Is there any way to change the name of a space on Lion? I'm sure that it's not possible to change the name of a space being taken up by a full screen app, but is it possible to change the name of the "Desktop #" spaces?
Not really. However if you have a space occupied by a full screen application the name of the space will change to the name of that application
Based on iconoclast's idea, you could create a sticky note for each desktop and place it in the lower left of the bottom of each desktop. it has the benefit of not requiring you to alter background images and allows you to still have a new background image every 30 minutes or so.
But I agree, this is sorely missing from Mac OS X. Linux has had this for how many years now?
The commercial TotalSpaces by binaryage allows you to name spaces. Its other features include a grid alignment of spaces and app assignments, similar to Snow Leopard.
There IS, actually, a way to name your spaces. SORT OF.
That is, you can't change the name that appears under them when you use Mission Control (which I will go on record saying is one of Apple's biggest mistakes--Spaces was a million times better, even though it too was crippled in some respects), but you can assign names to them and make it easier to tell them apart.
The trick is that you can assign different desktop images to each 'space' (now called a Desktop). This will help make them easier to tell apart. As far as naming, this will be a huge pain, and definitely not ideal. But a kludgey solution is all Apple leaves open to us. You have to put the name on the image. Yup, open an image editor and add some text on top of those lily pads, or that lion's head, or whatever.
Yes, that sucks if you'd like to regularly name and rename your spaces. But if you have a few that you use most of the time, you can create a few desktop images with the names on them, and just live with it. I wish I could give a better solution, but it's out of my control obviously. This is, unless someone discovers an as yet hidden setting somewhere in OS X, or until Apple realizes their mistake and fixes Mission Control, the best we can do.
After years of using my above answer, i.e. create sticky notes, I have decided to go with watermarks instead. I use TotalSpaces and Stay and, while generally good, Stay has the side effect of reducing all of my stickies' windows to the same size and placing them on the first space. Every time i reboot I have to rearrange all the stickies for all my spaces. Not fun.
Here is a quick-and-dirty watermarking script, based on http://www.imagemagick.org/Usage/annotating/#wmark_text. To use it, place all the files you want watermarked in a single folder (you probably have done this already to use them as background images for your desktop). For instance, I put mine inside
Now, here's how to watermark them with the text Work for my Work space. Create a new folder,
Work, inside this same folder. So you have, e.g.,
~/Pictures/backgrounds/4k/Work. This folder is empty now but will be full of watermarked images as soon as you run this script.
Open a terminal (iTerm2, preferrably 8-), change to your
Work subdir, and type in this:
b=$(basename "$PWD"); for a in ../*.*; do echo $a convert "$a" -font Arial -pointsize 40 -draw \ "gravity southwest fill black text 12,12 '$b' fill white text 11,11 '$b' " "$b"_$(basename "$a") done
After a few moments you will have a folder filled with watermarked copies of each image in the parent folder. Make a subfolder for each space and repeat the process, telling OSX to use each individual subfolder for each spaces' backgrounds.
If you don't have ImageMagick already,
brew install imagemagick first.
Edit: decided to place this script, with misc updates, on GitHub/jcheek/watermark.