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How to Get Virtual Desktops on Windows with Dexpot

If you’re a Linux user, there’s a good chance you can’t live without virtual desktops. They’re a great way to organize your workspace. Dexpot brings virtual desktops to Windows, complete with 3D effects and extensive customizability.

Windows has always been behind when it comes to virtual desktops. Even Microsoft’s own Virtual Desktop Manager power toy had some rough edges.

Installation

Dexpot is free, but only for private use. If you’re using it on your home system, you’re good to go. If you’re a freelancer like me, you’ll have to pay to use it for more than 30 days.

Dexpot wants to install a toolbar when you install it — be sure to uncheck this check box.

Getting Started

If you didn’t launch Dexpot from the installer, you can open it from your Start menu or desktop. You’ll get a Dexpot icon on your taskbar when you do. Hover over the icon and you’ll see previews of your virtual desktops.

Dexpot adds a right-click menu to each window’s title bar, so you can easily move windows between desktops, make them always on top, and perform other actions.

Once you’ve moved a window, you’ll see it on your other desktop.

Click the icon to switch between desktops or click a desktop’s preview to switch to that desktop. When you do, you’ll notice that the taskbar doesn’t show applications that are open on other desktops, decluttering your workspace and letting you focus on the applications you’re using.

Viewing Virtual Desktops

Right-click the Dexpot system tray icon to see more options.

The Window Catalogue option  displays all open windows on a desktop. You can use the arrows at the top of the screen to move between virtual desktops.

The Full-Screen Preview option shows you a full-screen grid of your virtual desktops. Click a desktop to switch to it.

The Desktop Manager, Desktop Preview, and Desktop Windows options provide different ways of viewing and switching between your virtual desktops.

Configuration

Dexpot provides extensive configuration options. For each virtual desktop, you can change its background, hide the taskbar, automatically launch applications, and perform other actions.

From the Settings window, you can configure your hotkeys. By default, Alt-# switches to a specific desktop and Shift-Alt-# moves a window to a specific desktop.

You can also configure Dexpot to switch between desktops when you move the mouse to a screen edge.

On the Plugins and Extras pane, you’ll find the Dexcube plugin. It provides a Compiz-style 3D cube effect when you switch between your virtual desktops.

The effect looks cool, so it could be good for impressing your friends. It does make the desktop switch take longer, though.

Creating Rules

If you always want specific applications or windows to run on specific desktops, you can create rules to have Dexpot manage them for you. Use the Create Rule option in the Dexpot menu.

The rule can match on one or more conditions, such as the program’s .exe file or the window’s title.

You can apply one or more actions, such as moving the window to a specific desktop or making it always on top.

Dexpot will show you a summary of your rule.


Do you like Dexpot, or do you prefer a different virtual desktop solution? Leave a comment and let us know.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 03/14/12

Comments (13)

  1. SomeWhiteGuy

    I’ve been using VirtuaWin for a while now. I like it mainly because it’s not an install app, but a portable executable.

  2. drake

    thanks it is good to know that windows also has something productive.
    it can be easily done in linux..

  3. ray

    awesome.
    but….

    what about memory consumption? is it ultra mega heavy? how is it?

    thanks for the post

  4. Gavin

    I love Dexpot, been using it for a while. It’s worth mentioning that you can hide the icon in the taskbar (and keep only the one in the taskbar, like I do). I even use the rules to close the “Scan and Repair” popup that I get when plugging in an external HD – just match the title and executable, and use the close option.

  5. Whatever

    Link to wallpaper please?

  6. HunterHunted

    No not compatible for Win 7

  7. Tom C.

    @HunterHunted:
    ???
    Why there is this mentioned on the beginners guide: “The plugin “SevenDex” integrates the Dexpot virtual desktops into the new Windows 7 taskbar. Enable it via “Settings/Plugins and Extras””

  8. Cambo

    @Whatever

    The wallpaper comes as part of the Dexpot install.

  9. Jason

    Dexpot is great! My sister found it and recommended it so I thought I’d give it a try. It’s light on resources and works fine with Win7, both 32 and 64. I was so glad to get this after getting used to multiple desktops in Linux.

  10. thorstenmz

    Currently, I’m using VirtuaWin (http://virtuawin.sourceforge.net/). No 3D effects and stuff, but enough to make me happy. Licensed under the GNU GPL.

  11. Chris Hoffman

    @Whatever

    Here’s the wallpaper: http://digitalblasphemy.com/fshow.shtml?i=starlightgrotto1&w=1600&h=1200
    Digital Blasphemy makes some great stuff.

    @Cambo

    Nope, it doesn’t. It’s my personal wallpaper.

    @HunterHunted

    The screenshots are from Windows 7 (64-bit version, even). It’s definitely compatible.

    @SomeWhitGuy, thorstenmz

    Thanks for the VirtuaWin recommendations. I’ll check it out sometime!

  12. robert

    Good to know about the How to Get Virtual Desktops on Windows with Dexpot.

  13. Dark Reality

    Thanks!

    I’ve used VirtuaWin, and it’s alright, but what I really want out of a virtual desktop manager is the ability to see small renderings of what is going on right in the taskbar/systray. This must be impossible in Windows, because every other Linux distro comes with it and has for 15 years.

    Then again, 25 years ago, the Commodore-Amiga 1000 had an icon and cursor editor built into its control panel. Windows has never included one. Furthermore, Amiga icons had two frames — idle and active. One click changed the icon, two clicks ran it, opened the drawer (folder) or file, or whatever. Floppy disk icons would change to show the metal piece slid aside, WordPerfect was a computer that would turn on, drawers (folders) would open… app developers had a lot of fun with that. Oh, and there was no hard size limit. My father subscribed to a shareware magazine, and the disk’s icons took up about 1/8th of the screen, with artwork on the disk label. It was awesome. It’s just amazing how 25 years later, features in the Amiga have yet to be matched by modern operating systems. Apple doesn’t have this. Linux doesn’t have this. Microsoft doesn’t have it, either. Oh, and the OS was small enough that games could include part of it and boot off the game, and this made them run a little better. (Some games required you do this, like the Star Trek game we had… and Deluxe Paint. Speaking of Deluxe Paint, it had features Microsoft Paint lacks today!)

    Back to the app, I used it a little bit over the weekend, but I work weekends, so I didn’t get to tinker much with it. That’ll be the next couple days while I wait for my damn gamepad to get to me (Newegg being uncharacteristically slow — usually they take less time than they promise, but this time 3 day shipping is gonna be 6 days, by UPS’s estimate, and it’s shipping from the next state over! (Memphis TN to Washington NC.) I feel like I can’t get into Skyrim on keyboard/mouse… consoles done ruined me as a gamer… ah well.

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