For notebook lovers, YouControl’s new “desktops” will be a Godsend. “Will” be? Yes, “desktops” is in beta and available now as a preview download. For the most part, it works.
A few years ago another Mac application from CodeTek called VirtualDesktops provided Mac users with the same kind of thing. More screens, or, rather, more “desktops.” Same thing.
If your screen measure 1024 pixels across, you could make three more of the same size and move windows all around the four “screens” (or “desktops”).
The CodeTek VirtualDesktops is a Mac OS X version of multiple screens available in versions of Unix/Linux/Xwindows. For the most part, VirtualDesktops worked well for me but I found it less than intuitive and less stable than I like.
So I bought a 23” Apple Cinema Display instead.
YouControl’s version of “desktops” is nifty and, even in the beta form, seems to work very well. You can create as many virtual desktops as you’d like (be careful… remember, “less is more”) and set different background images for each. It’s easy to set up and easier to use than any multiple desktop I’ve seen to date.
Moving from one window/screen/desktop to another can be blazingly quick.
As you’d expect, each desktop can have it’s own set of files and folders (though I gave up using the “desktop” a few years ago—it’s the desktop “windows” that’s attractive here), and group windows by application.
Let’s say you set up three additional “desktops.” You can customize the virtual size of the desktop (best to keep about the same size as your screen—things get lost), set up applications to show on one desktop but not another, or drag application windows from one desktop to another.
Switching between desktops is a breeze with a hotkey setup. You can even name (very handy) each Desktop so you know which desktop you’re on when you switch back and forth. The Mac menu bar will contain a “desktop” icon and a menu selection so moving between desktops is, well, easy. Just click. Stand back, though.
No well behaved Mac application is worth the effort if there’s no eye candy involved. Desktops has some eye candy that’s a perfect fit with Mac OS X’s Expose’ feature.
First, there’s 12 different transitions to go from one desktop to another desktop. Remember the “cube spin” when switching users in Mac OS X? Yep. Cube spin is right there, from one desktop to another.
Wait. There’s more. Once you set up those three extra “desktops” (four total, including the original Mac OS X screen) you’ll want to switch between them, put different applications on each. So, Slide, Pan, Fade, Swirl, Rotate, Zoom, or Twist between desktops at the flick of a keystroke.
That’s eye-popping eye candy at a blisteringly fast speed. Your eyes will spin. Thank Apple for Quartz.
Virtual desktops is not a new idea. It’s an idea that hasn’t caught on in big numbers on Mac OS X yet, despite CodeTek’s admirable efforts on VirtualDesktops.
YouControl’s attempt is much more intuitive, behaves very well for a beta version, and comes with, well, eye candy. Of course, you’ll need to be running Mac OS X Panther (10.3.x or higher), and it’s best to read the “known issues” list; this is beta software, you know.
Regardless, Desktops could be a boon for iBook and PowerBook users whose screen real estate is never enough (I’m working day to day on a 23” Apple Cinema Display and the 17” PowerBook screen seems utterly paltry in comparison).
Ready to multitask? Just don’t get lost in all those extra windows.
update A few sharp eyed readers have pointed out Desktop Manager, an Open Source application (free) which provides multiple desktops for Mac OS X.Click Here for the MacUpdate page.
Interestingly, Desktop Manager is listed as Alpha software, vs. YouControl’s Desktops, which is Beta. I found very few bugs with either, though the feature set is limited with each (less is more). Desktops eye candy is cool, though.
CodeTek’s VirtualDesktops Pro has caused my Mac more than a few problems, though the feature set is extensive.
Note from Tera Personally, this virtual desktop stuff is much ado about not much, which probably explains why it hasn’t taken off, and why Apple doesn’t build it in to Mac OS X.
If you open 8 or 12 different applications on your Mac screen they tile or stack vertically, one over the other. Any app or “screen” is just a click away. Virtual desktops spreas those screens out to different desktops, each a click away. The screen real estate is spread out instead of being stacked.
Same thing, different way to get there. Much ado over not much, if you ask me. YouControl’s Desktops’ eye candy is pretty slick, though.