Spaces IconOne of the first new things in Leopard I’m really giving a run for it’s money is the new Spaces feature. It’s basically virtual desktops the Apple way. If it were not buggy it would be fantastic, even with the few bugs I’m currently experiencing it’s still the first virtual desktop program that I’m actually finding useful. No other virtual desktop system I’ve used places as much emphasis on the relative locations of your desktops. Believe it or not it’s this real feeling of working within a grid that makes Spaces work. This feeling of working in a grid comes from a number of interface elements. The most of obvious of these is the bird’s-eye view of all your spaces brought up by hitting F8. This metaphor is further emphasised by the icon that shows up on the screen when you shift Spaces and by the animation employed to make those switches. Your feel as if your view is sliding from one space into the other. In addition to these graphical cues there are also some interactions that further re-enforce the grid metaphor. Firstly, you can drag a window from one space to another by dragging it to an edge of the screen which borders another Space and hold it for a second. When you do this you move to that other Space and bring the window with you. Secondly, you can navigate around the Spaces use the ctrl+arrow key combinations. This much all works perfectly, however, many other aspects of Spaces are a lot less polished. The rest of this article is dedicated to detailing the bugs I’ve found so far.

[tags]OS X, Apple, Leopars, OS X 10.5, Spaces[/tags]

A very nice feature of spaces is the ability to assign applications to a particular Space, or to all Spaces. The idea is that when you assign an application to all Spaces all it’s windows will stay in the same place on screen as you move from Space to Space. This is ideal for something like your chat client, which, as it happens, is the application I used to test this feature. For a while it worked flawlessly. Then, for no obvious reason, it started leaving one of the windows behind in Space 1 while the other window did follow me around all the Spaces. That make it useless so I stopped using it and instead assigned my chat client to a particular space so I could reliably navigate to it form the Dock.

This brings me to my second bug. If you all the windows for an application are in one Space then Spaces behaves very well. No matter what Space you are in when you click on the icon for that application in the Dock you move to the appropriate Space. In theory the app you chose should have focus. This works most of the time but quite often the application is brought to the front but not actually selected. This is an annoying bug when you’re as fond of keyboard shortcuts as I am.

However, when you start distributing windows from the same application around multiple Spaces Leopard really starts to loose the plot. In my case I have a FireFox window in three of my four Spaces and Finder windows in all my Spaces. In theory whey you click on the dock icon for an application that has one or more windows in your current Space all the windows from that application which reside in your current Space should come to the front. However, that only happens some of the time, sometimes some windows come to the front but not all, other times you end up switching Space and when that happens you often get a window from a different app at the front. Basically, clicking on the dock is a gamble. Using the apple+tab keyboard shortcut for switching between apps seems to work better but that too can on occasion result in a rogue Space change.

So, as you can see, Spaces is very well thought out and has a complete feature set, it’s just the implementation that’s still a little off. If you never distribute windows from the same app over multiple spaces then you will probably notice very few bugs if any, but if you do you’ll run into bugs regularly. I have no doubt that this will all be fixed in future releases, but, even before that happens, Spaces is still worth using. I’ve only been using it for three days and already I’d really miss it if I lost it.