Expand Your Desktop Workspace With Dexpot – Cool Virtual Desktop Software [Windows]

Erez Zukerman 12-07-2011

The other day, I was talking to one of my friends, who is an avid Linux user. He told me that one of the Linux features he simply can’t do without is “virtual desktops”. These are multiple workspaces that allow you to divide and conquer your workload into several discrete areas, so that you don’t get a jumble of unrelated icons cluttering your taskbar and distracting you from what you’re trying to do. Well, now I can tell my friend that such a thing does exist in the Windows world – maybe not as a native feature, but in the form of the powerful Dexpot application, which is free for personal use. In fact, the app bills itself as “the tool Windows lacks”.


Dexpot is an established player in the Windows virtual desktop space – if you’ve ever looked for a virtual desktop software solution for Windows, you may well have come across it. It is under active development, with the latest version released on June 29th this year.  There’s also a portable version which you can take along on a USB stick.

Out of The Box Functionality

When you install and run Dexpot, you will instantly see a few subtle changes to your system. The first thing you may notice is that the application’s taskbar icon provides instant access to four workspaces. It looks like this:

virtual desktop software

If you click on any of the alternate workspaces, all of your currently running tasks will instantly disappear off the taskbar. This can be a real “a-ha” moment when showing the app to someone – it’s an instant demonstration of how it can radically alter your working style and unclutter your desktop.

The next change you may notice off the bat is that Dexpot adds its own menu entry for the Window menu of every app running on your system:


virtual desktop software free

This is one way you can instantly get a feel of Dexpot’s power. The menu lets you do all sorts of operations with the window, not all related to other virtual desktops – you can set it as always on top, or minimize it to the tray, too. But obviously, using the menu on a day-to-day basis would not be the easiest way to enjoy Dexpot’s power, so now would be a great time to dive into the configuration interface and find some keyboard shortcuts!

Initial Configuration

virtual desktop software free

As can be expected for such a mature app, Dexpot’s configuration interface is chock-full of options, tweaks and settings. I won’t take you through the whole interface (half the fun is exploring!) but let’s look at some of the more common options.


I like how Dexpot does not automatically set itself to start with Windows – that’s very polite and un-intrusive. But if you’re serious about using the app, you would definitely want to check the box that says Start with Windows. Also, if you’re just getting started with this whole virtual desktop idea, four desktops (the default) may be too much. I changed mine to three – I have a dual-monitor system, so plenty of windows can fit onto a single desktop, and I think three should be enough for me. Speaking of dual monitors – a “desktop” includes both monitors. It’s your entire workspace, however large it is.

Now, let’s get back to those keyboard shortcuts I promised. You can find a boatload of these under Controls:

virtual desktop software free

As you can see, the default key for switching desktops is Alt+number (Alt+2 for desktop 2, and so on). And to send (move) a window to a different desktop, use Alt+Shift+number. You can also switch workspaces using the mouse, and Dexpot also offers a complex interface for configuring what happens when you interact with a window’s title bar:


virtual desktop software review

Bells & Whistles

The last thing I’d like to discuss is Dexpot’s optional plugins. Most of these are disabled by default, but they can add lots of functionality. For instance, the Dexcube plugin enables a Compiz-like rotating 3D cube effect for switching between desktops:

virtual desktop software

On a dual-monitor system, the cube only shows up on one monitor. But on my system (which is not a monster gaming rig) the cube transitions were impressively smooth and quick. There are lots of other plugins, as well.


Final Thoughts

As usual in reviewing such powerful apps, I have only skimmed the surface of what Dexpot can do. I haven’t even discussed customizing per-desktop wallpaper, desktop names, and lots of other things you can set and tweak.

It is not often that I get to describe an application as “humble”, but that’s the first word that comes to mind when I think of Dexpot. Installing it is like meeting a new person who doesn’t look like much at first, but then you start talking to them and discover how truly deep they are. Out of the box, Dexpot’s defaults are very sane – conservative, even. But as you dig into its myriad settings and options, you will discover it offers fantastic customization options. Simply put, this is a very powerful virtual desktop software solution. Highly recommended.

Related topics: Virtual Desktop, Virtualization, Workspace.

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  1. Colugo
    July 17, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    any comparisons with VirtuaWin? VirtuaWin has been the more popular light-weight, fast, no bells and whistles virtual desktop manager.

    • Anonymous
      July 17, 2011 at 7:28 pm

      You know what, that's actually a great question! I'm going to review VirtuaWin soon and let you know how it compares with Dexpot. Thanks for the suggestion!

  2. Mick
    July 13, 2011 at 9:18 am

    I found Dexpot ran really sluggishly on my (Vista) laptop although it was ok on my Win 7 desktop. However as I want to run the same app on all my machines I switched to VirtuaWin without issue.

  3. staticvoid
    July 13, 2011 at 3:33 am

    One thing I don't like about Dexpot is that it consumes memory and process, the more desktop and customizations you make(3d cube,etc), the more slower your computer gets. It's not native in Windows so it isn't optimized to work as smoothly and as resource wise as what we've experienced in any Linux distribution.

    • Anonymous
      July 13, 2011 at 8:31 am

      It's no Compiz, but I have to say I didn't notice a slowdown on my own system.

  4. mikshir
    July 13, 2011 at 1:04 am

    Very glad that Dexpot exists and it provides the most usable basic functionality of the few I've tried.  Make no mistake though, it doesn't hold a candle to the style, grace, speed, and utility available in the Linux world.

  5. Rafael Perez
    July 12, 2011 at 10:04 pm

    I've used Dexpot for some time, but sometimes windows ' get lost' out of all screens. It's possible to recover them easily, but now I'm a mdesktop user: faster, smaller and very simple (no bells and whistles). After some time using dexport, I realized extra features wasn't helping me out...

  6. Anonymous
    July 12, 2011 at 7:41 pm

    Also very good for quickly switching to an intelligent looking spreadsheet or Word document when you're messing about at work/school :D

    • Anonymous
      July 13, 2011 at 8:32 am

      One of the most common uses for virtual desktop managers, I'm sure :)