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Virtual desktop managers are quite popular under Linux. I wonder why Microsoft never introduced such a feature in Windows. Perhaps virtual desktop managers confuse some users because they forget that an application is already started and is just not visible on the foreground desktop. However, I think that for IT professionals, who are used to working with many different applications at the same time, a virtual desktop manager can be quite helpful.
Even if you have a big screen and enough space on your taskbar for all your opened applications, organizing your opened applications in virtual desktops can speed up your work. I recommend grouping the applications you need most frequently on one desktop, and those you need only every now and then on a second desktop. This enables you to find the important applications on your primary desktop quicker. Another option is to group all monitoring tools or you can move all communication tools, such as email and instant messaging, to one desktop. This allows you to see who is online in all your IM tools with a mouse click by switching to the corresponding desktop. And if you have an application that works with multiple windows, you can arrange them all on one virtual desktop; this allows you to access a specific window much faster than through the taskbar. This is especially useful if you configured the task bar to combine task bar buttons.
WindowsPager is a free virtual desktop manager. Although it is a simple tool, it has all-important features. Most important is that it is stable, unlike other such tools. What I like most is that WindowsPager is portable. This allows you to use the tool easily on every Windows machine you log on to.
The virtual desktop manager stores all its settings in an ini file. No graphical user interface exists for configuring WindowsPager, which makes a small footprint possible. Note that you have to restart WindowsPager to activate configuration changes. You can specify the number of virtual desktops and the hot keys that allow you to switch quickly between the virtual desktops. You can also define different wallpapers.
A few more settings exist in the ini file. Those of you who have multiple monitors will like to hear that WindowsPager supports this too. You can combine all monitors onto one big virtual screen, or you can have WindowsPager manage only the primary monitor. In the latter case, the other monitors are always visible.
You can move applications from desktop to desktop by right-clicking the application's title bar. Using the title bar, you can also configure if a window is visible on all virtual desktops. It is also possible to specify applications or application windows that WindowsPager will ignore.
Some applications cause problems when used with virtual desktop managers. The easiest way to configure the ignore list is through the context menu of the virtual desktop icons in the task bar. This will allow you to select the corresponding application windows on the desktop.
Another free virtual desktop manager I have tried is Finestra Virtual Desktops. It has more features than WindowsPager; however, it appeared quite unstable and slow when I tried it on Windows 7 64-bit. Do you know of another good virtual desktop manager?
I tested WindowsPager 1.0 on Windows 7.
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Microsoft do have a virtual desktop manager?
Desktops is part of the sysinternals suite
WindowsPager looks like it has more features though so I’ll be checking it out 🙂
Andy, yes Microsoft has a virtual desktop manager. What I meant is that it is not an integral part of Windows. I have been using it on Windows XP for a while. Does it work reliably on Windows 7?
VirtuaWin works well and is very stable on Windows 7 32-bit. Haven’t tried 64-bit.