Using multiple desktops: Steps 1-8 Multiple desktops don’t have to mean multiple computers. Dexpot emulates features built in to Linux operating systems and OS X, and splits your machine up into a number of distinct workspaces.

You might do your accounts on one, your art on another, your filing on a third. However you choose to use them, you’ll be more efficient than before.

This method keeps all your windows and applications separate and neat, but doesn’t restrict you. Just as with real desks, you’re free to take work from one and put it on another, or move one out of the room if you find you don’t really need that much space.

Using multiple Windows desktops with Dexpot will make your life so much easier, you’ll wonder why you didn’t give it a try sooner.

1. Run the installer

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First, double-click the Dexpot install package to get things started, and click ‘Yes’ if the User Account Control window appears. Click ‘OK’ to select English as your language, then the installation wizard will start. Remember to close any other programs you have open to make sure the installation process goes smoothly.

2. Complete the wizard

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The wizard makes installation a breeze. Click ‘Next’, click ‘I accept’ on the licence agreement page, then click the check box to confirm that you’ll be using Dexpot for private purposes. Click ‘Next’ twice, select ‘Do not install Internet Explorer 9′ (unless you want to for some masochistic reason) then click ‘Install’.

3. Your first run

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Once the files have been installed, click ‘Finish’ and Dexpot will run automatically. It might look like nothing has happened, but on Windows 7 you should be able to see a blue Dexpot icon with a number 1 on it – click it once and you’ll see the set of four independent desktops that are installed by default.

4. Activate SevenDex

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During our tests, we discovered that restarting made that fancy icon disappear. So restart your PC, run Dexpot, and see if it comes back. If not, check the system tray, right-click the blue ‘Dexpot’ icon, click ‘Settings’, select ‘Plugins and extras’, and then check the box next to ‘SevenDex’ to switch it back on.

5. Alternative switcher

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You don’t have to use SevenDex to flit between your litany of desktops – indeed, you can’t if you’re running Windows XP or Windows Vista. The alternative is nestling in that tray icon we used earlier – right-click it, then click Desktop Manager to bring up a custom overlaid desktop switcher. You’ll need to use this in the following steps if you can’t access SevenDex.

6. Switching desktops

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It’s time for a quick test of Dexpot’s functionality: click on the taskbar icon, then the second desktop in the set. You’ll see the number on the Dexpot icon change to ’2′ to indicate you’re now on Desktop 2. Run any program – your web browser, for example – then click the Dexpot icon and switch back to the first desktop. The browser, and its taskbar icon, has disappeared.

7. Moving programs

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Only it hasn’t really disappeared. That’s sort of the point of multiple desktops. Click the icon, then click desktop 2 andyou’ll see that your browser is still open, it’s just filed on the second screen. To quickly move it to the first desktop, just hold down [Alt]and [Shift], and press the number key that corresponds to the desktop you want the window to go to.

8. Quick switching

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Clicking icons to jump between desktops can be a bit clumsy. The default keyboard shortcut for quick movement is [Alt] and [x], where x is the number of the desktop you wish to switch to. You can hit [Windows]+[W] to bring up a handy visual desktop switcher, or [Windows]+[Q] to hunt down a particular application among all of your active desktops. We find the latter shortcut particularly handy.

9. Background information

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Time to add some flair to your desktops and personalise each one. First, let’s tell Dexpot that we want to look after each background individually. Right-click the icon, click on ‘Configure desktops’, select the desktop on the left that you want to personalise, then click the Background tab. Click ‘Browse’, then agree to enabling background configuration by choosing ‘Yes’.

10. Choose your wallpaper

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Now you need to dig out the background you want to use. You can use something from your Pictures folder, or hunt down the Windows default backgrounds – you’ll find them in C:WindowsWebWallpaper. Repeat the process for each of your desktops for a unique look. It might help to use textures or images appropriate to different tasks.

11. See everything

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It’s quite possible to get a bit lost if you’re using many desktops at once. The full-screen preview is a useful tool for getting an overall view of what’s going on. Press [Windows] and [F3] at the same time to bring up a fancy grid showing you the current contents of all your current desktops. Now you just need to click on one of the desktops to bring it to the front.

12. More desktops

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Four desktops not enough? Fine! You can have up to 20 desktops running at any one time, or reduce the number if it suits you. Right-click the Dexpot icon, left-click on ‘Settings’, then make sure ‘’ is selected on the left. The number of desktops can be chosen in the uppermost box. While it’s certainly possible to run 20 desktops, it can get a little draining on the hardware, so choose carefully.

13. Using the cube

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Stay in the Settings window, click ‘Plugins and settings’, then tick the box next to DexCube. This implements a cool plug-in that pretties up the way your desktops switch – try moving left and right between your desktops using [Ctrl] and [Alt] and arrow keys to see the fancy 3D effect in action. Yes, Linux users have had this sort of thing for years so it’s not new, but it’s still rather nice.

14. Taskbar tweaking

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If you’re using Windows 7, you can make the most of empty space on your taskbar to display a quick at-a-glance preview of your desktops, complete with representations of the open windows. In the same Settings menu as before, just switch on Taskbar Pager – click and drag icons on it to move them between desktops.

15. Find a window

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The with all these desktops is that organisation can go too far, and things can go missing. Hit [Windows]+[F2] to bring up the Window Catalogue, right-click on the desktop name at the top, then click All desktops to show all your open windows – click the one you want to go immediately to its desktop. OS X users will recognise this as a clever facsimile of Exposé.

16. Make the most of your multiple desktops

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So, you’ve set up multiple desktops, you’ve made them look good, and you’ve found numerous ways to manage them, from taskbar switching to keyboard shortcuts. Dexpot has a host more features to explore, but now it’s up to you to poke around and find out what more it can do. We’ll give you a clue: it can do a lot more.

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Tutorial: Using multiple Windows desktops with Dexpot