferences (under the Apple menu). Click on the “Exposé and Spaces” button in 10.5 (“Dashboard & Exposé” in 10.4), then the Exposé button, and you’ll get something like this:

See where it says “Show Desktop”? You can click there and choose the keyboard shortcut that you want to use to trigger the showing of The Desktop. On my Mac, it’s Shift-F3 (the arrow means “Shift”). When I press that combination of keys, everything scoots off the screen– temporarily, revealing my Desktop. I can double-click an icon from there or do anything else I want. Another press of Shift-F3 will bring the windows back. Pretty handy.

All you have to do is pick the key(s) you want to use as the trigger. It could be plain old F9. Or Shift-F10. Or just about anything you want. Hint: try holding down a modifier key (Command, Option, Shift, or Control) when you have that “Show Desktop” menu clicked. The menu will change to reflect what you’re holding down.

Once you’ve chosen a key to show The Desktop, close up the preferences and try the key out. Fun, yes?

Bonus Hint: Click and HOLD your “Show Desktop” key. The Desktop appears. Let go of the key and the windows come back. This saves you one keystroke if all you want to do is LOOK at your desktop. Think one little keystroke isn’t worth saving? One day, when your wrists are burning and your hands are falling off from overuse you’ll say “Dang it, he was right.” Save yourself some pain and say it now, before you get Carpal Tunnel Syndrome like everyone else.


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