Vista and XP get Linux-like multiple desktops

Some unexpected stuff comes out of Microsoft’s labs.  Microsoft’s Sysinternals team has released a virtual desktop manager for Windows XP and Vista that allows a user to create up to four separate desktops on the one OS.

I tried Desktops v1.0 and found it useful for de-cluttering your desktop particularly if you have a smaller monitor and like to keep several applications open. The utility lets you open different applications in each separate desktop and easily switch between the desktops with hotkeys or by clicking the tray icon Linux style (left).

For instance you can keep all your email and communications in one desktop  work applications in another and so on. Although Microsoft has previously included a virtual desktop manager in Power Toys for XP  Virtual Desktops v1.0 is also designed to work with Vista and has a minimal memory footprint.

According to Microsoft Sysinternals Desktops uses a Windows desktop
object for each desktop unlike other virtual desktop utilities that
implement their desktops by showing the windows that are active on a
desktop and hiding the rest. “Application windows are bound to a desktop object when they are
created so Windows maintains the connection between windows and
desktops and knows which ones to show when you switch a desktop” says Microsoft.

But while this means Desktops v1.0 is not prone to problems experienced by other desktop managers when their view of active windows becomes inconsistent with the visible windows it also has its own peculiarities. The very nature of Desktops’s reliance on Windows desktop objects means it’s not an application you can just shut down or remove from memory. 

Microsoft says: “there is no way to delete a desktop object so Desktops does not provide a way to close a desktop because that would result in orphaned windows and processes. The recommended way to exit Desktops is therefore to logoff.”

I wish I’d read the instructions before I spent at least half an hour trying to close Desktops turning an installation of XP inside out while trying to locate the kill button in Uninstall Programs Processes Services and anything else I could think of. But it’s not really a big issue if  you exit Desktops by logging off and don’t want it running in the background you can configure it on installation so that it doesn’t start automatically when the system boots up.

Download Desktops v1.0