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?

  • As this question is quite old I won't do a real answer but comment: I use BitBar (find at GitHub) to call a bash script that ONLY calls an AppleScript in which the current background picture is compared to a stored list and accordingly its number "return"ed and thus very simply displayed as [ 2 ], setting its refreshing rate by naming the bash script "desktop.3s.sh` for a 3 second interval. . . . . Extremely easy & pragmatic! – clemsam lang Dec 17 '18 at 8:25

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!



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  • This open source project is by far the best solution I've found, if you want a simple number to ID the current Space. No bloated duplication of features like some other options. – apraetor Sep 13 '16 at 15:10
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    To make WhichSpace start automatically when you log in, open System Preferences, Users & Groups, Login Items, and add WhichSpace to the list. – Benedikt Köppel Nov 2 '16 at 11:13
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    Interested programmers: this watches and reads the file ~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.spaces.plist to get workspace information. This bash command dumps the monitor information: plutil -convert json -o /dev/stdout ~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.spaces.plist. essentially the program looks in .SpacesDisplayConfiguration["Management Data"]["Monitors"]. – user1034533 Nov 19 '18 at 22:33

I could not find any built-in feature for this, so I decided to use the backgrounds.

  • I found a background 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 is.

  • Then you press ctrl+1 to make sure you're in desktop 1, right click the background, and choose 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 right click again.

Not allowed to post screenshot :( to show how it looks.

  • can you upload the screenshot to imgur.com 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.

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    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

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...

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