How to Work Efficiently on Your Mac Using Active Screen Corners

OS X comes with some amazingly cool and useful features built right in to the OS. One of the coolest, and the one I get asked about most often, is the Active Screen Corners feature. Not only can using Active Screen Corners make using your Mac quicker and easier, but it can also be a great substitute in older Mac laptops for the multi-touch gestures that new Mac laptops come built with. Active Screen Corners will allow you to take many actions that you otherwise couldn’t, or would have to do on your keyboard, with the swipe of a finger.

Setup

In order to use Active Screen Corners, we have to first turn them on and set them up. Don’t worry, this is a pretty quick and easy process. Jump into your System Preferences and click on Exposé and Spaces. The first screen you’ll see is the Exposé tab, and the first box in this tab is the one we want, labeled Active Screen Corners (Check out the screenshot below if you’re not sure if you’re in the right place). To activate them, you just select an action from each drop down list. The great thing about this is that you don’t need to have every corner active.  Once you’ve selected the actions you want your Mac to take when you drag your mouse to a certain corner, just close System Preferences and you’re ready to go!

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What Can Active Screen Corners Do For Me?

When you drag your mouse to a specified corner of your screen, Active Screen Corners can perform show certain screens to you.  These screens include:

  • All Windows
  • Application Windows
  • Desktop
  • Dashboard
  • Spaces
  • Start Screensaver
  • Disable Screensaver
  • Put Display to Sleep

Each of these is an action you can take with your Mac to highlight features of Exposé or other cool Mac features anyway, but are much more smoothly and naturally implemented using Active Corners. Here are some explanations from the list that tend to be most useful.

Desktop

I tend to use my Desktop as a sort of quasi-clipboard… Almost nothing stays there forever, as I like it to be clean in order to look nicer and start faster. This allows me to have a place where I can quickly throw a file for a minute, hour, day or week, and access it quickly later to use it and delete it. Often, I’ll need to drag the file somewhere quickly. The Desktop action allows me perfect access to my desktop in order to do this. I just set it to my bottom left corner, and when I need a file from the desktop, I just flick my mouse to the bottom right in order to get to it quickly.

mac-active-screen-desktop

All Windows

All Windows may be the action I use most, and is definitely the one I get the most compliments on when I use it in public. All Windows is set to my top right corner, and allows me to super quickly and easily get a shot of every window I have open on my Mac, whether it is initially visible or not, and then I can just click it to make it my active window. Very cool feature if you’ve got a bunch of Photoshop images open and have lost track of the one you’re looking for.

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Application Windows

Application Windows is an action I don’t use all the time, but definitely has time’s where its a lifesaver. Similar to All Windows, it shows you a quick break down of all the windows you have open, only this time it shows only those windows associated with your current active Application. For instance, if I’m in Photoshop like before and wanted to quickly access a file I had open but that was hidden behind a bunch of others, I could use All Windows. But if I also had a bunch of Safari windows open, plus iTunes and maybe a Finder window or two, it’s going to help, but there has to be a better way… Application Windows is that better way. By quickly flicking up to my top right corner, I can get a breakdown of only my Photoshop windows, making finding the one I want very short work.

mac-active-screen-app-window

Put Display to Sleep

My last corner is used to put the display to sleep. This is an awesome feature when you’re running on battery and don’t want to sleep your whole computer, as you’ll be back relatively shortly, but you don’t want to waste precious battery life while you get a drink or something. A quick flick to the bottom right and my display, which is generally a computer’s biggest battery life hog, is turned off, and can be turned right back on instantly with a move of the mouse.

Have an application that does this better, or a cool tweak to make this even more useful?  Let us know below in the comments!