Set up your windows as you see fit with Moom utility
A nifty $5 utility called Moom makes it easy to create order in the chaos of a Mac OS X by moving and resizing windows.
Special to The Seattle Times
When you start up your Mac, you encounter the Finder, Apple's environment for managing files and applications. For many of us, the Finder is just "the Mac" or "the desktop" because it's the starting point that leads to all other activities.
And although the Finder was once a revolutionary view of the contents of one's hard disk — previously, you had to type commands to do anything — it's certainly accumulated a lot of cruft over the decades that make it a chore to work in.
That's one reason Apple is moving toward an iOS-inspired experience in Mac OS X 10.7 Lion and the forthcoming OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. On an iPad, you don't worry about where windows are positioned, or locating apps buried behind other windows.
I'm not ready to abandon the Finder (and neither is Apple, for the time being), but I did need something better than Mac OS X's default behavior. I found it in a clever $5 utility from Many Tricks called Moom (manytricks.com/moom/).
Moom brings order to the chaos of a busy Mac by moving and resizing windows as you prefer.
With Moom installed, you position your mouse pointer over the Zoom control (the green button) in the upper-left corner of any window — Finder windows, application windows, floating panels, you name it. A popover appears with buttons indicating how to resize and reposition the window.
For example, if I'm working in a word processor, I can hover over the Zoom control and click a button to make the document window occupy the left half of my screen. Or the top, right, or bottom halves.
Neat trick, but that's just the beginning.
You can also define different areas, such as the top-left quarter of the screen, by specifying sections of a custom grid in Moom's preferences.
For me, though, Moom's best feature is its memory.
When I'm working at home, my MacBook Pro is connected to an external monitor. The laptop's lid becomes a second display on which I keep iChat and Twitterrific (my favorite Twitter app), windows that stay open but don't need to be in front of me all the time.
If I leave the house and work at a coffee shop, everything repositions onto the MacBook Pro's single screen, which becomes a problem when I return home: My windows aren't where I prefer them to be after I plug in the external monitor.
Moom, however, knows I've connected the display and automatically shifts iChat and Twitterrific to the spots where I want them to be.
Moom enables you to create other presets, too. So if you like a specific window layout while doing one task, such as working on spreadsheets and billing, you can choose that environment. When you switch to another task, like catching up on email and browsing the Web, you can choose a different preset.
These layouts can also be triggered by keyboard commands if you prefer vs. mousing to a window's Zoom control.
You can download a free trial of Moom from the Many Tricks website; it works for 100 uses. Or buy it directly from Many Tricks or via the Mac App Store.
If you're not interested in Moom but want to eke out some improvements while working with windows in Mac OS X, here are a few tips:
Starting with Mac OS X Lion, you can resize a window by dragging from any edge or corner. (I imagine my Windows-using friends are groaning, since that's a feature Windows has had since ... I don't know ... fire was invented?)
You can also use modifier keys to affect how the window resizes: Hold Option while dragging to expand or contract from the middle of the window, or hold Shift to maintain the window's current aspect ratio.
And if you've ever unsuccessfully tried to remove something from the sidebar of a Finder window, here's the secret: hold Command as you drag. Apple changed that behavior in Mac OS X 10.6.7.
Jeff Carlson and Glenn Fleishman write the Practical Mac column for Personal Technology and about technology in general for The Seattle Times and other publications. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. More Practical Mac columns at www.seattletimes.com/ columnists.