If you often open a lot of applications at once, a virtual desktop program can help you keep all those windows on your desktop organized. A virtual desktop program allows you to put open applications into separate virtual desktops, cutting down on your desktop clutter.
We’ve collected links to and information about several free virtual desktop managers you can use to organize your Windows desktop.
Dexpot is a free (for personal use) virtual desktop manager that allows you to organize open programs on your desktop using up to 20 separate virtual desktops. You can set rules that determine on which desktops applications end up when launched. Each desktop can have its own wallpaper and screen resolution, as well. Navigation among the desktops is easy and Dexpot provides multiple ways to do this, including keyboard shortcuts, small thumbnails of your active desktops, and a full-screen preview of all desktops.
You can also extend the functionality of Dexpot using plugins.
For more information about using Dexpot, see our article.
Yet an other Desktop Manager 3D (Yod’m 3D)
Yod’m 3D is a virtual desktop manager for Windows that offers a cube-style desktop switching feature. You can customize the background of the cube and the command used to rotate the cube and you can choose to run Yod’m 3D when Windows starts. Yod’m 3D does not need to be installed. Simply run the program and access the options from the system tray icon popup menu.
Virtual Dimension is a free, fast virtual desktop manager for Windows with a lot of useful features. It allows you to have an unlimited number of desktops and to set different settings, such as wallpaper, desktop background color, and name, for each desktop. You can also move a window to a different desktop and have specific windows be available on all desktops. The hotkeys for operating the program are also customizable.
Other useful features of Virtual Dimension include the ability to make any window be “always on top,” minimize any window to the system tray, and the ability to use drag-and-drop to move a window to another desktop.
VirtuaWin is a free virtual desktop manager for Windows that allows you to organize your applications onto four virtual desktops, or “workspaces.” It is highly customizable and extensible. VirtuaWin allows you to customize settings for each desktop separately, including the wallpaper and which icons on each desktop are enabled and disabled. You can also move windows to different desktops and select windows to always show on all desktops.
VirtuaWin is extensible using their large library of plugins or modules, including one that allows you to track how much time you spend in each virtual desktop. This could be useful if you use a different desktop for each project you are working on. You can also download additional icon sets to replace the default taskbar icon set.
VirtuaWin is also available in a portable version that allows you to easily use it on multiple computers.
nSpaces allows you to use multiple virtual desktops in Windows in which you can have different applications open. You can name each desktop; the names are shown on the space switcher. Each virtual desktop can have a custom wallpaper or background image and a password to protect your space. nSpaces has customizable hotkeys for each desktop you create. You can also drag and drop applications into each virtual desktop on the space switcher.
Finestra Virtual Desktops
Finestra is an easy-to-use virtual desktop manager for Windows that allows you to set up an unlimited number of desktops only limited by the amount of memory in your computer. The program uses thumbnail window previews in Windows 7 and Vista (Finestra also works in XP) to provide full-screen previews of all your desktops in the window manager/switcher. You can use the number keys on the number pad for up to 9 of your desktops, as well as hotkeys for sending windows to other desktops.
Other useful features include multiple monitor support, a system tray icon with a menu containing items for every desktop, an option to have one system tray icon per desktop, sticky windows that display on all desktops, a different background in each desktop, and rules for locking programs onto desktops.
Tri-Desk-A-Top is a free virtual desktop manager for Windows that provides three virtual desktops activated using system tray icons or pre-defined hotkeys. Each desktop can be accessed using a small, numbered icon on the system tray. You can also cycle through the desktops using hotkeys and move open application windows to different desktops. When you select a window on the currently active desktop, additional options are available, including Minimize, Maximize, Restore, Bring to Front, Close, and Kill.
Tri-Desk-A-Top requires Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0 or later to install and run. If the .NET Framework is not installed on your computer, the installation process opens a browser to the Microsoft website where you can download and install it.
The Tri-Desk-A-Top website provides additional information about available hotkeys for navigating and moving windows among the three desktops.
mDesktop is a lightweight virtual desktop manager for Windows that provides up to 10 virtual desktops to organize your open applications and folders. You can use hotkeys to navigate among the desktops, move windows among the desktops, and specify certain open programs or folders to be available on all desktops. It’s a portable program that does not need to be installed. Simply run the program and right-click on the system tray icon to access the desktops and options for the program. You can also hide the system tray icon.
For more information about using mDesktop, see our article.
Xilisoft Multiple Desktops
Xilisoft Multiple Desktops is a free virtual desktop manager for Windows that allows you to create up to nine multiple desktops and switch among them using customizable hotkeys, numbers keys, or mouse clicks. You can also arrange the desktops on a virtual screen and protect each desktop with a password.
Screen-It is a free, simple virtual desktop program for 32-bit Windows systems that allows you to have two virtual desktops to group your open programs. You can also launch programs automatically when Screen-It starts into a new virtual desktop using Screen-It’s Job Maker tool.
If you’ve found other useful virtual desktop programs, let us know.
Lori Kaufman is a freelance technical writer who likes to write geeky how-to articles to help make people's lives easier through the use of technology. She loves watching and reading mysteries and is an avid Doctor Who fan.
- Published 12/8/12