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Bring Mac-style window management to Windows. If you’ve ever been jealous of features like Expose and Spaces, BetterDesktopTool is here to bring them to your PC.
Linux and Mac users who switch to Windows tend to really miss their virtual desktops, and other unique ways of sorting your windows. Erez showed you Dexpot, a tool to add virtual desktops to Windows and VirtuaWin, a lightweight virtual desktop manager. Both of these apps are great if virtual desktops are all you’re interested in, but they’re lacking if you also want to add Mac-style keyboard shortcuts and corners for viewing all open windows.
BetterDesktopTool brings mulitple desktops and more to Windows, and it’s well work checking out.
For a quick idea of how BetterDesktopTool works, check out this video:
It basically comes with two key features: virtual desktops and a visual overview of all open windows (historically known as Spaces and Expose for Mac users). Sadly, these features won’t work out of the box: you’ll need to set up keyboard and mouse shortcuts for each. Here’s how to do that.
The idea of virtual desktops can be hard to grasp, but it’s not that complicated. Basically, you get multiple “desktops” on which to put your windows. You can switch between these desktops whenever you want by using a keyboard shortcut.
BetterDesktopTool will even show you all your desktops at once, complete with scaled versions of your open windows:
Animated transitions, as seen in the video above, help make the metaphor at work understandable. You can have as many desktops as you want, and arrange them however you like. The default is 4×4, but you’ve got options. Open the settings and you’ll find this grid, which you can use to customize the desktop spaces:
Next you need to set up a trigger for the desktops to show up. You can use a keyboard shortcut and/or set up a specific hot corner to activate the desktop overview:
Once you’ve gotten used to using multiple desktops, you’ll wonder how you even worked without them. Being able to mentally separate different sorts of tasks into different areas can seriously reduce clutter, making it easier to focus on the task at hand.
Viewing All Your Windows At Once
Multiple desktops isn’t the only feature BetterDesktopTool is offering: you can also view all of your open windows at once. A keyboard shortcut shows you scaled versions of each window, allowing you to quickly switch from one to the other:
There are many different ways to do this – you can see all minimized windows, for example, or all windows related to the app you’re currently using. You can even show no windows at all, allowing you to see the desktop. These views, and the keyboard shortcuts and/or corners that trigger them, can all be configured within settings:
It’s going to take you a while to set this all up exactly the way you like it, and the lack of a default behavior means you’ll have to make the effort. It’s a minor downside, however, because the transitions offered are both beautiful and functional.
Note that the option to disable animation, perfect for low-end machines, can be found in the General tab of the settings:
From here you can also enable multi-touch gestures, but the number of supported devices for this is extremely limited. This is disappointing because multi-touch is what really makes all of this functionality work so well on Mac devices.
Ready to check out BetterDesktopTool? Head to BetterDesktopTool.com and click “Download”. During installation you’ll be asked whether you’re using the app for personal or business reasons:
The personal version is free with no strings attached, but if you plan to implement BetterDesktopTool for work, a license is required.
Hopefully, BetterDesktopTool can make Windows easier to use for Mac users. I know I’m keeping this one installed for a while.
And before you spout off in the comments about Windows not needing Mac features, know that this cuts both ways: you can make OS X better by adding the best Windows features. This isn’t a matter of whether or not you’re a fanboy: it’s a matter of what features you want your operating system to have. BetterDesktopTool brings a bunch of great Mac features to Windows, and you can benefit from them.
What other features would you like to see transported from other operating systems to Windows?