Time Saving Tuesday

Vista Virtual DesktopVirtual desktops are everywhere these days even though you may not realize it. Linux is the operating system that started the virtual desktop craze as a way to make your operating system more organized and more productive. They let you move a window from one desktop to another, and you can switch between the desktops as needed.

There are all kinds of virtual desktops floating around the Internet. Heck, you can even find a clone of the 3D-cube for Windows. If you’re looking for something that is slightly more productive, Virtual Dimension will probably be the tool that you like…unless you’re using Vista.

The next version of Mac OS X, dubbed Leopard, will also include virtual desktops. To make the name simpler and more recognizable, they have decided to go away from the “virtual desktop” name and call theirs Spaces (video demonstration of Spaces). The implementation of Spaces is not only intuitive, but also useful. As expected, a similar application for Windows Vista has emerged.

The name? Vista Virtual Desktop (Download Mirror). While the name may not be the sign of ingenuity, the application sure is. Utilizing Vista’s Aero graphics foundation, the program incorporates live previews of the windows as you move them from one virtual desktop to another. Not only does it look good, but it already has a lot of great features as well:

  • An infinite number of desktops only limited by the amount of memory in your computer.[Video]
  • A full screen desktop/window manager/switcher.[Video]
  • Live Vista thumbnails of all of your windows.[Video]
  • An alpha-blended indicator window to provide a visual indicator when you switch between desktops.[Video]
  • Hotkeys for up to 9 desktops using your numpad keys.[Video]
  • A system tray icon to access a menu containing items for every desktop, no matter how many.[Video]
  • Multiple-monitor support.
  • Arrow key hotkeys.
  • One system tray icon per desktop (optional).
  • Window-specific menus. [Video]
  • Sticky windows to exclude windows from the virtual desktop manager.[Video]

All the features that say “Video” next to them mean that I demonstrate how they work in the video below. Kickback, relax, and enjoy the show:

There are a few things that aren’t quite as perfect as I would like to see, but I can hardly complain. One of the things that I would like to see changed is to retain the screenshot of the window that your dragging as it moves into another virtual desktop. As you can see, the program is forced to replace the live preview of the window with an icon, which I know has to be an issue with Vista not managing window previews for items not in the current Taskbar.

Overall Vista Virtual Desktop has earned a place on my computer because it is both free and unique. The project started in March and has been updated 3 times thus far, and from the looks of it the developer will continue to show us great things. For future versions he is going to work on XP support (using just screenshots and not live previews) as well as making it more like the Mac Expose.

Vista Virtual Desktop Homepage (Download Mirror)