Spaces is broken

The idea behind Leopard's Spaces feature, while by no means new (according to Wikipedia, 1985 called...) is certainly a good one. Unfortunately, Apple's implementation of virtual desktops is broken. Here's a single, reproducible example:
  1. Ensure Spaces is enabled.
  2. Open Mail.
  3. Open Mail's ‘Activity’ window (Window > Activity).
  4. Move the main Mail window to a different space, leaving the Activity window where it was opened. (Hit F8, and drag the main Mail window somewhere else.)
  5. Open something else in the space where Mail's main window now sits—say, a Finder window.
  6. Hit Alt-Tab and select the Mail application—recall that Mail's main window is right behind whatever you opened in step 5, and note where Spaces sends you.
You got it—you're sent to the Activity window's space, completely ignoring Mail's main window sitting right behind your uppermost window. While this might be occasionally what the user intended, I can't see how it could be commonly or usually what the user intended.

Henry Story describes how Spaces is "not designed around a person's work habits, but around software components." His article pretty much nails it.


  1. Now you're a fully fledged Mac head!

    Normal complaints are "my computer doesn't work at all, even after I tried to reboot it by throwing it out of the window!".


    "I lost 10 years of data when bloody Windows decided to format the hard drive instead of installing a program!".

    Now you're at:

    "This button doesn't work the way I like it and I want Apple to fix it! NOW! NOW! APPLE! FIX! IT! NOW!".


  2. Steve - this is particularly annoying though. Mac OS X has been lacking a feature that was available in NeXT and which has been in x-windows for two decades (and which is extremely useful) and now they've introduced it and it doesn't address the functionality we need. It's related to reason that apple+tab is inadequate - the interface is application-centric instead of being window-centric. Humans tend to be window centric. Imagine you've got three terminals open and are doing webdev in two (where you want to switching with a web browser) and on irc in another, in another workspace. In Apple the terminals all get jumbled up when you try window or application switching so the irc window keeps getting in the way when the main reason for workspaces is to get things *out of the way*.


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