Scratch Pad and Leopard's Spaces

Before Leopard, I could leave the scratch pad up in the corner of my screen and use it to jot down any inspirations that pop up over the course of my work day. Unfortunately, with Spaces, the Scratch Pad gets left behind whenever I switch my space.

Perhaps in a future version of Scrivener, we could get some kind of option to have the Scratchpad follow us across our Spaces? I’m not sure this is possible, but I figure it couldn’t hurt to ask.


I hope this is something that developers can address. Apple left no built-in mechanism for users to select “sticky” windows, which is a shame, and one thing that I really don’t like about Spaces. There are just lots of little windows that you frequently want to have omnipresent. Chat buddy lists, et cetera. In most systems that have virtual desktops, each window has a button you can press that will cause it to appear on every desktop. Perhaps the developers of Windowshades will figure something out. They seem fairly cunning at this sort of thing.

A few months ago, I stumbled across a small program named VirtueDesktops, which seems to do more or less exactly what Spaces does. Plus it provides the possibility to mark certain applications as “shall be visible always” - “sticky”, in another word.

I assumed Spaces would provide real virtual desktops, which means, you’d have your own wallpaper on every virtual desktop and another set of icons, files etc. (so that you could have desktop 1 for everyday use, desktop 2 for project A, desktop 3 for project B etc.). But as I’ve heard this is not the case.

Are there different wallpapers possible? This is something VirtueDesktops allows, and it is a great help to immediately see where you are.

No, the desktop and its wallpaper are always the same. It seems Apple wanted to keep Spaces easy and accessible and avoid the case that you don’t remember in what space you saved a file. But I suppose Spaces will evolve …

Right, it’s just about the most rudimentary implementation of virtual desktops I’ve ever seen! You can at least select how big the matrix is, but you cannot name the “spaces”. Whole applications can be assigned to them, which is definitely nice for some things. And you’ve got absolute and relative movement keys for shortcuts, as well as an Expose style interface for navigation and window movement. That’s it! Very simple. It’s almost more effective to think of it as screen enlargement, rather than true virtual desktops.

What it lacks in features, it does have in elegance. I have tried VirtueDesktops, and one other I forget the name of, and I’ve even used programs for this on OS 9. VD (heh) was a mess the last time I tried it. Quirky interface, riddled with bugs, and more excited about providing as many transition effects as possible. When it came out, Apple had just introduced the Cube Spin effect in fast user switching. So it was all the craze. Where I worked at the time, it was an hilarious joke. The cube spin effect is, amongst video editors, as phenomenally campy as the lens flare is to digital artists. I digress!

My point is, I’ve had the capability of having multiple desktops on my Mac for many years (there was even a program for OS 9; which elaborately faked the concept), but I haven’t stuck to any of them because all of the implementations I tried were either too buggy, or too convoluted to be worth the effort. They weren’t providing a productivity boost, in other words.

So far, even though it lacks a lot in comparison to what I am used to from the Linux days, Spaces feels quite productive.

Back to the wish: Window stickiness is something that should be handled by the window manager. Individual developers should not have to hack things like this, or be compelled to do so by their users. Whether or not a window can be sticky should be entirely up to the users.

The problem with VirtueDesktops for Leopard users is that the project is essentially dead. The developer ceased work on it when Leopard release drew near. I hear it works okay in Tiger, but is fairly broken in Leopard. And will probably remain so unless somebody else picks the project up.

Although I never have used the scratch pad (yet?) I can understand how useful the requested feature would be.

But Leopard spaces work application wise and since the scratch pad is a part of Scrivener it will stay in the same space in which the application it belongs to is in.

It would be a great option in Leopard if you could apply a ‘meta spaces’ status to an application so it would be visible in all spaces if you wish so. Having this status is possible already, check out the network monitor of Little Snitch for example.

I don’t know if this is only possible because Little Snitch is working deep inside the system or if any ‘normal’ program could do this too. But even if, my guess is that scratch pad would have to be a separate program to keep it in all spaces without having Scrivener doing the same.

VirtueDesktops worked OK the time I tried it, and I have to admit I love the cube spin effect - it gives an impression my subconscious can deal with: “you are working on 4 sides of a cube”. I stopped using it because I found it was more confusing for me to have 4 desktops than to have 1, even if the 1 is overcrowded. I don’t believe it will be different with Spaces.

I knew the concept from StarOffice 5.1 (on PC), where you could define a directory as desktop. You could then switch among desktops that were dedicated to different projects - all files, folders, links, icons etc. in one place. This was useful. Today I am recreating this by making project main folders “more habitable” - they get their own background image, I switch off the sidebar, group files, folders etc. as I would on a desk… That works well.

This is fixed for 1.11. For the record, Apple have provided the functionality for windows to be present in all spaces - I had just missed it, and I’m guessing other apps have yet to use it properly, too. So, in Scrivener 1.11, the scratch pad will appear in all spaces if it is set to “Float”. Not sure whether this should be an option or not… I think not, given that if you’ve floated the scratch pad, it is so that you can have it available no matter what you are doing.

As always, Keith, you amaze me with your rapid response.