One thing that I can clearly remember dabbling with back during the Windows XP era was the Virtual Desktop Manager. If you’re not familiar with it (or are using XP to read this right now) it is/was available as part of Microsoft’s PowerToys pack, which never again saw the light of day in other versions of Windows (Vista’s pack was complete crap). The software gave you four virtual desktops, but they were all separate – you couldn’t, for example, send an open application to another window like you can in Linux, or OS X spaces. According to some recent leaks on NeoWin, though, it seems that Microsoft is ready to revisit having multiple desktops with Windows 9.
NeoWin doesn’t have a source cited for their claim, but they’ve been putting out a lot of interesting Windows 9 (codenamed Threshold) coverage over the past few months and there doesn’t seem to be any logical reason to lie this early into the game. Threshold is due for a public preview in April 2015 and more than likely will see a launch sometime in October 2015.
“Microsoft is considering bringing virtual desktops to Windows Threshold,” writes NeoWin’s Brad Sams. “The feature, which is already on other platforms like Ubuntu and OS X is currently being tested and is said to have similar functionality to that of Ubuntu. You can activate the desktops with a button on the taskbar (subject to change) and there are keyboard shortcuts that let you jump between active desktops.”
I’d personally like to see this implemented for the single reason that it would solve the biggest issue with owning a laptop or netbook – you’re usually stuck with a single desktop. Windows 8 lay down the foundation for this by making the desktop appear as another full-screen app insode the Modern UI interface. It would be much easier now to introduce users to the idea that they could have multiple desktop “apps” running at the same time, switching between them as needed using hotkey shortcuts, switching via the Superbar or notification tray, doing it through the Start Menu or swiping in from the right on a touch-compatible monitor.
It may also end up being something very similar or possibly better than Apple’s OS X Spaces, but as with all things Microsoft, they always make one positive change in Windows and two negative ones because they can’t keep their design philosophies centered across all the groups working on Windows 9. I look forward to having native virtual desktop functionality in Windows 9, fingers crossed.