Joe Maller.com

Mac Virtual Desktops

After playing around with Beryl on Ubuntu, I started really wanting virtual desktops on my Mac. Beryl maps the workspace to a giant cube, which you can then grab and toss around. Windows can be dragged from one face of the cube to another, it’s intuitive and feels as natural as moving a stack of papers to the other side of my desk.

A while back I’d tried out Desktop Manager, but found it sort of clumsy. The most recent version had the same issues as before. VirtueDesktops, while far more polished, has many of the same issues.

I don’t like keyboard shortcuts for window stuff, I like to use the screen and mouse to move things around. Having to switch from a dragging operation to a keyboard operation and then back to dragging is just too many shifts of state. Window management on multiple desktops should use the same action model as multiple physical monitors.

YouControl: DesktopsBy way of this comparative article from 2004, I found You Control: Desktops. Finally, someone got window management right. While that article seemed largely negative, I found YCD to be very polished and do nearly everything I was looking for. Window dragging between desktops just works. The popup pager is very well thought out and useful. Stability isn’t a problem. Unplugging my external monitor didn’t seem to cause any issues.

The only negatives I can come up with are:

  • no list of hot-keys. They’re easy enough to set, but sometimes I forget what I’ve set and shortcuts don’t show in visual palettes
  • No mouse-button binding options
  • Price. YCD is expensive, especially considering 2/3 of the competition is free and Apple will be introducing Spaces in Leopard.

This may be going onto my system full time, however because of the price, I’m going to really measure how much this affects my productivity before buying.

Dragging windows between desktops is huge, I can’t imagine using virtual desktops without it. If Spaces doesn’t can’t do dragging, this app might live on in 10.5.