Ask Different is a question and answer site for power users of Apple hardware and software. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Spaces used to show the space number in the menu bar; I would glance at it regularly to see which space I was in (1, 2, 3, etc).

How do I get Mission Control to display the current desktop in the menu bar like that?

share|improve this question
up vote 8 down vote accepted

I could not find any built in feature for this so I decided to use the backgrounds. I found a backgound image that I wanted, and made 8 copies of it. Then I wrote the numbers 1-8 on each of them next to where the dock usually are. Then you press ctrl+1 to make sure your in desktop 1 right click the background and chose the image with 1 written on it. Then close down the system preference box (otherwise you end up changing only desktop one). Then press ctrl+2 and do rightclick again. NOt allowed to post screenshot :( to show how it looks

share|improve this answer
can you upload the screenshot to and post a link to it here? – Robert Hume Jul 29 '11 at 12:44
Good idea, I upvoted so you might have enough rep for an image upload – conorgriffin Jul 29 '11 at 12:44
+1. not a bad idea. I'm going to overlay numbers on the 4 corners of my background. Thanks for posting this... – gmale Jun 29 '12 at 16:17

This problem now has a much more robust solution, thanks to Total Spaces. This app brings back the old 2D grid of spaces and shows the space number in the menu bar.

share|improve this answer
Unfortunately that solution relies on code injection into Dock - which requires the turning off of some security features on El Capitan. It was a good solution in 2012, but not any more. – Floris Dec 24 '15 at 20:44

Maybe the open source WhichSpace project can do this:


Have you ever forgotten which space is currently active on OS X (10.11+) and wanted a quick way to tell? Didn't think so... but I did!



share|improve this answer

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

I found this question because I had the same issue. Turns out, all I really wanted was to instantly know what screen I am on.

I just accidentally "discovered" the obvious: if you 4-finger swipe up, everything zooms out. Across the top, all your desktops are shown and your current desktop is highlighted! (4-finger swipe down to go back to normal).

So this quick & easy approach solves things for me! Besides requiring much less work, it's also better than making custom numbered background images because I often have windows that entirely block my background. Now, I just swipe up, then back down and, in a split second, I know exactly where I am.

Posting here just in case it helps someone else...

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.