Assign Mac Apps to Open in a Specific Desktop Space

Control Where Your Mac Apps Open

Dock Space Assignment
The next time you launch the application, it will open in all of your desktop spaces. Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

OS X allows you to assign applications to open in specific desktop spaces. This can be very helpful for those of us who use multiple spaces for specific uses; for example, a space for working with correspondence might have Mail, Contacts, and Reminders open. Or perhaps a space for working with photos would be the home for Photoshop, Aperture, or Apple’s Photos app.

The way you organize and make use of your spaces is up to you, but as you work with Spaces (now part of Mission Control), you're likely to run into apps that you would like to have opened in all of your active spaces.

This will allow you to switch between your spaces, and have the same apps available in all spaces, in addition to the ones you assigned to specific spaces.

All Spaces Assignment

Being able to assign an app to a space, or as in this example, all of your spaces, first requires setting up multiple desktop spaces. You can do this using Mission Control, which is available in System Preferences.

If you only have a single desktop space (the default), this tip won't work. But if you have multiple desktops, the ability to have an application open in every desktop can be a great convenience.

The other requirement is that the application you want to open in all of your desktop spaces must be in the Dock. This tip won't work unless the application is installed in the Dock. However, it doesn't have to stay in the Dock. You can use this tip to set an application to open in all of your desktop spaces, and then remove the application from the Dock.

It will still open in all desktop spaces once the flag is set, regardless of how you launch the application.

Launch an Application in All of Your Desktop Spaces

  1. Right-click the Dock icon of the application you wish to have available in every desktop space you use.
  2. From the pop-up menu, select Options, then click "All Desktops" in the list of assignments.

    The next time you launch the application, it will open in all of your desktop spaces.

    Reset the Desktop Space Assignment of an Application

    If you decide you don't want an application to open in all of your desktop spaces, you can reset the desktop assignment by following these steps.

    1. Right-click the Dock icon of the application you don't wish to have available in every desktop space you use.
    2. From the pop-up menu, select Options, then click "None" in the list of assignments.

    The next time you launch the application, it will open only in the currently active desktop space.

    Assign an App to a Specific Desktop Space

    When you went to assign an app to all of your desktop spaces, you may have noticed that you could also set the app to open in the current desktop space. This is one of the methods for assigning apps to specific desktops.

    Once again, you must have multiple desktop spaces, and you must be using the space to which you wish to assign the app. You can switch to another space by opening Mission Control, and selecting the space you wish to use from the spaces thumbnails near the top of Mission Control.

    Once the space you wish to assign an app to is open:

    1. Right-click the Dock icon of the application you wish to assign to the current desktop space.
    1. From the pop-up menu, select Options, then click "This Desktop" in the list of assignments.

    Assigning apps to specific spaces, or to all spaces, can help you keep a tidy desktop, and create a better workflow.