WindowsPager: an excellent, lightweight virtual desktop solution

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WindowsPager is a free program that adds four virtual desktops/workspaces to your desktop. It integrates the new workspaces as icons in your taskbar and allows for managing your open windows through the right click context menu. WindowsPager is a portable app with very light resource consumption.

A virtual desktop, for those who might not know, is simply a desktop view that displays only certain open windows that the user selects (while other open windows for example for other programs are displayed separately in another workspace).

This means that you can collect all windows for all programs/files that belong to a certain project together in a virtual desktop without any non-related windows showing in the same place, or you can relegate an app or apps (say your email client) to a desktop and leave it open without having to have it clutter the workspace that you may be currently working with. More info on the definition of a virtual desktop on Wikipedia.

I’ve seen many free virtual desktop programs but WindowsPager is noteworthy because of the combination of its simplicity and functionality.

This program may lack some of the bells and whistles that many virtual desktop programs (e.g. different wallpapers for each desktop, 3D visual effects when changing desktops), nonetheless I believe that the combination of functions that it does offer are exactly what many practically-minded users (such as myself) have been looking for.

Here are more notes on this one:

  • Management of windows using the right-click context menu: employs an extremely intuitive way to send windows back and forth across virtual desktops; simply right click on any window and select the desktop you would like the window to appear on. Simple and practical.
  • windowspager screenshot - virtual desktop icons in the taskbar Virtual desktop icons in the taskbar: which in practice makes a lot of sense and works very well. You can enlarge the virtual desktop buttons or make them smaller by resizing the taskbar.
  • Portable: unzip and run, no install needed. Does not require admin privileges to run.
  • Set a window as “always visible” and/or “on top”: you can right click on any window and make it visible in all virtual desktops, very useful for apps such as instant messengers that you may want to always be able to interact with regardless of which desktop you’re looking at. Another option: keep window always on top.
  • Drag and drop: another way to change a window’s location is to drag and drop its icon from one of the virtual desktop icons to the other. Note: to do this press CTRL as you drag and drop.
  • Memory consumption: less than 5 megs in memory. You just can’t beat that with a stick!
  • Adding more than 4 virtual desktops: is possible, but you will have to do a bit of command line tweaking – see the program documentation.

Wish list (or how this program can be even better): this program is appealing because of its simplicity; I will, however, make a few recommendations

  • Currently, if you minimize a window it disappears from the little virtual desktop icon, which is kind of strange. An option to keep the icon visible even if the original window is minimized would be great.
  • Desktop-specific wallpaper: would be great. The effect can really add to the illusion of having multiple desktops.
  • Make desktop icons invisible: the ability to switch off icons for certain virtual desktops would also be a great addition.

The verdict: first off please note that this program is still in beta and a few hiccups may be encountered as the program develops (although I have not encountered any).

All freeware virtual desktop management programs have to be compared with Dexpot, arguably the best and most sophisticated virtual desktop program out there. However where Dexpot is feature rich and multi-layered WindowsPager is simple and straightforward. In fact, aside from a single feature which Dexpot provides and WindowsPager doesn’t (the ability to place file/program icons within certain virtual desktops and not others), I would say that the simplicity of WindowsPager makes it much more readily accessible to a great many user that might prefer a simpler approach that is nonetheless well implemented. I recommend this program highly.

Version Tested: 0.39 Experimental

Compatibility: Windows Vista/XP/2000.

Go to the program page to download the latest version (approx 586K).


 
 
 
  • Chris

    Hopefully this one catches on. I was playing with it before it really worked, and still found it much better than any other virtual window manager. Now it is really powerful, with more features due to regular updates. It has become one of the first things I install on a new system.

  • Joe

    I was wondering why I couldn’t see anything but odd behavior and disappearing windows after running this on Vista (and I had to use the Task Manager to kill the process). Apparently, it doesn’t play well with Aero:

    “Windows Vista:

    If you you are using the AERO make sure transparency panel is endabled and use
    a low color density. I recommand using a black desktop wallpaper behind
    the transparent panel or just disable AERO completely.”

  • jfjb

    under XP SP3 w/3GB RAM, ATI Radeon X700 w/512 MB video RAM, plus vanilla GPL apps, this little monster worked fast and light but… freaky attitude -or behavior- if and or when OpenOffice is loaded: you cannot switch desktop, can’t call task manager, can’t push Start button.
    I was ready for the red button down below. I pressed several times Ctrl-Alt-Del, screen went black, flipped all loaded screens one after the other and then returned to ‘normal’…

  • Intrinsic

    I’ve found VirtuaWin to be the best and most resource efficient package available and been using it on and off for around 5 or 6 years now. I switched to Cool Desk for a while as that surpassed VirtuaWin for a while, but now i’m back using it

    http://virtuawin.sourceforge.net/

  • jfjb

    tried it again (see above) with less machismo (? less programs using lots of video memory ?) but it had the same interferences-problems-glitches, whatever you call that when your screen reacts way after you’ve been pounding the keyboard for anything else to do but look at a frozen image of the last app in memory.

    Ahem (throat clearing, nothing else).

    I’ll stick to Dexpot German-engineering program interface and GUI — thanks, Samer for pointing it to my attention a looooong while ago.
    I don’t want to brag about those foreigners but they’ve got some of the best algorithm-based object-oriented applications.
    Well, ok, the Russians too, but aren’t they Europeans when they live east of the Oural Mountains?

    :-))

  • You are definitely right about one “wish list” thing: wallpaper.

    I downloaded this specifically to use with GIMP – in order to have a plain white or black background between the various GIMP mini windows. Alas, no joy.

    Love your site. Very helpful.

    John

  • Anonymous

    i use virtual dimension. love it. very fast and userfriendly. u can use different wallpaper too

  • audit2

    Hello. Installed your program (windows Pager) on my firefox but can’t find any buttons to start using it. Where are they?
    Thanks

  • Roger

    I downloaded the portable version of VirtuaWin and got it working right away without a hitch.

    At first glance, the .CHM help file seemed so full of details that I’d imagined I would postpone trying out VirtuaWin until another day. As it happens, all I needed for proof of concept was the opening paragraphs in the help file.

    I deliberately restricted the number of desktops to two. Now I switch between them with ALT + CTRL + left- or right-arrow. At any given time I am either working on a project with a handful of windows that pertain (desktop #1) or I am ambling about the internet for unrelated items or topics (desktop #2).

    Several years ago I had tried Windows Pager, but it seemed not to do well with CMD command windows. So far so good on that score with VirtuaWin. In all other respects Windows Pager was fine.

    I get to the system tray easily with WinKey + B.

    Sincerely,

    Roger