BetterDesktopTool is a free utility that enables you to turn the corners of the screen into hotspots and assign actions to them. It is an excellent utility that makes Windows easier to use.
PCs and Macs are very different and Windows is nothing like macOS, apart from broad features like windows, icons, menus and mouse pointers. If you use both computer platforms or are switching from one to the other, you may wish that they were more alike. Features that you use often on one, like a Mac, are irritating and can slow down your productivity when you switch to the other, a PC.
An example of a useful feature on the Mac that is not on the PC is Hot Corners. Push the mouse into a corner of the screen and it can trigger an action of some sort, like blanking the screen, or any one of several other actions you can define.
PCs do not have Hot Corners, at least not built into Windows, but the feature can easily be added with a utility. BetterDesktopTool is one of several available and it works well. It also has several other useful features, some of which are also borrowed from macOS. Let’s take a look.
Set up hot corners in Windows
Download and install BetterDesktopTool, which is a Windows utility that is free for personal use. Run it and there is a single window with three tabs. On the Windows & Desktop Overview tab, you can assign actions to the corners of the screen.
There are five actions:
- Show all windows
- Show foreground app windows
- Show desktop
- Show non-minimized windows
- Show minimized windows
That is five actions and there are only four corners on the screen, so you must choose which ones you want to use. You can, in fact, use all of the functions by assigning some of them to keyboard shortcuts or mouse buttons, like the middle mouse button (press the scroll wheel down).
It is useful to assign actions to some of the functions keys, so if you want to keep your hands on the keyboard, you can hit F2, F3 and so on instead of reaching for the mouse and pushing it into a corner of the screen.
The way that it works is very Mac-like and Show all windows shows all the programs on the desktop without overlapping. It shrinks them to fit and clicking a window switches to it. This makes it easy to switch from the top window to another one that is buried underneath several others.
You can Alt+Tab between programs, which is a standard Windows feature, but you may prefer this method instead because it has more features. For example, you can choose to show only minimzed windows or only non-mimized windows, which acts like a filter and only shows the windows you want rather than a long list.
Create virtual desktops in Windows
When multiple programs are being run at the same time, sometimes the desktop is not big enough and this is a problem that most laptop users experience. Open two, three or more programs or windows and it is impossible to place them so that they do not overlap. It makes the screen display messy and windows behind windows are distracting.
The solution is virtual desktops, which is a bit like having a multi-monitor setup, but with only one screen. You can place programs and windows on separate virtual desktops and switch between them. You could have one program or windows per desktop for example.
Windows has virtual desktops built in and you just need to click the Task View button at the left side of the taskbar and click the plus button at the top to add a new desktop. Click a desktop thumbnail at the top of the screen to switch from one to another.
BetterDesktopTool has its own virtual desktop system. In some ways it is similar, but it has some extra features and a slightly different way of working which you may prefer. For example, Windows creates desktops in a horizontal line, so to get from desktop one to four using the keyboard you must switch to desktop two first, then three and then four. It is possible to switch directly from one to four using the mouse by going through Task View, but it is slow.
BetterDesktopTool enables the virtual desktops to be placed in a grid so that desktop two is one step to the right of desktop one and desktop four is one step down. Press Ctrl+right or down arrows and you can move from one desktop to another faster than with Windows Task View virtual desktops.
It is also possible to switch between virtual desktops by pushing the mouse to the edge of the screen. Push it left and after about a second, it switches to the desktop on the left. Push it right and it switches to the desktop on the right. Similarly, the top and bottom screen edges switch to the desktop above or below the current one in the grid.
In some ways, the virtual desktops are very useful, but in other ways they can be confusing. It is because Windows has different types of windows. An application like a web browser, word processor, photo editor and so on, appears on a single virtual desktop. You can select desktop two for example, and open Chrome, then select desktop three and open Notepad.
Some windows appear on all desktops, so if Calculator is opened, it appears on all desktops. This can useful, but other apps, like Microsoft To-Do, News, Maps, and similar apps (Windows store or UWP apps), also appear on all desktops. It is only traditional 64/32-bit desktop apps that can appear on a single virtual desktop.
Does BetterDesktopTool make a better desktop?
This free utility adds some useful features to Windows window and desktop management. Switching between windows and desktops is often easier and quicker than using Windows built-in features.
It adds features that you may be familiar with on the Mac and if you have never used a Mac, you should try BetterDesktopTool and see what you are missing. Once you get used to the way it works, you will probably find yourself using it a lot.