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Many years ago I tried using multiple desktops through some factory-installed software (NVidia Desktop Manager, or something like that) on my work computer. It was nice when it worked, but would often crash, lose my windows, and behave oddly with applications whose windows weren't allowed to be resized.

I'd like to try multiple desktops again but was hoping for some recommendations for stable, lightweight software. I say "lightweight" remembering how NVidia's software was bloated with loads of crazy options, which I suspect was responsible for its instability.

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    Note that Windows 10 now supports multiple desktops very nicely. – angussidney Nov 5 '16 at 9:27
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I've yet to find a virtual desktop software that is not utterly decimated by the large numbers of windows I frequently have on my system, but of the ones I've tried, the following worked reasonably well:

  • Dexpot - Free for personal use, $30 / computer for commercial
  • VirtuaWin - Free

Both cover the basics that you'd expect from a virtual desktop environment. The biggest complaint was that it would often take 0.5-2s to complete a switch between virtual desktops, which was a no-go to someone used to instantaneous response from Compiz (Linux) or Spaces (OS X)


Stop the presses! I just tried out Desktops from Microsoft (Free). It's extremely simple and lightweight, and switches quickly. Going to be using this a lot...

  • Dexpot is paid? I used to use it all the time, and I thought it was freeware. – dotVezz Feb 5 '14 at 17:59
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    Whoops, double-checked the licensing and clarified that. It's free for personal use, but requires a license if you're using it on computers used in a commercial environment. – Darth Android Feb 5 '14 at 18:04
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    I can second VirtuaWin: I shopped around a few years ago (under XP) and nothing else came close. Occasionally it would get stuck for a few seconds on switching desktops but on the whole it worked. MS's offering at the time (MSVDM) was horrible, I don't know if Desktops is related. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Feb 5 '14 at 18:13
  • @Gilles The problem I have with VirtuaWin and Dexpot is that they simply minimize and restore the windows, which feels unnatural and weird to me. Desktops from SysInternals/Microsoft actually creates a separate explorer process for each desktop, and switches much, much faster. – Darth Android Feb 5 '14 at 18:25
  • @DarthAndroid Given the way Windows works, I doubt they have a choice. Minimizing feels like a natural implementation of hiding a window to me anyway. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Feb 5 '14 at 18:51
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Try VirtuaWin. It allows you to have up to 9 virtual desktops.

I have been using it for 3-4 years on both my home and work PCs and have experienced maybe one crash per year. It is also quite lightweight in that the Windows do switch quite quickly, and has enough options to be useful without being bloated.

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    I can second this choice. Use it at work for years, don't want to miss it. Does a good job on XP, Vista, and now Windows-7. Even has a portable version, so you can try it out without being afraid to mess up your system :) – Izzy Feb 9 '14 at 17:31
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I would recommend Actual Window Manager. I have not used multiple desktops on it, it does support them. But I have used most of its other features. It si nice and easy to use and very flexible with its options. No, I don't work for them.

http://www.actualtools.com/windowmanager/

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