Desktop Managers II

Timeslip of the day: Saving Time

I’m supposed to be gearing up for NaNoWriMo, so of course I geeked instead, downloading desktop manager demos for You Control:Desktops and CodeTek Virtual Desktops (CTVD). So now I can do a three-way comparison of them and the free, open-source Desktop Manager:

There’s nothing like free software, and Desktop Manager has freedom going for it. It also has enough features to satisfy the average cheapskate such as yours truly. Development seems to have stalled, but development is pretty slow on the other two as well so it’s hard to say which product is the most moribund. Desktop Manager felt the most stable of the three on Tiger.

YouControl has some nice features, like separate desktops for each virtual desktop. (The others show all you desktop icons on every desktop.) YouControl has nice OS X transitions (the fast user-switching Cube, etc.), but unfortunately they go backwards most of the time, making them highly annoying. (DesktopManager has transitions that work correctly; CTVD has no transitions.)

The major downside of YouControl is the linear desktop model. They’re very cute up there in the menu bar (on those rare occasions when program menus don’t hide them), but virtual desktops are traditionally paged through with a grid pager like that of Desktop Manager and CTVD. Paging through my six to nine desktops linearly just takes too long. But I think the real reason I gave it up was that it required a control click on the menubar icon in order to access the preferences or shut the thing down. Requiring right-clicks for anything is against the Apple Human Interface Guidelines.

CTVD follows the HIG very nicely indeed, though it’s behind the times on the fun transitions. Besides the preference settings for individual app behavior (which YouControl also has but Desktop Manager makes you set manually, window-by-window), CTVD also has a handy interface for setting separate desktop wallpaper. YouControl makes you do this manually with System Preferences; Desktop Manager crashed when I tried to do the same. CTVD also implements that pinnacle of all Unix features, focus-follows-mouse, as well as other subtle but handy features. The link to the pager skins page is wrong; the real page is here. On the down side, it seems to be a bit of a resource hog compared to the other two.

To pay for CTVD or go back to Desktop Manager, that is the question. I’ll see how the 15 days of my demo go and report back.

2 Responses to “Desktop Managers II”

  1. Lori Says:

    YouControl looks like what Tiger does when you switch between logins. One could create logins like “writing” and “programming” and “games” then switch between them whenever needed.

  2. Jemima Says:

    What desktop switchers really do is hide and reveal windows according to which virtual desktop you’re on. This is probably quicker that changing users, and creates no permission issues.