eXtensions - Friday 30 September 2016

System Preferences in macOS, Sierra: Mission Control

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers

Apart from a couple of new additions, changes to most System Preferences in macOS, Sierra, have been small. The preferences pane for Mission Control has not been changed. This panel provides settings to give users an overview of all open windows, applications and Dashboard.

What was called Exposé & Spaces in earlier versions of OS X was replaced by Mission Control. This has a single panel in two sections. At the top are checkboxes for Mission Control and Dashboard. At the bottom are (unchanged) Keyboard and Mouse Shortcuts, with a button for Hot Corners at bottom left.

Mission Control

Mission Control

Mission Control can be activated in three ways: by using its icon in the Dock; using gestures (see Trackpad Preferences); or via Key Commands. There are four checkboxes for activating features with Mission Control:

  • Automatically rearrange Spaces based on most recent use. This can be used in conjunction with the Dock menu which allows a user to specify a Space for an application (see Notes).

  • When switching to an application, switch to a Space with open windows for the application.

  • Group windows by application

  • Displays have separate Spaces. This works in conjunction with Displays Preferences: when Mirroring is Off, new features are available. External displays behave as in previous versions of OS X when this box is checked. This feature requires the user to log out before it is applied.

Below these checkboxes is a button to control Dashboard. Options available are:

  • Off
  • As Space (when used the screen appears to move to the right)
  • As Overlay (Dashboard is shown over the current window)
By default, when Mission Control is used, the word, Dashboard is shown to the left of other Desktops. When the cursor is moved to the top of the screen when Mission Control is activated, thumbnail displays of Dashboard and available Desktops are shown.

Mission Control

There is an eXtensions widget available on the Apple site.

Keyboard and Mouse Shortcuts

Within the Mission Control Panel, users may allocate specific keys for some of the operations. Four operations are available, with eight buttons shown in two columns. The first column is for key commands; the second for mouse controls:

  • Mission Control: default key is F9 (fn + F9 if the fn option is used on notebooks). Mission Control activates, showing all open applications and spaces;

  • Application windows: default key is F10 (or fn + F10). All open panels of the front application are shown. Any minimized panels are shown as smaller thumbnail panels (icons will match the file type);

  • Show Desktop: default key is F11 (fn + F11). All application panels are moved off to the sides and the desktop is visible;

  • Show Dashboard: default key is F12 (fn + F12). The desktop is moved to the right and the user has access to the Dashboard and any Widgets installed.

When clicked, each button in the first column reveals a list of keys which may be used to reallocate the command. For example, instead of the default F9 for Mission Control, we may choose Right Shift. In my case, I have allocated the key combination of Control + Up Arrow.

When selecting a key, pressing on a modifier key (e.g. Control) adds that to the command. Re-allocation takes affect immediately. If a key (or combination) is used that conflicts with other operations, or previously allocated commands, a yellow warning triangle is displayed alongside the button.

Buttons in the second column - for using the mouse as a means of control - are initially unallocated. A dash is shown. Users may choose to have one or more of the above features activated with a mouse click. On my installation I may choose only Secondary Mouse Button or Middle Mouse Button. Connecting a mouse with more buttons and controls did not make any further options available.

If any of the control keys (Shift, Control, Option, Command) are pressed - alone or in combination - these also appear in the menu. They are accepted (or removed) by clicking the mouse.

Hot Corners

Specific actions may be allocated to any of the four corners of the screen in the same was as in the Desktop & Screensaver Preferences. As the cursor moves to the corner, an action is carried out. Options available are Mission Control, Application Windows, Desktop, Dashboard, Notification Center, Launchpad, Start Screensaver, Disable Screensaver, Put Display to Sleep and - (no action).

Mission Control


Mission Control manages Spaces. On new installations there is a single Space (plus Dashboard). On Macs that have used Spaces before, the same number is available after an update.

New Spaces can be added when Mission Control is being used - click the icon in the Dock - by moving the cursor towards the top right of the screen. A new, semi-transparent Space appears (using the desktop image from Space 1). By clicking in that new Space, it becomes active and is allocated a consecutive number (e.g. Desktop 7). This then also appears in Key Commands.

To remove a Space, slide the cursor towards the Space display when Mission Control is being used. An X will appear at the top left of the Space thumbnail. Clicking on this removes the Space.

Mission COntrol

When an application icon is shown in the Dock (open or not), click on the icon and use the Options menu to Assign the application to "All Desktops" (previously "All Spaces") or "This Desktop" or "None" (default).

As pointed out to me in an email from Greg of Imaja Software, another useful feature is that when Mission Control is used to view all open windows, the miniature views of the application panels can be enlarged by moving the cursor over the specific pane and pressing the space bar (as in Quick View).

See Also:

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)



Made on Mac

For further information, e-mail to

information Tag

Back to eXtensions
Back to Home Page