Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 149 / FEBRUARY 1993 / PAGE S6

How to manage your windows with Windows. (Software Review) (Compute's Getting Started with Windows Utilities) (Evaluation)
by Dan Gookin

There's an interesting, yet obscure part of Windows that's usually overlooked. It's the topic of window management, or the way information is presented on the screen. How you arrange your desktop, and how quickly you can access and view information, is central to making a graphical interface productive instead of being just pretty to look at.

In the world of Windows, your windows can be normal size, maximized to fill the screen, or reduced to a small icon. You can resize and shape a window to suit your fancy; you can tile,. overlap, or cascade multiple windows on the desktop. The problem is that there's no central control room; no one part of Windows in charge of window management.

Starting new applications is under the domain of Windows' Program Manager. While you can start programs in the File Manager, and there are numerous third-party menu systems and launch pads, the Program Manager is where most applications begin their work day. Using the Properties command, you can direct an application to start as a window or an icon. However, you can't direct it to start full screen or half screen.. or predetermine the size of any given application's window. (You can do this with some third-party utilities. For example, the hDC PowerLauncher, a program management and launching utility; will let you preset an application window's exact size when it starts. Other utilities will let you specify icon and maximized window positions on startup.)

Once you have several programs underway, each one's size and position is controlled individually. As a group, you can tile or cascade the windows using the Task Manager.

For example, you can press Ctrl+Esc to pop up the Task Manager and click on the Tile button. Windows will arrange all open application windows (not the icons) so that each uses an equal amount of desktop space. The Cascade option sets all windows to an equal size and overlaps them, each slightly offset from the one behind it. Yet even this is a feeble attempt at organizing your information

Take a Giant Stop

One way to solve the woes of a cluttered desktop is to make the desktop larger. There are some expensive solutions to this problem. You can buy a larger monitor, which naturally displays more information. Or you can go for one of the multiple monitor solutions available. This is cool--some VGA cards can work in tandem to control up to four different Windows monitors, each displaying a small part of a larger desktop. Although it works, paying for the extra hardware puts this beyond the budget of most people.

Most of us don't realize that Windows can handle more than one monitor. it's an old trick. Actually, the desktop you see on your screen is only a small part of a larger area. That larger area is referred to as the virtual display area. For example, you can take a window and slide it off to the side of the screen. The window vanishes from view, but it's still there--intact and off in virtual desktop space. If that weren't true, the window would be destroyed, or as in the old Space Wars video game, you'd see the other side of the window wrap around to the other side of your monitor.

The actual size of the virtual display area is huge. Your monitor only displays a small, screen-sized chunk of it--and that's all it can :display unless you buy additional monitors. However, there are ways you can slide around your monitor's window to see more of the desktop. This works just like the scroll bars in a word processor or painting program that let you see the larger area you're working on. To take advantage of the larger desktop, all you need is a utility that can map portions of the desktop to be visibly displayed on your, monitor. One such utility is Bigdesk (SP Services, P.O. Box 456, Southampton, United Kingdom SO9 7XG).

Similar to Back Menu, a pop-up menu and task-switching utility also from SP Services, Bigdesk doesn't mess around. Everything is straighforward; there are no tricks, no panel of buttons or multi-level menus to dumbfound you.

Immediately after running Bigdesk, your desktop will be increased nine-fold. The Bigdesk window shows you an overview of Windows' virtual desktop. There are nine squares, each representing a different part of your desktop. Any open windows or icons also are visible on the desktop.

To view another area of