FLOSS Friday: Virtual Dimension
Today’s post is going to be software only for the Microsoft Windows platform? Why would I leave our the Linux and Mac folks, you might ask. The reason is that the functionality provided by today’s offering has been in Mac OS X since version 10.5 and in window managers for Linux/UNIX since 1990. What functionality have X11 users had for the last 20 years and Windows users still don’t have? Virtual desktops.
For those of you used to the Windows idea of a single desktop, let me explain. A virtual desktop is a way to organize running programs so that you don’t have to continually minimize/maximize windows and use the “show desktop” functionality to find your applications. Virtual desktops commonly have the ability to be labeled, and virtual desktop managers usually let you assign hotkeys to switch between desktops and switch between applications running across any desktops.
I’ve experimented with Microsoft Windows virtual desktop add-ins in the past, but none have been very good. There’s even a simple one offered as a PowerToy for Windows XP from Microsoft iteslf (could not find an equivalent explicitly for Vista or 7, but the one for XP might work). The Microsoft one is slow in switching, and offers little in the way of application management. Enter Virtual Dimension. Although the latest downloadable version is from 2005, I’ve verifiied that the application works on Windows 7, so I’m betting that Vista users will have no problem as well. Virtual Dimension lets you have many desktops, it lets you pin applications so that they appear regardless of desktop, you can assign hot keys to application and desktop management, it adds window transparency options so you can have an application fade into the background, and it even adds shell integration so that you can start applications in a particular desktop immediately. The desktop switching is very fast, and if you kill Virtual Dimension then all of your applications previously on virtual desktops get reverted to your single desktop.
Rather than try to create a screenshot of my own desktop, I’ll use a local copy of the one visible on the Virtual Dimension site.
If you’re a Windows user, try it, you’ll like it. If you’re running the application for the first time, make sure you right click in the window that appears to see all the options.