Saturday, October 30, 2010

Virtual / Multiple Desktops

Being a multitasker, I found my Windows 7 desktop cluttered with too many taskbar icons and windows of running programs. That’s when I realized that I need to have multiple desktops, with each having a different purpose, e.g., for work, blogging, school, etc.

I have a tendency to lose focus on what I’m currently doing when too many programs are running. And so with multiple desktops I can categorize apps that are meant for a specific purpose. So instead of having quite a lot of taskbar icons as shown below, it’ll be easy with just two or three at a time. This also means I don’t need to close programs anymore just to remove those taskbar icons.

There are two ways multiple desktops can be pulled off. The first is using multiple monitors. Although more efficient since you can see all desktops simultaneously, this option is basically expensive.
The alternate choice is ultimately cheaper and easier to accomplish: virtualization. Virtual desktops is not readily available for Windows 7 though. You will need to download a software that does the job. Here are two apps that I tried:

The closest official thing Windows offers is Desktops. When run, it places a four-square icon at the system tray. One of these squares lights up to indicate that its corresponding desktop is active.
Clicking once on the icon will show you a preview of the desktops. Click on any of the four to switch between desktops.

Double-clicking on the icon will show you a few options you can modify: changing hotkeys and whether Desktops runs at startup.

If you want more customization, use Dexpot. Some of its features include having up to twenty desktops, more control over hotkeys, and better switching between desktops and their applications. Another useful feature is Window Catalogue, an overview of all programs of the selected desktop similar to Mac OS X Exposé.

Other features not found in Desktops are moving/copying windows between the desktops, different background/screensaver/desktop icons per desktop, adjusting window appearance, among others.

Still Not Satisfied?
If Desktops and Dexpot does not pass as your virtual desktop manager, there are other software available, many of which are offered for free. Just google virtual desktop manager.
Compatibility Issues
As I mentioned before, Windows is not readily made for virtual desktops. Thus, some programs might experience compatibility issues and might not run/perform as expected. But considering the advantages by using virtual desktops, the bugs and annoyances are far outweighed and can be neglected.