How many applications do you have open at any given time? If you’re like most IT professionals, you probably keep your e-mail client, word processor, spreadsheet, and Web browser running throughout the day.

For most users, one Windows desktop is plenty. You just press [Alt][Tab] or click on the application’s taskbar icon to switch between programs. However, for power users who constantly work in multiple applications, there’s XDESK, a freeware application from XDESKSOFTWARE that lets you create up to 10 customized, virtual desktops.
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Multiple desktops on one monitor
There’s at least one good reason to install and use a virtual desktop management program like XDESK—convenience. Instead of sifting through a Windows taskbar that contains dozens of application icons, XDESK lets you customize up to 10 separate “desktop” views, each with its own taskbar, applications, and custom settings.

I’ve been using the freeware version of XDESK for a few weeks and I’m hooked. In my work as a technical writer, I’m constantly switching between two or more applications, capturing screen shots, and copying and pasting text between documents.

Before I started using XDESK, I never minded switching between windows with [Alt][Tab]. Now, I’m spoiled—I like being able to switch between virtual desktops, where my applications are already maximized and where the desktop landscape isn’t cluttered by lots of open windows.

When you install and run XDESK the first time, the default setting is for three separate desktops. One way to switch between desktops is by clicking on the numbered XDESK icons in the Windows system tray, like those shown in Figure A. (The virtual desktops are numbered 0, 1, and 2. The last blue square is a meter that displays CPU activity.)

Figure A
You can switch between virtual desktops by clicking on the XDESK icons in the system tray.

If you mouse over the system tray, the XDESK Quick View window will appear. As Figure B shows, this window previews the windows currently located on each desktop. You can switch between desktops by clicking on one of those regions. In addition, you can use the Quick View window to drag-and-drop items from one desktop to another.

Figure B
The XDESK Quick View window displays the custom desktops currently available.

XDESK provides many options for customizing mouse and keyboard shortcuts for easy switching between desktops. My favorite is what the XDESKSOFTWARE calls “mouse knocking,” which means moving the mouse against the right or left edge of the screen. When you do, XDESK displays the next (or previous) custom desktop.

Bells and whistles and getting XDESK
In addition to the freeware version, there’s also a shareware version of XDESK available. Both apps offer a variety of amenities, such as the App Bar (yet another shortcut toolbar) and Reminder/Alarms, a feature that allows you to schedule pop-up alarms. To try it out, go to XDESKSOFTWARE.
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