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Saturday, December 24th, 2005, 4:47 pm

Virtual Desktops & Dual-Head

3-D Desktop
A 3-D visualisation of virtual desktops
switching under 3-D Desktop (click image above for homepage)

VIRTUAL desktops are means of extending one’s workspace. Given the finite size of a monitor, one wonders if that size also imposes strict limits on the (in)visible window environment. Well, it does not. It is possible to treat the monitor as just a rectagular box or a a ‘sliding window’, which metaphrically glances at something much larger. It enables the user to view smaller segments of the whole at any one time. Most commonly, the user would watch only a quarter of the workspace at any one time.

Virtual desktop environments have been available for a long time to Linux user. They will also be officially introduced in Windows Vista, having encountered third-party software that achieved this in the past. Apple Macs have commercial add-ons that achieve the same thing — presenting the users with a pager to control multiple virtual desktops.

The Pager is a small widget which enables the user to select which segment of the screen should be viewed. More specifically, it enables switching from one virtual desktop to another. It often reflects on the content in all virtual desktops. In KDE, for example, the pager contains a schematic of active windows and their positions. In GNOME, it appears to even embed application icons. I used the Pager with virtual desktops about 4 years ago, but not excessively. I needed them when doing some programming jobs, but wasn’t competent with the corresponding CTRL+[1-4] shortcuts, which make the transition between one desktop to another very smooth and rapid.

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