Alternatives to Apple Spaces

Almost a year ago Apple gave us Leopard (OS X 10.5), and along with it came virtual desktops for the masses, in the form of Spaces. For many this was an interesting new way to expand their workspace virtually. For the rest of us [power users?] it was a letdown in execution. What was worse, the third party options looked to be dwindling as well. Last November I called for third party developers to bring the competition – let’s take a look at the result of that call to arms.

We’ll start with the non-contenders of the bunch, of which, sadly are most of them…

Desktop Manager

Desktop Manager was dead long ago. R.I.P. Desktop Manager. However, if you’re still getting by on a 4 or so year old Mac with the likes of OS X 10.2 installed, I highly recommend this application for virtual desktops. No Joke. While it was buggy, it was still my favorite back in the day.

Virtue Desktops

As I mentioned in last year’s post, Virtue Desktops was the first victim to fall to Apple’s Spaces. Virtue was born of the Desktop Manager code, and was a great successor. But ultimately, the developer (Tony Arnold) wasn’t willing to take on the juggernaut. But in other news, Tony has an interesting project brewing along these lines – more on this in a few…

CodeTek Virtual Desktop

When I started writing on this post a week or so ago, I sent out emails to developers, looking for any news. I never heard back from CodeTek. A check of their website offers nothing more than a Tiger-compatible beta that expired back in July of this year. Since OS X 10.4 (Tiger) is about three and a half years old, I’m going ahead and writing the $40 CodeTek Virtual Desktop option out of this equation. (Should I hear anything from CodeTek to the contrary, I’ll update this post accordingly.)

You Software’s Desktops

You Software was the one developer I got a response from, and as luck would have it, they were putting the finishing touches on releasing their Leopard-compatible 1.3 version of Desktops. In one of my very early posts here on The Apple Blog, I reviewed all of these Virtual Desktop options, and You Software’s application was one I enjoyed enough to purchase. Desktops thrives on giving users oodles of configuration options (something Spaces lacks almost completely) to create the ideal virtual workspace on an individual basis.

If you can’t stand Spaces’ limitations or quirks, do head over and try Desktops out for yourself. If you like it, a license will set you back $29.95.

Apple Spaces

Call it the Stockholm syndrome if you like, but I’ll admit that Spaces has endeared itself to me over the past eleven months. (That is of course, once Apple fixed the problem – or rather, offered an opt-out – where switching to an application on a blank desktop would transport you to the desktop where that application already had a window open.)

I really love the ability to zoom out (Expos̩ style) and see Рin full screen Рthe pager-esque view of all my desktops at once. The cherry on top is then being able to execute my Expose commands to see all the windows that are open across all desktops. This really is a killer feature.

But Spaces still lacks some of those ‘luxury’ options that Desktops offers. Enter, Hyperspaces.

Hyperspaces

As I mentioned above, Tony Arnold (Former Virtue developer) has turned his free time to an interesting project. This is it. Hyperspaces proclaims to be an extension for Apple’s Spaces to provide the kind of custom configuration that currently only Desktops can give you on the Leopard platform. The application extension is currently in a closed beta stage, so you can’t go try it yourself just yet. Likewise, I haven’t yet had the opportunity to dabble with Hyperspaces myself, but am hoping to hear back from Tony soon. When I do, I’ll be sure to post what I can here.

I’m excited about the potential that Hyperspaces represents. Given that I’ve settled in to a comfortable relationship with Spaces and its functionality (or lack thereof, depending on your stance), Hyperspaces may just be the BAM! that Spaces needs.

I am still disappointed that more developers haven’t stepped-up to fill the void in this application space. You Software and Tony Arnold seem to be the only ones toiling away, and to them I give my thanks. You Desktops and Hyperspaces don’t represent a plethora of virtual desktop options, but they’re fighting the good fight. After all, without competition, improvements and stability of any software could take an eternity. Not that Apple feels the pressure of these two developers, but wouldn’t it be great if others began to push the limits of this type of software? I mean, we’ve got probably two dozen FTP options out there – how about some more virtual desktop offerings for crying out loud?!

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