Forwarding Address: OS X

Tuesday, March 05, 2002

I'd love to get multiple desktops for OS X. There's a Dockletish thing out there--I think it was mentioned earlier on this very page--that sort of emulates the effect by hiding and unhiding apps and sets of apps, but it's not the same. And it's not really keyboard-operable. You can't use the keyboard to jump from virtual desktop to virtual desktop, or move windows from one virtual desktop to the next, or make them show up in every desktop.

This ability to manage every aspect of every open window from the keyboard--to minimize windows, maximize them, restore them, resize them, move them, maximize them in just one dimension ("maximize vertically"--surprisingly useful), and pop them from one virtual screen to the next--is built into just about every open-source X window manager written by obsessive lunatics and given away for free. It should be built into this gold-plated and otherwise wonderful implementation of Unix-for-the-desktop as well. Yes, you can probably do two-thirds of these things from the keyboard, sometimes, if you're willing to hit cmd-F2 and laboriously scroll rightward across the menu bar. But that's silly. And meanwhile, while you can generally minimize a window with cmd-M, is there a similar keystroke for getting that minimized window back up out of the Dock?

I love OS X, but it's kind of pathetic that every so often I find myself starting XDarwin in fullscreen mode just to have another virtual desktop--or firing it up rootlessly just so I can have some xterms I can move around the screen at need, without having to constantly grab the damn mouse.

Speaking of rootlessly, I'm a little surprised nobody seems to have mentioned OroborosX, an X window manager specifically designed to run rootlessly under OS X. It's a bit of a CPU hog and it's sufficiently Mac-like to suffer from exactly the keyboard deficiencies I'm griping about above, but for some kinds of work it's exactly the right thing. Usually, though, I just run icewm.

A discussion question, and then I'll stop. What Classic utilities are you still wedded to, this far along? (My own submission would be the unkillable Disktop, a ten-year-old copy of which is as solid and useful on this OS X machine as it was on the Mac my wife and I shared ten years ago.)