Monday, July 28, 2008

Virtual Desktop Managers

Do you ever feel your desktop is too cluttered? I feel this way all the time and I was happy to learn about 2 old and new applications that virtualize desktops in XP or Vista. First off, what is a virtual desktop? It isn't the same as OS virtualiztion which you can read about here. It simply means that instead of the one, standard desktop, you can switch between multiple "fake" desktops. For example, if you are looking at your web browser and buried beneath it is Word and iTunes and you want to be able to access these windows individually you can set them up on their own virtual desktop. Then, you can switch between the desktops when you need to use each program. It is a clever little way of staying organized and maintaining efficiency. The programs cost some RAM but its worth the expense if you have OCD about your desktop use (like me). So what are the FREE programs?

: from Codeplex comes a straightforward (beta) application that virtualizes in both XP and Vista. In Vista, it maintains the live thumbs (you know how when you put the cursor over a tab on the task bar in Vista you get a Live view of what is going on in that window - this capitalizes on that concept - just make sure to have at least 2gb of memory). Mind you, this is a beta version and so will have a few hiccups.

XP Power Toy: This one comes directly from our friends at Microsoft. It is ONLY compatible with XP as the company has not decided to fiddle with Vista (maybe they are afraid they will break it). It works really well and allows you to virtualize up to 4 desktops. It is somewhat easy to configure and I haven't had any problems using it - its just been fun.

What about the ones that cost money?

Otaku Software - (for Vista/XP) never used it but it got good reviews

StarDock DeskSpaces - (for Vista) This one doesn't actually virtualize desktops but it does give you nifty backgrounds for your computer, allow you to switch backgrounds, and even have a video as a background. Kind of interesting... not worth the money.

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