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Best Free Virtual Desktop Manager

 
Introduction

These are the best free virtual desktop managers you can get from this review. Check them out and see which one is elected to be the top pick that can be equivalent or even better than other commercial virtual desktop managers.

 
In a Hurry?

Go to details...  Go straight to the Quick Selection Guide

 
Discussion

Dexpot allows even more configuration for each of its 20 possible desktops. It has a well organized interface that enables easy switching among desktops and quick movement of windows. The online documentation is slightly incomplete and the most active section of the online forum is in German. However, this should not prove to be much of a hindrance, owing to the ease of use of the application. Unfortunately, Dexpot's installer is bundled with OpenCandy, an advertising program which recommends other software when you install Dexpot. (See Gizmo's Freeware Policy on OpenCandy.)

 

VirtuaWin is a competent but basic product that depends on third-party modules for extra features but unfortunately, there aren't many around.

 

Next is Virtual Dimension. With a more minimalist and "straight to the point" approach, I found it to be fast and easy to install, configure and use.  Documentation seems to be lacking a bit, but once again, like Dexpot, it should not be much of a problem to begin using this little VDM.

 

Finally there is Microsoft Virtual Desktop Manager (MSVDM). I had a fairly pleasant experience with MSVDM. Although lacking in some of the features found in most of the other applications, it makes up by its small size and simplicity. If you've looking for just the basics in a VDM, MSVDM is a good choice.

The four Virtual Desktop Managers I reviewed are all very capable products but I have to recommend Dexpot due to its attractive interface, ease of use, various language versions and list of features.

 
Related Products and Links

You might want to check out these articles too:

 
Quick Selection Guide

Dexpot
4
 
Gizmo's Freeware award as the best product in its class!

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Attractive interface, ease of use, various language versions and features list.
Online documentation is slightly incomplete. The installer is bundled with adware OpenCandy.
1.6.9 build 2266
2.66 MB
32 bit but 64 bit compatible
Free for private use only
A portable version of this product is available from the developer.
Windows XP to 8

Dexpot is now bundled with OpenCandy, see above link in Discussion section for more information.
Dexpot 1.4 is also available for Windows 95/98/ME/NT4
Version history available here.

VirtuaWin
3.5
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
VirtuaWin is a competent and basic product that depends on third-party modules for extra features.
Unfortunately, there aren't many third party modules around.
http://virtuawin.sourceforge.net/
4.4
426 KB
Open source freeware
A portable version of this product is available from the developer.
Windows 9x to 7

View the changelog here

Virtual Dimension
3.5
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Fast and easy to install, configure and use.
Documentation seems to be lacking a bit.
0..94
399.8 KB
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows 95 to XP

v0.94 beta available 09 July, 2005
v0.95 alpha available 20 May, 2013

Microsoft Virtual Desktop Manager
3
 
Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Small size and simplicity.
Lacking in some of the features found in most other applications.
1.0
550 KB
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows XP

 
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Tags

virtual desktop, free virtual desktop, virtual desktop program, freeware

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Comments

by ektorbarajas on 3. November 2009 - 20:22  (35740)

Hi. I tried Dexpot, but noticed that some windows get corrupted and there were traces of them when switching between desktops, specially with Firefox. So I decided to give a try to Virtuawin, indeed it's more complicated to setup or customize than Dexpot, but so far I've not had any issues !!

I strongly recommend Virtuawin!

by Anonymous on 28. January 2010 - 8:27  (42260)

I agree about Dexpot having problems. Mostly the icons get disarranged often, the option "arrange to grid" would'nt work unless you switch between desktops, it causes problems with Firefox and Safari like you mentioned re the left-over traces issue, some window progs appear on the wrong desktop or appear again on other desktops when you don't want them to, slow to respond when switching between desktops, the show/hide desktop switch would not work sometimes and my desktop would appear blank except for the wallpaper and these are just to start with.

Ok, will try Virtuawin this time.

by Anonymous on 13. July 2009 - 5:24  (24997)

Need to specify 64bit aps more!,and beater listing for 64 bit .Dos DeskPins,
VirtuaWin work in vista64.( love the work you all do). great site!

by Anonymous on 2. April 2009 - 14:17  (19124)

Dexpot may be incompatible with some machines. It caused repeated blue screens on a machine wiht a Q6700 cpu. It runs fine on a machine with an E6600. Both run XPSP2 w/2GB ram.

by Anonymous on 16. March 2009 - 19:16  (17981)

Dexpot has failed twice on my Win XP, SP3 Dell Dimension 2400 ... loses desktop layouts and will not load the saved layouts ... Desktop freezes for long times just before failing all together ... uninstalled, rebooted, reinstalled and failed again ... Will try one of the others ... Open to any suggestions ... StopChaos

by Anonymous on 8. February 2009 - 4:37  (15583)

Check out Sun Microsystem's "xVM VirtualBox".... free, too!

http://www.sun.com/software/products/virtualbox/index.jsp

by Anonymous on 8. February 2009 - 8:37  (15591)

VirtualBox is used to create virtual machines (i.e. install other OS's on a virtual machine), not for virtual desktops on the same OS as this article discusses.

by oblivion on 4. February 2009 - 12:23  (15297)

For portable use, despite its basic nature, I find VirtuaWin very good. As long as the (equally open source) I-conized module's been added, anyway. This lets me have an auto-hiding panel showing the different desktops with icons on each showing the application(s) running on each, selectable just by clicking. without I-conized, its functionality is just a little too difficult to get at to make it a useful utility. (There are other modules I haven't investigated too; I think condemning VirtuaWin for being too basic without a more detailed look at the modules that are all about increasing usefulness and/or chrome is perhaps a little unfair.

It's small, fast and functional and I'm not sure what else I'd want in a portable app. (In a static environment, I might well want more facilities, although I'm not quite sure what...)

YMMV, of course!

by Anonymous on 27. May 2009 - 7:58  (22432)

I've been using VirtuaWin for over a year. I admit, it takes a little getting used to, mainly because the config options aren't very clearly worded. However, after sampling pretty much VDM that exists--DexPot, MicroDesk, MSVDM, DeskHedron, DeskSpace, Yod'm, CubeDesktop, etc.--I've come back to VirtuaWin because I've gotten it to behave exactly like my beloved Linux VDM (minus the visual effects--yes, I run Compiz), and it's blazing fast and light on resources.

VirtuaWin plays nicely with Taskbar Shuffle and TaskSwitch XP, supports multiple monitors, and supports a zillion key combos (I don't use mouse gestures, but VirtuaWin allows them, too). It also includes a well-designed rule editor, and it has the best support I've seen for window popups/notifications. For example, you can configure VW to show a window that pops up from another desktop on your current desktop. You can then work in the window, and then dismiss it back to its originating desktop. This is useful for instant messaging in certain cases. You can also configure VW to take you to the notifying desktop, or ignore the event altogether.

The Taskbar Shuffle support is major--If you move taskbar items, VirtuaWin remembers their order when you switch desktops back and forth. It also can recall the z-order of Windows on a desktop, so windows stay in the depth order you left them in when you switched desktops. Not all of the other desktop managers do that (in fact, most don't).

With the VirtuaPlus module, you get to specify a background for each desktop, and you can name each desktop, among other things.

That's not to say that other VDMs, notably DexPot, don't do all that, but VirtuaWin is the lightest and fastest VDM I've seen with a feature set as long as it has. I don't need 99 virtual desktops, or even 20, or even 5--VirtuaWin gives you up to 9, and that's more than enough, IMO.

The only real problem I've seen with VirtuaWin is that it's so flexible, you can easily get lost. For instance, there are 3 ways to move a window to/from a desktop: 1- use the window manager, which allows you to move a selected window to any desktop; 2- use the desktop manager, which allows you move any window to/from the selected desktop; or 3- assign shortcuts to allow you to move the active window to the next/previous desktop.

Other than that, it's rock solid.

by Anonymous on 31. January 2009 - 20:13  (15034)

I know what these programs are supposed to do but I cannot find any practical use for them... Maybe someone could suggest a scenario where they would be helpful. If its only about not cluttering your desktop with stuff then don't bother, I already use Find and Run Robot in addition to AutoHotkey to keep my desktop neat and organized.

Thanks in advance

by John Hardin (not verified) on 21. September 2010 - 17:25  (58217)

Try managing a single desktop when you have thirty different applications running simultaneously.

by Anonymous on 20. January 2009 - 23:54  (14290)
by Anonymous on 26. March 2009 - 1:10  (18563)

It's cool and I have built it under dev studio 6 as opposed to 2008 which produces a leaner exe. But, this is a real multi-desktop program and not a virtual desktop program meaning it runs multiple copies of explorer and uses Windows built in support for multiple desktops - fantastic but more of a resource user because of running multiple explorers. But I like it nontheless.

by Anonymous on 26. March 2009 - 1:11  (18564)

I meant to add another great open-source one that I have built and fixed bugs in is here:

http://www.yipton.net/

deskwin

by edward on 22. January 2009 - 22:04  (14449)

Looks like a nice one! Thanks for the info.

Edward A. Weissbard
Best Free Instant Messaging Client, Best Free Browser Protection Utility & Best Free Virtual Desktop Moderator/Editor

 

by Anonymous on 16. December 2008 - 14:07  (11958)

Hi there
I have used this one for 3 years now and it works out of the box:
http://www.astonshell.com/altdesk/
You can easily move a program to another desktop by pulling it.

by edward on 23. December 2008 - 22:28  (12362)

Looks really nice, the only issue is that I only see "free trial". This is not technically Free software.

Thank You,

Edward A. Weissbard
Best Free Instant Messaging Client, Best Free Browser Protection Utility & Best Free Virtual Desktop Moderator/Editor

 

by edward on 20. December 2008 - 16:23  (12180)

Thanks for the update, haven't seen this one.

Thank You,

Edward A. Weissbard
Best Free Instant Messaging Client, Best Free Browser Protection Utility & Best Free Virtual Desktop Moderator/Editor

 

by Anonymous on 9. December 2008 - 23:58  (11702)

Nice list, but you indicate MSVDM works on Vista. I don't find that to be so. Not only does the windows incompatibility prompt come up, but even if you say to ignore that, the next screen flat refuses to install this on Vista. Perhaps there's some associated app or library that's needed that would make it work. Until someone identifies that, wanted to save other readers the trouble of trying to install it on Vista.

by edward on 23. December 2008 - 22:39  (12363)

You are correct, MSVDM is only meant for Windows XP. As an alternative I believe these may suit your needs for Vista:

http://goscreen.info/
Shareware

http://www.codeplex.com/vdm
Freeware, but seems to lack some wanted features.

Thanks!

Edward A. Weissbard
Best Free Instant Messaging Client, Best Free Browser Protection Utility & Best Free Virtual Desktop Moderator/Editor

 

by edward on 15. December 2008 - 16:17  (11932)

Thanks for the update, I look into this one!

Edward A. Weissbard
Best Free Instant Messaging Client, Best Free Browser Protection Utility & Best Free Virtual Desktop Moderator/Editor

 

by Anonymous on 9. October 2008 - 6:18  (8957)

Hello everybody,

Found this one just yesterday called "360 desktop". Haven't tried it myself yet. It should be panoramic/carousel kind of thing and might be convinient, although you probebly better be sober using it.
http://www.360desktop.com/
http://www.zdnet.be/downloads.cfm?id=88397

Greetings...

by edward on 23. December 2008 - 22:43  (12364)

I like this one, although I wouldn't use it on an older system with limited RAM.

Edward A. Weissbard
Best Free Instant Messaging Client, Best Free Browser Protection Utility & Best Free Virtual Desktop Moderator/Editor

 

by edward on 9. October 2008 - 19:06  (8976)

Thanks for the link, looks really interesting!! I'm gonna give it a spin and see how it goes!

Thanks,

Edward A. Weissbard
Best Free Instant Messaging Client, Best Free Browser Protection Utility & Best Free Virtual Desktop Moderator/Editor

 

by Anonymous on 13. September 2008 - 18:56  (7697)

Could I get your opinion on PowerPro? It looks really good, if you're willing to go through all the options.

http://powerpro.webeddie.com/

Typhoeus

by edward on 15. September 2008 - 2:18  (7735)

Typhoeus,

Indeed an interesting program. This program is a little hard to categorize due to the many things it can do. I would really classify this as a Power User tool relating to the explorer GUI shell in windows. I don't know If I would feel comfortable yet in placing it here in the Virtual Desktop category, though it also could, because of the Virtual Desktop option. Very useful application overall!

Edward A. Weissbard
Best Free Instant Messaging Client & Best Free Virtual Desktop Moderator/Editor

 

by Anonymous on 8. September 2008 - 5:26  (7498)

Hi Bob,

Would really like to know your opinion on Yodm3D. I've been a Dexpot user for quite some time now but that cube effect on Yodm3D is really really tempting.

Keep up the good work!

by Bob on 23. January 2009 - 9:12  (14484)

Hello there - I've only just spotted this question ... several months late!

The last free version of Yod'm 3D (before the application was bought by Otaku) is actually still available for clean and legal download at:
http://www.321download.com/LastFreeware/page34.html
or
http://www.aplusfreeware.com/categories/util/desktop3.html

Yes - I found Yod'm 3D a fun application, especially since you can load your own JPEG as a background image and easily set different desktop images on the 4 available sides of the rotating cube. Plenty of room for cool 3D zoom effects! On a "home entertainment" type computer, Yod'm 3D could be a nice toy for children of all ages ;-)>. Controls are straightforward, providing various options for mouse actions and hotkeys, as well as for experimenting with rotation speeds, transparencies, zooming etc. Unfortunately, on this excellent old freeware version, the individual configuration options for different desktops sometimes seemed a bit problematic (though open windows can also be accessed from the tray icon), which didn't help my productivity. But the application is surprisingly lightweight and doesn't even require installation -- so it's easy to try it out (though personally, I'd always set a restore point first, just in case) and turn it on and off whenever you want. It even seems to work fine on my current Vista system.

Note: On Yod'm's commercial successor, Deskspace ($25 after 2-week trial period), the 6 available desktops now seem to be more fully configurable, which makes it really rather enticing. Maybe I'll give that one a try too ...

by mikecorbeil on 22. March 2010 - 4:05  (45980)

Softpedia reviewed "DeskSpace (formerly Yod'm 3D) 1.5.7.2", and gave this a good review, even strong, but a CNET editor didn't and warned readers against using this utility, this version of it anyway.

http://www.softpedia.com/reviews/windows/Yod-039-m-3D-Review-54961.shtml

The Softpedia review was by Ionut Ilascu, a Softpedia editor, and posted May 17th, 2007, while the following CNET page for downloading and the editor review was posted Feb. 2, 2010.

http://download.cnet.com/DeskSpace/3000-2346_4-10889314.html

I know from experience that Dexpot is safe and easy to use, though only used it on Win 2000. But I expect that it's still safe and certainly easy to use with Win XP. As for Vista and Win 7, I haven't a clue. Perhaps Dexpot doesn't provide people with "bells and whistles" that some users like for play things, but it has provided me with the functionality that I sought and was, is, that is, very easy to use. And I could make the desktop background different for every virtual desktop that I configured Dexpot to provide me with, which was four, since I don't need more and usually don't even use all four, anyway. It permitted me to open wholly distinct Firefox profile sessions in or on each of the virtual desktops, which was very convenient. This doesn't work when trying to open Firefox again but with a different user profile within the same Windows desktop; or it hasn't worked for me and I haven't learned of how this can be done within the same desktop, if this can be done.

That was done with Win 2000 and a PC, formerly a server, that had only 256 MB of RAM, and there didn't seem to be serious increase in RAM consumption when I opened a wholly different Firefox profile session in another virtual desktop, so I guess that Dexpot helps with RAM control; instead of only adding to what's already used up in another of the desktops. With 256 MB of RAM, I was able to smoothly open additional Firefox profiles in separate virtual desktops, anyway.

There are fancier, "nicer looking" VDM's, but Dexpot is very good for people who just want a practical and simple VDM that provides enough functionality to satisfy most PC users, imo. If power-users are helping novice users to have VDM capability, then I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the simplicity of using this app. or utility.

by Anonymous on 28. January 2009 - 6:52  (14840)

PS Play with care! I'm not sure quite how stable the old freeware version of YODM 3D is when doing a lot of multitasking from different desktops ...