Devotees of Linux and other unixy operating systems, after using Mac OS X for a while, often complain about a lack of virtual desktops.
For those unfamiliar with the idea, imagine that the computer screen you’re looking at was only one of several that you could freely switch between. You might have your email open in one, your NaNoWriMo story in another, and a Terminal compiling something in a third. Or maybe an Office desktop and a Home desktop, dividing it up by real-world context.
Anyhow, virtual desktops have been around for a long time in the X-window unix world and are hard to let go of once you’ve gotten used to the multi-tasking fun. As a matter of fact, the OS X Expose feature is often touted as a replacement for the virtual desktop, a different way of handling numerous windows.
However, there is a handful of utilities available for Mac that more closely resemble the experience. I wanted to mention one in particular, as I’ve been experimenting with it again this past few days. The aptly named Desktop Manager has been around for some time now, and while its stability has been a bit iffy at times (it is in beta), it has definitely gotten better, particularly in recent releases.
You can check out a couple of screenshots here, though it really needs to be seen in action to get the full experience. I usually wind up hiding the menubar pager they show on that page, preferring the standalone desktop pager, small along the side of the screen.
I have gone back to a virtual-desktop-less experience as of last night, though, as one issue I keep running into every time I try this — which is not really related to this cool program. The Mac has never really been a perfect candidate for the concept because of the static menubar per application. It just feels wonky compared to an X-window program that has its own menubar attached. But maybe that’s just me.
One tip: if Desktop Manager does crash (which it did a couple of times on me when navigating the menubar extra), the alarming disappearance of all of your windows may occur. Not to worry: they’re just hidden. Relaunch Desktop Manager, and you’re back to where you were pre-crash.
Do you have a virtual desktop fetish?