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Ask Slashdot: Which Multiple Desktop Tool For Windows 7? 359

First time accepted submitter asadsalm writes "MacOS has spaces. Windows had no out-of-the-box utility for multiple virtual desktops. Which Multiple Desktop Tool should one use on Windows 7? Sysinternals Desktops, mdesktop, Dexpot, Virtual Dimension, VirtuaWin, Finestra are the few options that I have shortlisted." So, if you use both Windows and multiple desktops, what's your favorite method?
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Ask Slashdot: Which Multiple Desktop Tool For Windows 7?

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  • by AliasMarlowe ( 1042386 ) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @04:46PM (#39444705) Journal
    At least, they gave a bit of an X feel to Windows 3.1
  • by recoiledsnake ( 879048 ) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @04:48PM (#39444735) []

    Seems to work pretty well and fast in my limited use.

    • by GameboyRMH ( 1153867 ) <> on Thursday March 22, 2012 @04:54PM (#39444803) Journal

      Plus MS owns Sysinternals so that's the closest thing to an "official" solution you're going to get.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by RulerOf ( 975607 )
        That, and Russinovich is a God among gods.
  • by emurphy42 ( 631808 ) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @04:50PM (#39444761) Homepage

    ...those extensions being KvasdoPager (preview widget in taskbar, supports drag+drop) and SwitchDesk (separate wallpaper per virtual desktop).

    Sysinternals Desktops mentions some limitations up front. I don't remember whether I've tried any of the others.

    • by rolfeb ( 1218438 ) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @05:03PM (#39444929)

      I'll second the recommendation for VirtuaWin. I have a Linux background, and VirtualWin lets me set things up just as well as desktops under Fedora/KDE. Features that I like include:

      - ability to define your own hotkeys to swap between desktops (I like ctrl+left/right arrow)
      - ability to move windows between desktops
      - ability to control window behaviour (e.g. make calendar pop-ups appear on all screens and on top)
      - a nice minimalist indicator in the taskbar showing which desktop is active

      Windows tends to only "see" the applications on the active desktop which is sometimes good and sometimes not. Occasionally certain applications won't recognise keyboard input when you switch to another desktop, but you can click on another application and then back to make it work. Maybe this bug has been fixed n a newer version.

      • by gknoy ( 899301 )

        I love VirtuaWin. It's unobtrusive, and lets me use keyboard shortcuts to easily swap around. I haven't compared it with others, but I really like the same stuff you do: minimalist interface, ability to move/pin things to other (or all) desktops. I use focus-follows-mouse settings, though, so focus issues have never been a problem for me.

        Thanks for the SwitchDesk suggestion, though.

      • Finestra is my preferred option - it has most of the features you mention (not sure about #3), plus a few:
          * Sticky windows
          * The ability to automatically put spawned windows onto a specific desktop
          * A "switcher" view that shows all virtual desktops by shrinking them to fit on one desktop, and allows you to reorganize windows there
          * Numerous ways to represent (and switch) virtual desktops from he taskbar

        Additionally, it's free/open source (not sure how many of the others are too; I haven't used VirtuaWin for example): []

  • GoScreen FTW (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 22, 2012 @04:55PM (#39444809)

    I've been using GoScreen for years and years. It is perfect.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 22, 2012 @04:56PM (#39444823)

    I have tried Sysinternals, Dexpot, and Virtual Dimension. But I am a pretty die-hard fan of VirtuaWin at this point. All other multiple desktop managers have been too slow, bloaty, cause problems with some windows, or just don't have the right features, (which for me is keyboard control and simple ways to move windows from one desktop to another). VirtuaWin wins on speed and stability alone.

  • by bemymonkey ( 1244086 ) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @04:56PM (#39444829)

    For a simple system that's pretty much completely hidden from users who don't know about it, Dexpot is hard to beat. Fully configurable keyboard shortcuts for fast switching, moving and copying windows, permanent assigning of windows/programs to certain desktops, and a bunch of plugins (I don't use any of 'em, but they're there if you need/want them) for visual effects and Win7 taskbar integration and such... It's pretty slick.

    And most importantly - it's blazing fast.

    • I use Dexpot and I love it. Basically everything you said...especially the keyboard shortcuts. Those are extremely helpful. Also the little icon in your taskbar tray will show the desktop you're on.

      Also the window rules. You can setup rules so that certain windows go to a certain desktop or are even copied to them and all kinds of fun stuff like that. I would, for example, have a virtual desktop for work and another for playing around but I'd copy all my IM windows to both desktops automatically.
    • I tried Dexpot, but for some reason, it really conflicted with the screen saver required by my company's group policy. Sometimes, the windows would come back all borked, and I'd have to reboot to clear things up.

    • by IANAAC ( 692242 )
      I normally use Ubuntu for my day to day stuff, but about twice a year I have to use a Windows program that I have installed on my WIn 7 partition. Today happens to be one of those days.

      I settled on Dexpot when I first set this machine up and have been happy with it. It *does* feel a little bloaty to me, though. I might have to check out VirtuaWin, since it's been getting so many good comments here. As long as I can set hotkeys to what I want and it's reasonably fast, I'll be happy.

  • Nvidia Drivers (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bananaquackmoo ( 1204116 ) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @04:56PM (#39444843)
    What about the virtual desktop software built into the nvidia drivers? I looked around and nothing came close for me.
  • by adriccom ( 44869 ) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @04:57PM (#39444845) Homepage

    But it got nerfed into Mission Control in Lion 10.7 and is half-functional. You can't rename, reorder, arrange, or configure your "spaces" anymore. Shortcut keys still work for now...

    They'll probably finish it off in Mountain Goat (10.8) since iOS is perfect and has no desktops so surely Mac OS X doesn't need them either.


    • I disagree.
      Virtual Desktops don't really need names, "Desktop n" is quite good enough. You can reorder/arrange your spaces by dragging them, the only thing that lion really changed was that all desktops are in a single row now, which makes sense considering the swipe gesture to move between spaces. The addition of full screen applications as their own space more than makes up for the loss of vertically aligned spaces. You can still configure programs to open directly to a certain space so I'm not sure what
    • by Anubis IV ( 1279820 ) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @07:00PM (#39446035)

      You can still reorder, arrange, and configure your virtual desktops in Mission Control. Just drag and drop them into the order or arrangement you want while in Mission Control, and if you want to configure which apps appear in which desktops, just drag them onto that desktop while in Mission Control, or else go to that desktop then right-click on the icon in the Dock and set it to appear on that desktop. The only major Spaces feature I'm aware of that was dropped was the ability to arrange your desktops in a two-dimensional fashion. Mission Control only supports a line of desktops.

    • Don't forget that they've gimped the ability to drag windows between desktops (now it's limited to windows in the currently active desktop).

      Oh, and you can't use the arrow keys to switch between windows in Mission Control (Exposé let you do this).

      And you can't arrange your desktops in a grid anymore, only a straight line.

      And you can't have keyboard shortcuts to "fullscreen app" desktops (that's what they are after all, just another desktop with the app maximized) which means the fullscreen "feature" of

  • by meloneg ( 101248 ) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @05:00PM (#39444897)

    As an answer, I've used Virtual Dimensions and Dexpot a lot. Last I used one, I preferred Dexpot.

    Now, a slight variant of the question. Are there any truly multi-monitor aware virtual desktops. I mainly am looking for the ability to run the two screens as independent virtual desktops and change them independently.

    • If the virtual desktop is based on the built in support for multiple desktops, then no.
  • VirtuaWin (Score:2, Insightful)

    by lksd ( 1731250 )
    Working as a desktop support with 30+ windows/apps open at the time calls for virtual desktops, I have tried Sys internals desktops - fail, tried VirtuaWin and haven't look for any other replacement. Can have virtual desktops setup as I like, can have one window shown at all desktops, another window always at the top etc. etc. The best tool I have used :) Did i mention that virtuawin is packaged as a portable app (portableapps) = even easier to deploy and use when you are unprivileged user.
  • by JustAnotherIdiot ( 1980292 ) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @05:01PM (#39444909)
    I bumped into something that somewhat sounds like what you're looking for awhile back.
    I was looking around the Catalyst Control Center and found something called HydraVision, which to my knowledge, allows multiple desktops.
    Someone who's actually used this will have to confirm though.
  • On Unix the solution is trivial. On Windows the most convenient solution I have found is to have multiple machines. With the current economy that isn't difficult to accomplish if you're ok with using hardware previously owned by riffed or outsourced employees. This also makes sense from the standpoint that we are fewer people with more responsibilities, so it takes more desktop to do the work and more resources to drive it.

    I currently have two desktop machines and two laptops on my desk. One is dedicate

  • by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @05:10PM (#39445023)

    Despite its age, it solves the problem beautifully and efficiently. If there is anything with the same flexibility and functionality (including edge-scroll, please) for Win 7, I definitely want to know. While I work mostly under Linux, sometimes it has to be Windows, and screen-clutter is a real issue there. I should also say that with less than 3x2 (better 3x3) desktops, I am not really happy.

    • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

      Yes. What's usually missing in alternatives on other operating systems is a pager. That's a simple straightforward way of managing windows and workspaces without needing to memorize any new key codes or break your working rhythm with a visual context switch.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I've been using it for several months now under pretty heavy load. I use 4 desktops with 3 applications that are persistent across all 4 desktops, as well as a unique application on each desktop. I switch across desktops constantly (see every couple of minutes or less) throughout the day. It is lightweight, efficient, and has never caused me a problem/crashed/etc, even though it is still technically a beta (I think). It works just like a virtual desktop should, as far as I'm concerned.

    Why am I not just doin

  • I'm very surprised that this hasn't become standard. Even if not from the OS, but at least in video drivers. I recall a very nice multiple desktop tool was available with my video drivers on an old 4MB video card I was using with Windows 95. IIRC, it was an S3 Virge.

    • by Kharny ( 239931 )

      Both ati and nvidia have virtual desktop apps for their cards, nview and i think hydravision

  • VirtuaWin works very well...what I really miss is the possibilities of devilspie or any other window manager which really allows to manage windows: Remove decoration, force position/size, always-on-top or below everything.
  • Windows Pager (Score:5, Informative)

    by Tyrannosaur ( 2485772 ) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @05:19PM (#39445111) []

    Its a lightweight free one that stays on your taskbar, like the linux ones I am used to. You can move windows either by dragging or right-clicking on the title bar. My favourite feature is "keep on top" that I have become dependent on with my linux desktop. :)

    PS to run it, just run it. To make it run every time, put a shortcut in the "startup" folder.

    • I'm so glad someone mentioned Windows Pager! (beat me to it) Awesome bit of software, so lightweight and works so well. I use it on my work PC which has dual screens => gives me 8 desktops to work with! Allows me to spread all my monitoring software, RDC sessions, emails, webpages, etc. across all the desktops and only need to click on each virtual desktop to see them! My favourite feature is the ability to move a program to another desktop by just right clicking on the title bar. Love it!
    • I been looking something like this forever. The killer feature is the multiple taskbars, like Ubuntu has. I can keep my 50 putty sessions on 1 desktop, 30 open emails on another and the 50 .net compiler windows on a 3rd.
    • by rwa2 ( 4391 ) *

      Hmm, thanks for the recommendation...

      WindowsPager still seems to suffer from one of the main drawbacks with VirtualWin... it doesn't work on windows owned by another user. Unfortunately, my current work environment has to have a lot of stuff running as Admin :-/ But now that I know what the problem is, I'll try to do more to rectify that...

      I have to agree with the first poster, though, to just use Linux. Compiz Fusion, WindowMaker, Enlightenment, even Metacity offer a lot more control over the windowing

  • by pavon ( 30274 ) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @05:21PM (#39445137)

    Get a video card that supports multiple monitors and hook them to a KVM switch. All the software implementations I have used have been so buggy that I stopped using them after a few weeks.

  • I am a recent convert to a MacbookPro. Coming from a Windows->OS/2->Linux->XP->OS X history, I am a big fan of Spaces. Unfortunately I'm not a big fan of OS X's handling of Command Tab.

    I want to Command Tab between all open windows, not just open applications and then have to do the CMD+~ to get to the next. I want it to work like Windows.

    Now, I have been using Witch to do this and it works--most of the time--with Spaces. They have a known issue where sometimes it doesn't. Yeah, this is fine now

  • goScreen (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 22, 2012 @05:28PM (#39445217)

    I've been using goScreen ( for this purpose for years. I'm not sure how it stacks up to the other utilities you mentioned, but it is highly customizable. My current configuration allows me to use the window map to switch desktops by holding control and dragging my mouse to the right edge of the screen, and I can also switch to any application currently running on any desktop by right clicking on the right edge of the screen. There are of course, tons of other ways you can configure and use the program. I'd wager it can be set up to match almost any desktop switching environment you are currently accustomed to.

    There are however a few downsides. For one it's not free, in either sense of the word. For another, it breaks Windows 7's desktop slideshow feature, switching you to an unsaved theme with only one wallpaper in the rotation every time a program changes your desktop resolution. Last but not least, every time you switch desktops, it changes the order of the windows in the taskbar. None of these are major issues for me, although I do really wish they'd get fixed at some point.

  • Not just desktops (Score:5, Interesting)

    by evil_aaronm ( 671521 ) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @05:38PM (#39445307)

    Mission Control, née Spaces / Expose, is not just about desktops. Multiple desktops are cool and all, but the better part is what used to be called Expose. Hit F9, and you get a choice of all apps running; select the window you want. Hit F10, and you get a choice of all windows from the current app. To me, that's way more useful than multiple desktops. I don't even bother keeping my desktop neat, anymore. I get the screen I want with one key, one click.

    Dexpot kind-of works like that on Windows, but not as smooth. It also had issues with screen locking, but that might be just my machine.

  • by rgbe ( 310525 ) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @05:38PM (#39445317)

    I couple of years ago I was in your position. I went looking for the best Windows desktop manager. I was coming from a Linux / X world and was spoiled with my rich desktop environment, but I am stuck with my corporate laptop with Windows XP. I looked at a few multiple desktop tools and VirtuaWin was the best and most stable for me. The other tool I tried for a while was the tool from Microsoft, but it was worthless.

    The features I use most are
      - Switch desktop (dah!!) (using Windows Key + Left/Right)
      - Move Window to another desktop (via mouse clicks on desktop tray)
      - Keep window on top (via mouse clicks on title bar... very handy)
      - Always show Window (via mouse click on title bar)

    I don't expect much of my desktop switching tool, just that it has the above functionality. It does have one bug that crops up 2 or 3 times a year, and that's that all the windows will appear on one desktop, even hidden windows that should never be seen as a window, like desktop tray items. I am just presuming this is a VirtuaWin bug, but I can live with it.

    Sometimes when a process that is linked to a window is under heavy CPU load (like Excel sometimes) VirtuaWin won't be able to handle the Window very well. I think this is more of a MS Windows problem than a VirtuaWin problem, and this issue was extremely bad with the MS Multi Desktop tool.

    The developer does not seem to be making updates very frequently, but there are no features or bugs I need fixed.

  • LiteStep (Score:5, Informative)

    by EightBits ( 61345 ) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @05:47PM (#39445399)

    I am primarily a Linux user and rarely boot into Windows but when I do, I use LiteStep. Well, I used to. I only recently converted my Windows install from Windows XP to Windows 7 and haven't tried it on Windows 7 yet. []

    It may not be exactly what you're looking for. It gives you an entirely different desktop look and feel. It's modeled after the NeXTSTEP desktop so if you're an AfterStep user in the Unix world, LiteStep would be the Windows equivalent. It does offer multiple desktops which was one of its primary attractions for me. It crashed like mad on Windows 98 but was rock solid for me on Windows 95 and Windows XP. The only current support for Windows 7 is in an experimental build you may want to try out. It looks like the project may have stalled but it might still be worth looking into.

  • FFS, Bloody Linux (Score:4, Interesting)

    by NeeNahNye ( 2454474 ) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @05:58PM (#39445501)
    Christ almighty. The OP asked specifically about a solution for Windows. Most of the posts at this point are from the usual sad bastards who think 'Linux' is the answer to any question. For a Windows user, scrubbing the entire work environment and starting again with an unfamiliar or just plain unsuitable OS is not a solution in any universe. You lot do nothing to help your cause at all.

    Ok, most Linux WMs have a virtual desktop manager built in, the Gnome one (or even the CDE one going back to HPUX or Solaris) are perfectly adequate, but for a Windows user you might as well suggest kicking themselves repeatedly in the nuts if that's the only advice you have to offer. Windows doesn't have a virtual desktop option built in, but Linux does, awesome, that's 1:0 to Linux but still totally fucking useless.

    For my part, I've been looking for a similar solution. I've played with one or two but not found anything particularly useful. The OP's post was useful in itself in that he posted links to the ones he's checked out himself. A quick look suggests that Virtual Dimension looks good - I'll be checking this out myself. I have 3 monitors, two of which are generally dedicated to email and my knowledge base. PuTTY sessions generally sprinkled across the three. Being able to switch my entire screen environment for particular tasks would be useful.

    Extra info for Linux fucktards: I'm a 20-year Linux admin and systems programmer who pretty much HATES Unix window managers and prefers Windows as my main desktop platform. I've used lots of Unix desktops and frankly they're mostly a disaster in my opinion.

    And those of you who have posted useful info in response to the OP's question: thanks, very useful.
  • Blackbox for windows (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Personally I use blackbox for windows, although you need to spend a lot of time configuring your UI the way you want it. The default is abysmal for anyone who is used to the traditional windows UI, it's possible to get it to be pretty close to the traditional windows UI (except better).

    There are many versions of blackbox for windows. The one I use is bb4win:

  • I have used AltDesk [] since around 2001. It was the closest I could find to the old FVWM pager and easily allows apps to be moved from one desktop to the other.

  • In Windows Seven, I've been using Dexpot, and it does almost everything I want.

    However, It's unfortunate that Jan Tomasek's "sdesk" application no longer works. He stopped working on it a little more than a decade ago, and it continued to work all the way through WinXP, but now it just fails to work in Win7. For desktop managers on Windows, that was my favorite. Dexpot works pretty well, but it still is missing a couple of features that worked well in sdesk.

  • bblean (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kaoshin ( 110328 ) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @07:52PM (#39446417)
    Virtual desktops are part of the core functionality of bblean []. Both the 32-bit and 64-bit editions have for a long time worked tremendously well for me on Windows 7 OS. It is #1 on my list of must have software for Windows. My only gripe is that the program I use for updating my WoW addons (curse client) is a whimpy .NET application that won't execute at all under alternative shells (they say they don't support it), so I have to very simply work around their jankyness by switching back to explorer shell.
  • by togofspookware ( 464119 ) on Thursday March 22, 2012 @08:15PM (#39446603) Homepage

    Back when I was still using XP (I've since switched to Linux and am getting by without multiple desktops on my home Windows 7 machine), VirtualDimension worked pretty well for me. You can give shortcut keys (I used Win+1-0) to switch between them, and it works by hiding all windows except those on the 'current desktop'. Some applications (most notably web browsers) would get sometimes get stuck on all the desktops if they were summoned to appear by another program while you were looking at a different desktop than the one you had put them on. Reason would seem to hang if I switched desktops while its file open dialog was open. But once I learned to avoid these situations it was perfectly useable.

    I also used SlickRun and had each virtual desktop span 2 monitors and didn't run into any conflicts.

If graphics hackers are so smart, why can't they get the bugs out of fresh paint?