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Virtual Desktop Managers - Step by step review

  Virtual Desktop Managers - Step by step software review

First virtual desktop Second... Third... Fourth... You can create as much virtual desktops as you wish!


Virtual Desktop Managers: The purpose and usability

If you are using multiple monitors, usually you have several applications open at once. Virtual desktop managers make it easier to work with lots of applications.

Think of each desktop as a distinct work environment. The taskbar shows only the applications open on the current desktop, which greatly reduces clutter. Take a look at sample virtual desktop environment:

Click for full-size screenshot

I used the Shelltoys Cool Desk software, the three icons at the bottom low corner of the screen are used to switch between desktops.

Virtual desktop manager - drag applicationMost virtual desktop managers also let you move applications between desktops. With Cool Desk, simply grab the application and move it to the desktop of choice. Drop the application at the bottom of the virtual desktop icon to place it on a new desktop.

Other useful features each virtual desktop manager should include are:

  • Different wallpapers for each virtual desktop
  • Each virtual desktop have own icons
  • Sticky windows and applications (which presents on all virtual desktops)
  • Hotkeys for easy swithing between desktops

We tested 10 different virtual desktop managers. All tests were done on a dual PII-400 , using Windows 2000. Important: most applications have problems with toolbars on secondary monitors: on the first desktop, everything works fine. But on all other desktops, the toolbar is not visible. It still occupies screen space though, a maximized window on the monitor with the invisible toolbar doesn't extend to the bottom of the screen... If you manually add the toolbar and move it to a secondary monitor, it simply vanishes (and gets added to the same toolbar on the first desktop). Cool Desk, MultiDesk and goScreen are the only tested applications that support toolbars on secondary monitors. As you can see in the screen shots above, I'm using the Quick Launch toolbar on monitor, works fine on both desktops with Cool Desk.

We have selected 5 most usable virtual desktop managers and the following is a comparison table. The highest value is 5.

Cool Desk




Desktop managers:



Virtual Desktop #1 - Click for full-size screenshot


Virtual Desktop #2 - Click for full-size screenshot


Virtual Desktop #3 - Click for full-size screenshot
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