Picks: A roundup of programs for using virtual desktops

This week I do a roundup of programs that allow you to work with virtual desktops.
Published: Jan 23, 2008
Author: Michael E, Callahan
Related OS: Windows
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I received a lot of emails asking me about maximizing desktop space or making better use of it. So, the result is the roundup of programs that give you "virtual desktops." -- Doc

Definition: A virtual desktop is a way to expand the desktop space available through the use of software.

For a really solid, full-featured virtual desktop solution take a look at Cool Desk 3.86, by Shelltoys, Inc. This one has been around for awhile and it's just gotten better and better. Cool Desk let's you have up to nine virtual desktops to work with. This product really gives you a lot of flexibility and a number of user configurable options. For example, each desktop can have its own wallpaper as well as its own screen resolution. So, you can play a game in 800 x 600 in one desktop, and go back to work at 1680 x 1050 in another. Slick. Every virtual desktop can also have its own icons. Another cool feature is the ability to assign hot keys to each desktop so you can switch "desks" with just a key press. Cool Desk allows you to manage everything easily by including a handy desktop manager module. It also supports the use of sticky applications. What's that? Well if there are applications you use all the time making them 'sticky' means you'll find them in every virtual desktop. A very handy feature. Cool Desk supports drag and drop, making backgrounds transparent, and skins. Very nicely done. The program is easy-to-use and intuitive. Give it a try.

System Requirements: Windows 98/ME/NT/2000/XP

Download Cool Desk 3.86 NOW!

AltDesk 1.5.1, by Gladiators Software is another powerful virtual desktop tool. I happen to use this one on my main computer and it gives me lots of flexibility. It's extremely easy-to-use and perfect for users with all levels of experience. AltDesk lets you assign hot keys not only to the virtual desktops, but to other functions as well. Here again you can give each desktop a unique wallpaper, a hot key, and you can also have sticky applications. The screen shot shows AltDesk running from my computer. If you look at it you can see the icons in each desktop. If I want I can drag the icon for the Boxer Text Editor from the top left to the lower right. In the lower left pane an XP virtual machine is running on the virtual desktop. All kinds of virtual stuff at my house. AltDesk also has a wide range of skins you can use to spice it up, but I've stuck with one of the default selections. It takes up very little space on my real screen and if you want you can even configure it to take up less than mine does. AltDesk has a feature I haven't found in similar products and that's a security function. I can press a keystroke and all evidence of the program disappears. I'm not totally sure why you'd want to do that, but I tested it and it worked as advertised. AltDesk is both powerful and simple. So, if you're looking to expand your desk space perhaps this is your solution.

System Requirements: Windows 98/ME/NT/2000/XP

Download AltDesk 1.5.1 NOW!

One thing about me is that I like to give you lots of options. I try to do that by telling you about good software products. What you end up using is totally up to you. Another virtual desktop option is DesktopPlus 2.6, by DesktopPlus. This program has some interesting features including the ability to have certain programs startup on certain desktops. During installation the program asks you about wanting different wallpaper for each desk, about wanting different icons, and so on. So, for example, I didn't want different wallpaper on each desktop so I just didn't make that selection. Works out very well and each user can customize the program to suit themselves. You can have up to 9 virtual desktops, have programs that start automatically in each desktop, and have unique icons as well. DesktopPlus also remembers the size of windows and their positions on each desktop. That's a handy feature. On top of that it actually remembers precisely what you were doing the last time you were in a given desktop. So, it's maintaining your focus so when you go back to a desktop you're right where you were. Really slick. Another thing I really liked is that it keeps program messages in the desktop where the program is. That's very handy because you don't have messages from other desktops popping up in the desktop you're working in. DesktopPlus offers lots of features and configurable options, and I always like that. So, if you're thinking about virtual desktops here's another program for you to look at. Nicely done.

System Requirements: Windows 95/98/ME/NT/2000/2003/XP

Download DesktopPlus 2.6 NOW!

Comments: Using a virtual desktop software program is a great way to increase your productivity. It allows you to put certain tasks on certain desks and then move between them. This allows you to have multiple things going on without having them getting tangled up. Surf the Web from one desktop, do your accounting in another, and play a game in yet another. These three products, in my opinion, are the best programs available for using virtual desktops. Enjoy!

If you have a question on how to do something on the computer you can ask me and I'll review some software that will give you a solution to your problem. You can email me by clicking HERE You may not receive a reply, but all requests will be considered.

About Michael E, Callahan

Michael E. Callahan, known around the world by the trademarked name Dr. File Finder, is regarded as the world's leading expert on shareware. Dr. File Finder works with software programs and developers full-time, and in the average year he evaluates 10,000 programs. Since 1982 he has evaluated over 250,000 software and hardware products. Mr. Callahan began evaluating software online in 1982 and no one has been at it longer. He currently works doing online PR and marketing for software companies, and is the Senior Content Producer for Butterscotch.Com.

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