How many application windows do you have open on your computer right now? If you’re a developer, it’s likely more than enough to fill up your windows taskbar. Do you ever have to go hunt to find that window you know you have open somewhere? Do you wish that there was a way to organize all of those windows in a more productive manner? Well, a Virtual Window Manager (VWM) may be just what you need.
A Virtual Window Manager creates multiple ‘screens’ for you to open your application windows on. You see one of these virtual screens at a time, and can easily switch between them. People who’ve explored Linux and UNIX have likely already seen a VWM in action, as they’re often a part of the GUI’s of those operating systems. Most windows users haven’t been exposed to the idea, although apps have been available to provide the functionality for some time.
I’m a big fan of virtual window managers and have been using the GPL’d Virtuawin for many years. It’s a small VWM app with lots of features and it’s light on resources. And if the feature you’re looking for isn’t built in, several modules or plugins have been written for it that add features. I even contributed a little bit of code to the project back in 2007 – an enhancement to the SwitchDesk plugin that allows you to set different background images for each screen.
I typically use three screens in my VWM setup. Then, when I open up an application on one screen it only shows there and the other two screens are empty until I open up an application on them. Thus, you can organize what you do on your computer in productive ways. For example, I typically organize my windows in this way:
- Screen 1 – Development and database apps
- Screen 2 – Email, IM, documents, etc.
- Screen 3 – Web browsers, notes
There are, of course, many additional features offered in these VWM’s. You can make a window “sticky” so that is shows up on all of your screens instead of just one of them. You can easily move windows between your different screens. For example, I’ll often move my web browser over to my ‘Development’ screen to follow along with something I found to help me with my work, and move it back when I’m done. You could set up different background images for each screen, or set titles that display when you switch screens. I like these options, as they give me a visual cue of which screen I am on. You can display a little visual “pager” that shows you a small representation of each of your screens and the apps on them. You could even set the VWM up to only show certain desktop icons on each screen.
Virtual window managers are a great way to organize the apps you run and the work you do into seperate spaces. If you haven’t tried using a VWM before, I highly recommend it. Have any questions about VWM’s or how to use them? Feel free to comment below.