Desktop Manager

I’m convinced that no computer display is large enough. What we need are strategies to better manage our computer workspace and application windows. Exposé and tabbed browsing are great features, but what I really want is the equivalent of a file folder. You put all of the relevant documents in a folder and then put it aside for when you need it. Once you’re ready, you open up the folder and are ready to go.

A feature that comes close to this is virtual desktops. I became enamoured with these while running KDE and have found them again for OS X with Desktop Manager. The idea is to create workspaces associated with specific tasks as a virtual desktop. You can then switch between these desktops as you move from one project to the next. So, for each of the projects I am currently working on, I’ve created a desktop with each application’s windows in the appropriate place. For a consulting project, I likely have Aquamacs running an R simulation with a terminal window open for updating my subversion repository. A project in the writing stage requires TeXShop and BibDesk, while a web-design project needs TextMate and Camino. Each of these workspaces is independent and I can quickly switch to them when needed. Since the applications are running with their windows in the appropriate place, I can quickly get back to work on the project at hand.

Application windows can be split across desktops and specific windows can be present across all desktops. I’ve also found it useful to have one desktop for communication (email, messaging, etc.) and another that has no windows open at all.