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).