One thing that Microsoft has always excelled at is making its operating system customizable, and what the company does not do, third-party services make up for. Stardock is one of the premier makers and has been especially popular since the release of Windows 8, thanks in large part to bringing back the Start Menu, but it is far from the only one.
This all brings us to BetterDesktop Tool. This app is not for bringing back the long-lost Start Button and Menu, but it certainly brings plenty of functionality along.
Get the App
Head over to the BetterDesktop Tool web site and you will find two choices — there are standard and pro versions, with the Standard option being free. Both versions are contained within the download package. Commercial users must purchase a license and can try BetterDesktopTool Professional Edition free for 30 days. The app is compatible with both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows.
During the installation process you will be prompted to choose between “Private Usage” and “Commercial Usage (30 Day Trial)”. The app requires only 1.5 MB of free disk space. There are no toolbars or other software included in the app and installation is extremely fast.
Only three tabs garner the top of the screen — “Windows and Desktop Overview”, “Virtual-Desktop” and “General”. All have a rather geeky look to them, but they are less scary once you understand what each can do. The app is capable of a lot, but we will hit the highlights here to get you introduced to all of the functionality that BetterDesktop Tool brings along.
Windows and Desktop Overview
This is the first of those geeky looking screens I mentioned, but do not let appearances put you off. It is not as scary as it may at first look. First there are several dropdown menus that allow you to set options, which as Ctrl-Tab or Alt-Tab, for a range of choices, and these can be to not only keystrokes, but also mouse clicks and “hot corners”.
- Show all windows
- Show foreground app windows
- Show desktop
- Show non-minmized windows
- Show desktop
Mouse options include the usual – left, middle and right buttons. Hot corners are areas of the screen – top and bottom right and top and bottom left.
Other options on this tab include “Arrange windows in a regular grid”, “Move all windows to primary screen” and “Show top-level windows only”.
There are also two buttons at the bottom right of the screen — Exclude Window and Reset Excluded Windows. The first will propt you with instructions. “To exclude a window start window-overview (show all windows) and right-click the window you want to exclude. Select the corresponding menu item and the window will be excluded”. The latter button does the opposite.
By default, Virtual Desktop is enabled as is “Move windows between virtual-desktops by dragging them to the screen edges for a time”. Howeveryou can disable these and also choose from a number of options.
The “Show virtual desktop” option has similar dropdown menus for keyboard, mouse and hot corners. You can choose what occurs when another application on a virtual desktop gets activated — move it, switch it or make the app global.
“Direct switching” also has options for keyboard shortcuts, as well as moving and switching. Finally, there is an option forthe amount and arrangement of windows that appear on your screen. By default, this is set four – two wide and two high. However, both of these can be changed by clicking the up and down arrows to the right of each number.
The “General” tab has six options, the first three of which are enabled by default.
- Start Program with Windows
- Check for updates on start
- Disable all shortcuts when a fullscreen application is running (e.g. games)
- Disable animation for window, desktop and virtual-desktop overview
- Ask to restore applications from hidden virtual desktops before shutdown/logoff (blocks shutdown)
- Enable multitouch-gesture support for designated touchpads
Below this, there are two button at thebottom of the screen — “Check for update” and “About and License”. Both options do exactly as the names describe.
- Arranges all windows in a non overlapping layout. Allows selection of an arbitrary window to bring it to the foreground.
- Can be applied to minimized, non-minimized and foreground application windows.
- Supports Multi-Monitor setups.
- Moves all windows away from your desktop to give you access to Desktop-Shortcuts and Sidebar-Gadgets.
- Supports Multi-Monitor setups.
- Configuration of Mouse and Keyboard shortcuts for all functions.
- Configuration of Hot-Corners for all functions.
As I said back at the beginning, there are countless applications for customizing Windows. BetterDesktop Tool is perhaps one the better ones, as it allows the user to set all sorts of shortcuts using the the keyboard and mouse and even screen corners. The app is also free and comes with no malware or toolbars that attempt to install themselves in the setup process.
The company also points out that support for window selection by keyboard shortcuts will also follow soon in the next version. The company regularly updates its app, so you can expect to get regular new features and bug fixes.