If you feel like your desktop is getting too crowded and you’re the type that works with a lot of shortcuts and opened windows & applications, a program such as BetterDesktopTool might be just the right solution. This free application lets you switch between open windows quickly, provides virtual desktops and offers plenty of navigation and access shortcuts.
BetterDesktopTool has a simple setup with no adware or third-party applications included. Supporting Windows Vista SP2, Windows 7 SP1 and Windows 8, BetterDesktopTool also requires Microsoft .NET Framework 4.0, Aero Glass enabled and a sufficient graphics card.
The installer includes the Standard Edition (free for non-commercial use) and a 30-day trial of the Professional Edition. In this review we will be analyzing the Standard Edition.
BetterDesktopTool’s UI is actually its settings panel, organized in three tabs. The Window & Desktop Overview tab lets you define shortcuts for showing the desktop and all/foreground app/non-minimized/minimized windows. For any of the above mentioned actions you can set keyboard and/or mouse shortcuts but also use “hot corners” which basically turns any of the four corners of the screen into a shortcut. Because showing multiple windows at once on the screen can result in a mess, the program provides the option of arranging them into a regular grid. Additionally you can also choose to move all windows to the primary screen, show only top-level windows and enable mouse wheel and keyboard(via Tab/arrow key) window selection and exclude any window from being affected by any of the provided actions.
BetterDesktopTool offers up to 64 virtual desktops and the related settings for this feature reside in the Virtual-Desktop tab. Shortcuts can be defined for showing an overview of all virtual desktops, switching between them and moving the foreground window to another virtual desktop. If an application on another virtual desktop is launched you can choose what should happen with it. For easier navigation between virtual desktops, this feature also has hot edges. You can move windows between virtual desktops by dragging them to the edges of the screen, switch between virtual desktops when the mouse cursor hits the screen edges and show a red arrow when there is no virtual desktop neighboring the edge.
Just like the window overview, the desktop overview can also be ordered. Depending on how many virtual desktops you want, you can choose anything between 2×2 and 8×8 display formats.
The General settings include the option of automatically starting BetterDesktopTool at system boot and automated update checks. A few other settings are available, including the possibility of disabling all shortcuts while an application runs in fullscreen (which is enabled by default), disabling the animation for window/desktop/virtual desktop overviews, ask to restore applications from hidden virtual desktops before shutdown/log off and enable multi-touch gesture support for touchpads.
- Free for non-commercial use.
- Offers customizable shortcuts via keyboard and mouse for various actions such as showing the desktop, all windows, minimized/non-minimized windows and foreground app windows.
- The corners of the screen can also be used as shortcuts (hot corners).
- Users can have up to 64 virtual desktops, with customizable overview and shortcuts.
- Automated update checks.
- None worth mentioning.
BetterDesktopTool might come with plenty of settings, but it’s certainly not hard to use. The provided shortcuts and virtual desktops included within the program can certainly ease up handling multiple open windows if some time is dedicated for tweaking the tool.