Virtual desktops are very common in Unix/Linux distributions, letting you divide up your work and switch between multiple desktops — serving as a cheap alternative to having multiple monitors.
You might not know there are many software programs out there that make this possible in Windows, and here we'll introduce some of the better options available. These could be useful for your Windows clients or Windows Servers, especially if you're used to the virtual desktop concept already.
Dexpot is a feature-rich virtual desktop manager that offers up to 20 virtual desktops. It's provided free for private use and is approximately $32 (or lower with multi-license discounts) for commercial use after a 30-day trial. It supports Windows OSes up to Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 with 64-bit support. Additional plug-ins can add enhancements, and it's also available as a portable application.
Dexpot offers some neat features, like live thumbnail previews of the virtual desktops on the taskbar of Windows 7 and later. Additionally, you have the ability to right-click windows to move and copy them between virtual desktops and configure other settings for that particular window/program.
Virtual Dimension is another free feature-rich virtual desktop manager offering support for an unlimited number of desktops. It's an open source project, distributed under the GNU Public License. The downside is that its latest release was in July 2005, and it lists Windows XP as the highest officially support version, so it doesn't appear to be actively developed at this time. Nevertheless, it offers many features and may work in newer versions of Windows.
nSpaces is a fairly advanced virtual desktop manager offered for free for non-commercial users. It offers some of the same features as the previous two solutions but also allows you to password protect the virtual desktops, which can be useful if you share a Windows account with other users.
VirtuaWin is a free, open source project, distributed under the GNU General Public License, officially supporting up to Windows 7 with 64-bit support. The base software program provides relatively simple functionality with up to four virtual desktops, but many modules allow you to add additional features. In addition to a regular Windows install, a portable version and support are also provided.
Desktops' virtual desktop approach differs from most other managers, making it lightweight and more reliable, but it doesn't allow advanced functionality like moving windows between desktops. It does, however, at least provide thumbnail previews of switching via its tray icon.
Eric Geier is a freelance tech writer -- keep up with his writings on Facebook. He's also the founder of NoWiresSecurity, a cloud-based Wi-Fi security service, and On Spot Techs, an on-site computer services company.