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18 things Vista & XP need to beat Linux & Mac OS X

What Windows needs to be the best once more

There's no doubt that Microsoft Windows is the biggest and the most widely used PC operating system - but it's not necessarily the best. Here are 18 things we'd like to see as standard in the next Windows.

Virtual workspaces

Available on: Linux, PC-BSD, Mac

Linux users have long enjoyed the freedom to keep large numbers of applications running simultaneously, without being overwhelmed by screen clutter, thanks to the power of virtual workspaces.

In a typical Linux installation, at boot time four workspaces spring into existence automatically, signified by a little map on the control panel in the corner of the screen. As the user opens more programs, thumbnail icons of them appear in the workspace switcher, indicating which program windows are running in each workspace.

To change workspaces, the user simply clicks the appropriate area on the workspace switcher or uses a keystroke combination such as Shift and Right Arrow to move between them.

With multiple workspaces comes the ability to organise the Linux desktop environment by task, by application type, by priority, or any other way you care to slice it. It's particularly handy for keeping a handful of applications out of sight and out of mind, without having to shut them down.

For instance, we like to keep my messaging and communications apps in a separate workspace from my document-creation programs as a way of staying focused while we work.

Apple added this concept to OS X with the launch of Leopard in October 2007, although Leopard's Spaces feature lacks dynamic thumbnails (something its Linux forebears offer) in the Dock icon. To get workspaces on Windows, however, you'll have to do some downloading.

XP users have an easy solution with the Microsoft Virtual Desktop Manager, a free download from Microsoft's PowerToys collection.

For Vista, you must turn to one of several third-party utilities. My favorite among them is a freebie called Dexpot, which offers a wide variety of configuration options.

Back to my Mac

Available on: Mac

Nothing quite matches the feeling you get when you sit down at your office desk, boot up your PC, and realise that the most recent version of the document you've been working on is stranded 50 miles away on your home machine.

If both of your computers were Macs running Leopard, you could use Back to My Mac (coupled with Apple's £50-per-year .Mac service) to fire up a connection to the remote computer, grab whatever files you need, and even navigate the other machine's desktop as if you were sitting right in front of it.

If either of your PCs are running Windows, however, all the .Mac accounts in the world won't help you.

Instead, try GoToMyPC. At a base price of £108 per PC per year, this service ain't cheap. But it does give you unfettered access to your Windows computer from any web browser.

NEXT PAGE: How to screen share and use time machine in Windows

  1. Apple's Exposé
  2. Virtual workspaces and remote computing
  3. How to screen share and use time machine in Windows
  4. Don't live without ISO burning and stickies when using Windows
  5. Podcast capture and software repositories
  6. Turn your desktop into a rotating cube
  7. Get automated and partial screenshots on your Windows PC
  8. Cover Flow and a pre-installed web server
  9. Enjoy POSIX compliance on your Windows PC
  10. Single file applications on Windows

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