Virtual desktops are one of those things that have been around for ages, and they have been an integral part of the Linux operating system for a long time. It wasn’t until Apple released Mac OS X Leopard last year that a virtual desktop system, which Apple calls Spaces, shipped with an operating system other than a Linux distribution.

Just because Windows doesn’t include a virtual desktop manager doesn’t mean that you can’t get them. In fact there are several third-party applications that will get the job done, and most of them are free. There’s one free program for Windows called 360Desktop that puts a new spin on virtual desktops.

What it essentially does is extend your desktop so that it is ultra-wide, and it will feel like you have three or four different monitors attached to each other. You can pan across your desktop moving icons and windows around as you so wish. In the end you’ll have a 360 degree desktop that can wrap around from one end to another:

(Click to Enlarge)

Here are some of the things that I like about the program:

  • The navigation window shown in the upper-right corner of the screenshot makes it easy to move around the desktop. Normally the desktop preview portion is minimized so that it doesn’t get in your way while you’re working, but it can be activated by clicking the red 360Desktop icon on the scrollbar.
  • It shows little program icons on the desktop preview indicating where you’re running applications are located.
  • Clicking an application on the Taskbar will take you to where it’s located on the 360Desktop.

With all of that being said there are still some things that need to be worked on. For example, there are only a handful of panoramic backgrounds currently available, but it will support custom photos soon. 360Desktop is still in the early stages, and I suspect that it will get better over time.

My question to you is whether a program like this is something you’d prefer to use over a real virtual desktop application. Do you like having your virtual desktops separated into different blocks, or is it nicer when it’s one seamless desktop like 360Desktop offers?

Get 360Desktop [via Lifehacker]