Monday, August 07, 2006

Virtual Desktops

Today was another SteveNote day, when Steve Jobs comes out on stage and shows off the upcoming toys. While I didn't pull out my wallet today, the previews of the next version of the Mac operating system had a welcome addition -- virtual desktops. I've been using Desktop Manager, a third-party solution, for some time now, and I can't live without it, even though it is self-described as 'alpha quality'.

Using virtual desktops allows me to lay out my work on a huge pallet, and switch from one section to another with a click on the little pager I have shrunk down to micro size in the lower left corner of my desktop. As you can see, I have configured ten pages of my my laptop's screen, and over time I have settled into a comfortable working arrangement. Desktop 1 is my writing outline and notes. I also keep my wordcount tracker there.
On desktop 2 I have Word running, taking up the whole screen and the text zoomed out for comfortable reading. On other pages I have my Mail, my web browser, my personal organizer, iTunes, etc.
It's especially nice for applications that really want the whole screen to work properly, like Google Earth. With ten screens, most of the time I can have all my tools and features available just a well-remembered click away.

I've used virtual desktops of one kind or another since I first discovered them under X on unix workstations. Seeing them come as a supported part of the Mac environment is welcome. While Desktop Manager works great, it hasn't been updated in a long long time, and I worry that it won't be available when I move to my next computer.

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