Virtual Mac Desktops

by brian d foy

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I have a small Sony Vaio at home---back when a Vaio was something between a really small laptop and a Palm Pilot. It has an almost 9 inch screen, which is not a lot of real estate to work on more than tow things at once.

Since I had FreeBSD installed and I was using Enlightenment as my window manager, I could create a bunch of virtual desktops, and I could switch to each of them easily. If I was working on more than one thing at a time, I would corral each task in its own virtual desktop.

Now, Codetek Studios makes that nifty feature available for Panther, and although it is not free, I will gladly pay $22 bucks for it.

I wonder how I would use this with a Cinerama display.


2004-01-18 03:42:05
Expose makes Virtual Desktops seem clumsy at best.
2004-01-18 04:34:10
True. Now the only thing I'd like to see in Mac OS X is focus follows mouse.

This can be switched on in only because of a hidden feature. Having it work for all windows would be much better.

2004-01-18 06:01:20
Desktop Manager
You might want to check out Desktop Manager at It's an excellent virtual desktop manager, open source, free, and very fast. Under active development too!
2004-01-18 06:18:36
Codetek Virtual Desktop

Codetek Virtual Desktop has focus-follows-mouse included.


2004-01-18 06:30:30
Expose is orthogonal to desktops
Expose helps on a desktop, letting you find stuff. Virtual desktops help you partition your work. I use CodeTek and Expose. For example, desktop five (Option-5 on my keyboard) is all the Windows associated with my Linux box (some xterms, Emacs, and so on). Option-4 gets me to e-mail, option-1 to my local development desktop (iterms and a local xemacs). Switching contexts is easy, and windows are in the same relative positions as when I left them.

I only wish that Panthers FUS would let me switch between multiple instances of the same user: I'd use it instead.

2004-01-18 13:19:12
To each his own. To me, Expose is a very pretty solution to the problem caused by a clumsy dock/taskbar. It is a problem Mac OS 9 and earlier had because it lacked a taskbar, and it is a problem OS X has because the taskbar is not descrete enough from the dock.

Virtual desktops are a way of organizing your work, not just your applications. Like most users I separate the tasks I do onto different desktops. I never have to hit a key combination and then select a window to get to task I need to do I want, I just select the desktop.

2004-01-18 14:09:02
Most missed feature
Virtual desktops are my most missed feature from Linux, it's the reason I'd go back. Expose is a nice idea but it's not comparable to the flexibility of virtual desktops - it's _so_ mouse heavy.

One problem under OS X is that applications alt and tab rather than windows - total pita if you want to check what's happening in another terminal window.

Desktop Manager is the best ... kudos to the hacker who developed it Rich Wareham

2004-01-18 15:06:04
Most missed feature
While I agree that Expose is not the same as a Virtual Desktop, Expose doesn't have to be that Mouse Heavy.

Using F9 to Expose all Applications you can tab to move through the available applications - bringing each to the front in turn.

Using F10 to Expose all of the Windows of an Application you can use Tab to bring each window to the front in turn.

As for CodeTech's solution I just find the floating window a bit too arkward.. it would be nice if it could be in the Menu Bar instead and they missed a big oppertunity in not making it work more like Expose.

Imagine hitting F9 and seeing 4 miniaturised screens one for each of your Virtual Desktops (instead of one as now).

Still if you need Virtual Desktops CodeTech is the best OS X solution.

2004-01-18 17:05:56
CodeTek VD improving with time
On AIX at work, I have 8 virtual screens on each of two monitors. I'm very happy with CodeTek and their VD software for my personal OS X laptop. They have been markedly improving the software as time passes. Some of the their difficulty has been with what hooks Apple has exposed--each new OS revision from Apple has enabled CodeTek to do more and better.

2004-01-18 17:19:28
Most missed feature
You can use the arrow keys to move between windows in Expose as well.
2004-01-18 21:11:35
Most missed feature
Once you've used cmd-tab to switch to another app, you can use cmd-tilde to switch between the open windows of that app :)

and as someone else mentioned, you can use the error keys along with Expose rather than your mouse.

2004-01-19 18:14:28
Most missed feature
You can switch between multiple terminal windows with CMD-#, where # is the window number. There's a setting in terminal prefs to show the window number in the titlebar.