You Control: Desktops


While many in the Mac community await Leopard, the code-name for Appleis next OS iteration, with rapt expectation, and while some have fun poking pointy sticks at Vista, Microsoftis much anticipated, much delayed, and much maligned OS, some of us deal with issues that are a bit more pedestrian. One such issue is what to do about limited screen real estate?

Those of us with relatively shallow pockets and older Macs will likely wait a bit before buying a new system with more screen space. And even then we may still come up a bit short viewing area-wise, especially if we decide on a MacBook or standard MacBook Pro; these laptops sport 13 and 15-inch screens respectively. Nice screen sizes for laptops, particularly since they are of the widescreen variety, but when you are deep into multitasking you may still find that you wish you had more display acreage.

VD: Something Youill Actually Want

When Leopard appears, with built-in virtual desktops, you may think that your prayers have been answered: Virtual desktops allows you to use more display space than what is actually shown on your screen at any one time by letting you open applications and windows in a screen space that isnit shown until you need to see it. You can have a?desktop dedicated to work, for instance, where you might do all of your photo editing, another desktop waiting in the ether for email, one for web browsing, and so on. Because these desktops are virtual you can have as many as you want. Itis a great concept thatis be around since the heydays of big-iron UNIX.

Apple promises to simplify virtual desktop management, which has been?the main reason the concept isnit more widespread. So, soon youill see Mac users of every kind and skill level happily switching between desktops to work or play.

And what of us with shallow pockets, small screens, and who wonit be seeing Leopard up close for quite a while? Not a problem, because there are several virtual desktop applications available that do a good job in giving you a bigger screen, virtually speaking.

More Than Meets The Eye

One such application is from the folks at You Software. You Control: Desktops lets you create any number of desktops, and you can learn to manage them quickly and easily.

You Control: Desktops

This is really a slick app and the more I use it the more I like using it.

Iive set up 4 desktops; Work, Play, Email, and Web. In each Iive assigned the appropriate application; Work gets word and photo processing apps, Web gets Safari and Firefox, and so on. Once an application is assigned to a desktop it will continue to open windows in that desktop. So, if Iim in the Web desktop, for example, and I fire up Text Edit, You Control: Desktops will switch me automagically to the Work desktop and then open a Text Edit window.

See the potential here? Wait, thereis more...

If I need to drag a item from my Email Desktop to Text Edit in my Work Desktop I simply do that: I grab and drag the item to either edge (right or left) of the screen and the next desktop in the series appears. Itis labeled so I know which it is. I can continue dragging the item through the desktops until I find the desktop and the window I want to drop the item in. Better still, I can use the iPalette Viewi which changes the drop-down menu into miniaturized view of all my desktops, and I can grab and drag windows and applications easily from one desktop to another. You really have to see this work to appreciate it.

In Palette View

If I want to go to a desktop directly I can select it from the ilivei icons in my menu bar. These icons are thumbnails of all my desktops and show which is active (highlighted in blue) and whatis going on in the other desktops. I can readily know which desktop is represented by which icon by mousing over them so that the desktop name appears, and a simple click takes me to the desktop directly. Also You Control: Desktops will send any alert window to the desktop Iim currently in. So, for example, when my download in the Web desktop completes while I reviewing mail in my Email desktop, the download alert will pop up in my Email desktop. Nice!

In Menu View

You Control: Desktops gives me complete control over how my applications and windows work with virtual desktops. The Preference Panel is efficiently laid out, and while it may not seem intuitive at first, I quickly understood the logic behind the preference groupings.

Preference or iConfigurei Panel

A Small Smudge

In fact, the only thing I can find to fault You Control: Desktops for is the wording it uses for the preference panel and the odd way in which you call it up.

Every Mac application I know of lets you left-click on the application name in the menu bar to get to the preference menu, but because You Control: Desktops does not run the same way other application do, it has no name in the menu bar. Instead, its presence is indicated by iconized virtual widows and a menu drop-down button.

Youid think you should be able to get to everything from that drop-down menu button, but youid be wrong. You right-click anywhere in the You Control: Desktops menu bar area to bring up the menu that lets you get to your preferences, but it isnit called ipreferencesi, it is called iConfigurei. As far as I can tell there isnit any other difference between the menu you get from the button or the one you get from right-clicking.

Youill also note that you donit iquiti You Control Desktops, you iStop Enginei. (Weird)

Why You Software decided to do it this way is beyond me, but itis a minor nit in an otherwise major utility.

I also have a request: It would be nice if I could configure You Control Desktops to switch screens vertically as well as horizontally. Currently when you mouse to either the right or left edge of your screen the desktop will switch to the next in the series, which is cool, but I like my Dock hidden on the right side of my screen and I find that I sometimes switch desktops inadvertently when Iim trying to bring up my Dock. Moving the Dock to the bottom of the screen helps this, but thatis not where I like it.

The Bottom Line
I am now the owner of nearly infinite desktop real estate made possible by You Software. Iim efficient, happy, and Iive found another reason to love my Mac.

Using virtual desktop is not for everyone, no matter how easy the interface. I suggest you try the demo offered by You Software. It wonit take long for you know if this little application will help you, but Iive a feeling it will and youill be happy to write a check for US$29.95 to make You Control: Desktops a permanent part of your Macis environment.