Adding virtual desktops in mac osx

This is a short blog post about adding virtual desktops in mac osx – virtual desktops are a cool feature that let you have lots of ‘fake’ monitors that you can use to organise your programs, and you can access them with a mouse or keyboard shortcut. Once you get used to them, there is no going back – they are a really awesome feature that helps speed up your workflow.

I currently have 6 desktops – one for email and communications, one for browsers, one for code, one for databases, one for music and a spare one at the end for misc things, like photoshop, or terminals when I’m working on servers – you can pin applications to certain desktops once you have them setup (to do this you right click on the app icon in the dock then go to options and pick what you want from the list that shows!)

  • Open mission control (click the mission control icon or do a “3 fingers swipe up” gesture on the multi-touch pad)
  • Move the mouse to the top right corner of the screen, you will see half of a desktop with a + in it.
  • Click that half-desktop with the plus in it as many times as desktops you need.
Adding virtual desktops in mac osx


How do I delete virtual desktop spaces?

To see how to delete your spaces, check this post

How do I stop them moving about all the time?

You can stop the virtual desktops re-ordering themselves by going to System preferences > mission control > un-tick ‘automatically rearrange spaces based on most recent use’

Adding virtual desktops in mac osx
Can I move virtual desktops manually?

Yes, you can arrange virtual desktops any way you like – :) see this post

Can you name your desktops?

You can’t give virtual desktops their own name as of now, but this could be a feature in a future update


yjkim · July 21, 2011 at 4:47 am

how do I delete one?

    Vito Macchia · August 10, 2011 at 11:18 am

    if you go on the desktop miniature in mission control (upper border), a widget-like X appears on the left upper corner of the desktop miniature. click on it to delete

      Niki Koev · October 16, 2011 at 6:08 pm

      I was looking for that in Goole… and here you go – you helped me out :-) Thanks! Keep on your great posts

Almutaz Rahman · July 26, 2011 at 6:54 pm

Thank you so much, It was very helpful 

Anders28 · August 5, 2011 at 10:32 pm

can you name your desktops?

    jonathan · August 8, 2011 at 8:48 am

    not found a way yet, but there will be a defaults command for it I hope :)

neo · August 23, 2011 at 3:15 pm

is there a way to lock in the desktops, so they don’t switch around when you tab around?

    jonathan · August 23, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    system prefs > mission control > untick ‘automatically rearrange spaces based on most recent use’

Javier · August 23, 2011 at 11:32 pm

This was very helpful.  Thanks.

Tom patrick · September 19, 2011 at 12:16 pm

Interesting post I really didn’t know that the desktop can also be customized

anonymoose · September 22, 2011 at 7:27 am

sooo handy!

Taz · January 3, 2012 at 11:20 pm

In my install of Lion (in a 21.5″ iMac) I had to move the cursor to the top left corner to see the half screen with ‘+’ in it. YMMV.

Laliberte · January 22, 2012 at 5:41 pm

Is there a way to keyboard shortcut switching ‘spaces’ or ‘virtual desktops’?

    Jimmy · February 17, 2012 at 12:46 pm

     control + left and right arrows

Lilla83 · January 30, 2012 at 7:04 pm

Thanks, very helpful, I couldn’t find it myself, only my Lion also shows the icon at the upper left corner. Perhaps ’cause of the dock position (to the right)?

Anders Göransson · February 1, 2012 at 9:11 am

This works fine. There is one problem for me. Say I have two desktops 1 and 2, now I want to open a document, let’s say a pdf-document. How do I force this to be placed on desktop 1?

ss · May 22, 2012 at 12:46 pm

great tutorial! thanks. i would also add a tip: that you can customize your desktop background (image) PER virtual desktop. for instance, i have an image of a wooden apple as the background for my “Desktop 1” and an image of my calendar as the background for my “Desktop 2”.

croes · August 20, 2012 at 4:09 pm

I am trying to open the same application on two desktops – but it keeps going to the one that is open – any idea how to make them function independantly?

Stan Kossen · August 28, 2012 at 8:50 pm

Thanks, everyone, for the input. It was quite helpful.

José De Araujo · June 27, 2013 at 9:00 am

So Helpful, thank you

Timothy Alton · July 19, 2013 at 12:16 am

Is there a way to have a different set of icons/folders on each desktop or are you stuck with the same icons on every desktop? For example I Want one set up for Indesign use and i have some alias for locations on various servers that I would want on that desktop. Then I have a Photoshop desktop that would have another set of alias set up for it. As it works now, if i put an icon on one desktop it shows up on all desktops. Am I missing something or is that working as intended?

Louie12 · December 26, 2013 at 4:48 am

First Macbook pro 15 loving it!!! My question since I have multi desktop I notice my background for desktop 1 is not on the other 4 desktop i created. How can I have all the desktop with the same background when I have it switching every 10 mins?