I use two monitors on my PC at home, three on my PC at work but frequently I still run out of room on my desktop to view all the applications that I’m currently running. That’s where virtual desktops come into play.
Virtual desktops have been common in the Unix and Linux world for a long time, Apple introduced them by default in Mac OS X 10.5 in late 2007, but Windows still doesn’t come with a virtual desktop application as standard.
Microsoft acquired Systernals in 2006. They launched Desktops in 2006 which allows you to organise your applications on four virtual desktops.
The application is small (the installer is only 60 KB), fast and reliable but it has limitations:
- Maximum of 4 desktops.
- Aero theme, Flip 3D and many notification icons only work on desktop 1.
- You can’t move applications from one desktop to another.
- You must have the same wallpaper on each desktop.
- You cannot close Desktops, you need to either log off or reboot.
After checking out various virtual desktop applications, including the freeware VirtuaWin, I settled on DeskSpace from Australian software company Otaku Software, which costs US$24.95 (currently around £15.50).
DeskSpace is fast, highly customizable and looks fantastic. A few of its features:
- Maximum of 6 desktops, on up to 9 monitors.
- Switch between desktops with a stunning animated 3D cube (which you can customize the speed and size of).
- Customize hotkeys to switch between desktops, or use your mouse wheel.
- Customizable wallpaper on each desktop.
- Rename and assign a different icon to each desktop.
- Drag applications from one desktop to another.
- Assign certain applications to open on a particular desktop, e.g. Outlook always opens on Desktop 2.
When you right-click the icon in the notification area you can see what applications are currently open on which desktop. A really nice feature is the ability to drag applications from one desktop to another on that list.
One niggle for me is that the options are split between two menu items—Configure and Manage—as I keep forgetting which configuration option is where; it would be nice to have all the options in one unified location.
I would also have liked to have seen some of the options combined such as customizing the wallpaper, names and icons for each desktop together on the same screen.
But these are minor points, as it doesn’t take long to set things up the way you want them and then just leave it.
One superb feature is that the software license is for individual-use which means that you can buy one copy and install it on as many machines as you use, for example a desktop and laptop.
Given that my laptop (as most do) has only one screen this has become an invaluable tool.
DeskSpace has been a really welcome addition to my workflow, particularly at work where I can assign separate desktops for dealing with support calls, FTP, graphics manipulation, etc.
It supports both the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 on low-end netbooks, high-end desktops and everything in-between.
Why not download the trial version of DeskSpace today and give it a go?