Microsoft Monday

The Desktop Window Manager introduced with Windows Vista has opened the doors for developers to create a lot of great applications for those running Vista with Aero enabled. One of the best applications that I’ve come across so far that takes complete advantage of DWM is called Switcher.

Switcher helps you manage all of your Windows, and it’s been labeled as a Mac Expose clone. If you take the time to get it configured to your liking, it will be one of the most useful productivity tools you have available, and one that will make you wonder how you could ever manage without it.

We’ve been using Switcher for about two months now. I decided to hold off writing about it because there were still a few bugs with the application.  Ryan contacted the developer with a few problems that he came across over the last two months, and the developer was really friendly and responded quickly.  The latest version was just released with new features, customization options, and improvements.


Being the Expose-like clone that it is, all you have to do is select one of several key combinations (which are customizable) to activate Switcher.

Some of the key commands:

  • Start switcher : windows + ~
  • Quick Release Mode (by releasing keys, Switcher will end): Windows + Caps Lock
  • Activate tile view: F1
  • Activate Dock View f2

A big part of Switcher is the incorporation of “Live Previews.” Since it’s designed using all of the latest graphical capabilities in Vista, it takes advantage of Live Previews.  This means that if you have a video playing on YouTube, when you start Switcher, it will still show the video playing. 

New features with the latest version:

  • Treat the desktop as a window.
  • Tile view supports multiple monitors
  • Common settings are now on the main screen
  • Customizable keyboard and mouse settings.

I have a multiple monitor setup, so one of my favorite features is the support for multiple monitors.  I also like that I’m able to select a mouse action to start switcher.  In my settings, I customized it so that if I move my mouse to the bottom left of the screen, Switcher will start.

The image below shows what a multiple monitor setup would look like:


One of my only minor complaints is that I would like to see an easy way to click on the background (desktop) to end Switcher because this is intuitively what I want to do. If I hit escape, it does this, however just clicking on the background would be an appreciated change.

If there’s something that you want to see, just send the developer an email and I’m sure he’d respond and let you know whether it’s doable or not.

Remember, this is for Vista users who have Aero enabled. An alternative if you’re using Windows XP is an application called TopDesk. Unfortunately it’s not free (cost is $10) but it’s probably worth it from the productivity stand-point, especially if you switch between windows frequently.

The best part about Switcher is that it’s free, and you can’t beat that. Download Switcher here!