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Microsoft has really taken a lot of heat over the Aero desktop in Windows Vista, most of it pretty well deserved. It had a golden opportunity to radically shake up the Windows UI, but the most we got to show for it is Flip 3D. One GUI element missing from Windows Vista has long been around other operating systems, especially Linux, is that of the virtual desktop.
If you’re running KDE or GNOME, you can have multiple desktops running simultaneously in Linux. Apple released a similar feature with the Leopard iteration of Mac OS X. In Leopard, virtual desktops are referred to as Spaces.
Microsoft never included such a feature in Windows XP. Even though they did do some things with Aero under Vista, like I said, this is an area they forgot to include. However, you can add virtual desktops to Windows Vista as well as Windows XP by using the Vista/XP Virtual Desktop Manager. After you install the Virtual Desktop Manager, this icon appears in the System Tray.
If you hover the mouse over the Virtual Desktop Manager icon, you’ll see the mini-desktop switcher. Just click the desktop number you want to jump to.
If you press [Win][Z], you’ll get a full screen Virtual Desktop Manager screen. It shows what programs are currently running on each desktop.
You can switch to that desktop by clicking it.
You can also use the Mini-Toolbar for Vista/XP Virtual Desktop Manager. This will stay at the top of any currently running programs. Click the number of the desktop you want to switch to and it will change.
The Options dialog box controls settings for Virtual Desktop Manager. The General tab allows you to control the number of desktops, the use of the mini-toolbar and other things.
The Appearance tab controls default background colors, how large switching windows appear on screen as you flip, and how fast transitions take.
The Hotkeys tab allows you to set custom hotkey combos for Virtual Desktop Manager. These allow you to switch windows without using the mouse or clicking icons. You can also send currently running programs directly to another desktop with the proper keyboard combo.
The Monitors tab allows you to limit the usage of Virtual Desktop Monitor to individual monitors. This is only useful if you have several monitors attached to your workstation.
The Programs tab allows you to create exceptions to Virtual Desktop Manager. Sticky programs display on all desktops. Otherwise you can force applications to always to display to a given desktop.