Expose for Windows?

Filed under: — 12:15 pm

I’ve been playing with Macintosh computers in stores lately, and one of my favorite features is Exposé. Today my wife found an O’Reilly Article that mentions three Exposé-alike programs for Windows, all shareware in the $10 range. Here’s my quickie review of all three plus another option:

  • Winplosion: I tried this one and it works, although the animation is a bit clumsy (and this is a fast Windows XP machine.) You can set it to use F9 just like the Mac, but you have to press ESC rather than F9 again to exit. Worse, while it was running in the background I experienced some nasty delays—my computer suddenly couldn’t keep up with my typing. Needless to say, I uninstalled it quickly.
  • Entbloess: I read a brief review here that mentions that it (1) crashed, and (2) messed up the order for Alt-Tab switching. That’s enough to convince me to avoid it entirely.
  • Exposer for Windows: I tried to configure this one to use F9 as the hotkey, but it requires a Ctrl, Alt, Shift, or Windows key modifier, which misses the point of making it work just like a Mac. It makes no attempt to do graceful Apple-style animation when you hit the hotkey, and is slow—I actually laughed the first time I hit Alt-F9 and watched the windows disappear one at a time over a few seconds. It did speed up on subsequent uses, though, and at least it doesn’t crash or slow down the machine.
  • TopDesk: The article missed this one, but I found it in a Google search. It defaults to the Mac standard F9 key, and the animation is the best I’ve seen outside a Mac—but there’s still a disconcerting 2-second delay between the keypress and the animation. The tiled windows look great, changing color as you hover the mouse over them, and the window-opening animation is perfect. Alt-Tab seems to work normally. It’s even smart enough to know that Konfabulator isn’t a normal application that it should tile. If not for that delay and the hefty system requirements, it would be a great choice.

Conclusion: If I were desperate for this feature, I’d go with TopDesk. But that’s just the point—nobody is desperate for this feature. It’s a convenient luxury, but it’s not worth spending money or destabilizing your system, and if it’s the slightest bit slow, you may as well use the taskbar instead. So the snarky comment under the O’Reilly article that says “Just get a Mac” is, essentially, correct.

26 responses to “Expose for Windows?”

  1. Matt says:

    This post was very helpful for me in finding a good expose clone for windows. I tried enbloess first, and found it to be a little slugish. Then I tried TopDesk, which didn’t work for me at all. Then I tried Winpolsion, which contrary to your expierence worked surprisingly well on my computer. No pauses or odd behavior at all.

    I thought I’d mention it in case anyone else follows these same digital footprints and is hesitant to try one or the other of these. My conclusion: depending on your system, some or all of these will be crap and some may work as advertised. Oh, and when all else fails, just get a mac :).

  2. Simon says:

    Entbloess = crashed my computer on install, then couldn’t run (from the help it sounds like my 256MB RAM was at fault) WinPlosion = Pointlessly slow and looks horrid – on a mac you can almost read the iconified windows TopDesk = the best so far it installs and runs “out of the box”, the animation is relatively smooth and you can (just about) read the windows when they are iconified.

    On all three: Why use hide windows when win+d works infinitely better?

    What really annoys me is that these aren’t free! They all use the Nullsoft installer (free last time I checked) and it’s not like the creators of these clones spent money on R&D they just coded a clone…. If they worked considerably better I’m maybe pay for one.

  3. John says:

    I bought Winplosion version 1.0 (back when it was called WinExpose) with mixed results. Lately I’ve tried it again by upgrading to the latest version. Again the results are varied. It seems to work fine on my laptop, but I’m seeing the same system slow down mentioned here on my desktop. It’s funny that just running this app in the background will cause a Dual proc 3.2G xeon machine to lag behind my typing. Their tech support is less than helpful. So far the comments I’ve seen range from “That problem has already been fixed” to “It can be proven that it is another app at fault and not Winplosion”. Well I can fresh boot and just run Notepad and still see this behavior. They are about to release a new version and I’ll probably give it a try (I paid for this app afterall), but in the mean time I think I’ll try topdesk.

  4. Hey guys, I’m from Otaku Software, the guys who make TopDesk.

    Simon: The reason we have the ability to hide windows it that the hide windows functionality keeps the windows z-order intact, while Win+D doesn’t.

    Regarding the cost of the software, yes, the Nullsoft installer is free, but it’s not a case just of “copying a clone”. It took us a year of R&D to get the same kind of functionality on Windows XP. Windows simply wasn’t built to handle this kind of effect, and it’s taken a huge amount of effort to implement it. Additionally, we provide excellent support and frequent updates – all for less than the cost of a movie ticket.

    Regarding your comment “If they worked considerably better I’m maybe pay for one”, I’d be interest to hear what exactly it is about TopDesk that you’d like to “work better”. We’re always interested in feedback on TopDesk, so feel free to post any comments you have on our forums (http://www.otakusoftware.com/forums).

    John: Thanks for trying out TopDesk :).

  5. […] I found a number of similar things for Windows, and so far it’s working out quite nicely. After reading a few reviews about different ones, I went for TopDesk’s free trial, and it’s working out very nicely. I recommend you try it out if you use computers a lot. […]

  6. Martn says:

    I use Entbloss. it doesn’t crash and it performs the quickest from all other expose clones I found. I would recomend making sure you meet the minimum requirements – which are not THAT high if you consider that My PIII 733 runs it just fine.

    oh, and Win+D may hide all the windows but there’s no way to restore them as easily.

  7. Triynko says:

    Entbloss looks and feels a lot like the mac version. It hasn’t crashed, it has tons of great options including the ability to include or exclude minimized windows, and I haven’t noticed it messing up the z-order at all. It’s the best one I think.

  8. Mike Buchanon says:

    For topdesk, if you set the priorty of the process back to normal, you will usually see much better (ie. non-jerky performance) when using the f9 key. I think I’m going to buy this software as it looks like it works really well now that I’ve tweaked the priorty from high to normal. Thanks for the blog!

  9. Mike, TopDesk 1.4 is now out and it lets you choose between normal and high priority, so you don’t have to set it manually anymore.

  10. Michael Y says:

    Is there an Expose-like program that also does LIVE previews just like the Mac? I’ve installed Winplosion and it works like a charm — except the Windows it displays are static and not live.

  11. Jeramy says:

    You may want to have a look at the Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop Manager, a part of the MS Powertoys for Windows XP.


  12. ninyetric says:

    I tried TopDesk and of all the clones for Expose out there this is definitely the best and most fair to the expose feature. In my machine it runs fast. The best thing ’til I get a MAC.

  13. Keri says:

    I have just downloaded top desk and am trying to post on the forum there but it is NOT letting me even though I registered…so Hey! guy from top desk..or anyone who knows the answer please help me! I am a graphic designer and mac user but am being forced against my will to use a PC at my new job!. Top Desk seems great I have downloaded the trial version however the MAIN and really only reason I want something that will mimic expose is because if I am working in Photoshop or Illustrator and have multiple files open in each program I need to quickly be able to grab a different image within that program. I have tried all the options for “show all windows” “show application windows” etc..but it only shows me whichever file in Photoshop or Illustrator is already showing..which is of absolutely no help to me!. It seems the only way I can grab files within my programs is to work with them not in full screen and actually grab them with my mouse at the bottom of the screen. This is RUBBISH!!!. Is this not possible on a PC or am I missing something? or is this something you are planning for a future version. Even if I have 5 files open in Photoshop or Illustrator it will only show me the first one!

  14. Scott says:

    I’m using this one and it works fine. Free and Opensource:


  15. Cheers Scott I was looking for exactly that : An Exposé clone that is opensource and stable. Just uninstalled TopDesk for Smallwindows yeah no more nag screen and wicked fast response time. Must say I got a dual proc though.

  16. Sean says:

    Martn said: oh, and Win+D may hide all the windows but there’s no way to restore them as easily.

    Sure there is. Win+D. It restores them the same as it hides them.

  17. Dazzy B. says:

    Try “Reflex Vision”

    By FAR the best.

  18. Grokwik says:

    I agree with Heiner, I uninstalled everything for SmallWindow, it’s maybe not the best but it’s open source and free. Better a free good software than a cracked one, even if it’s the best one ;)

  19. Ben says:

    Another vote for openexpose. Open source FTW! Just remember that it works by moving the mouse cursor over to the left corner of your screen.

  20. Mathias says:

    I only tested smallwindows (@Scott) and it works really fine and it’s just what I wanted. It has no delay and grabs only about 3-6 mb of your RAM.

    The only thing is: * you have to put a shortcut from the exe in your autostart folder * you can access it (when it’s running) when you go at the top center of your screen (with your cursor) or when you hit win+f12

    But these comments are also in the readme file of the prog.

  21. Bren C says:

    Just gave OpenExpose a shot and I really like it. It’s using 11MB of RAM and works flawlessly. Cheers to the Open Source community.

  22. grg says:

    i use “zoom switcher” from http://www.grg-software.com it works by pressing win+z shows a zoomed out view of all open windows (but sometimes shows taskbar tooltips aswell) opengl or d3d windows don’t show their content.

  23. Frank says:

    Buy a Mac. Having expose “working” is one thing, having it bound to active screen corners is simply awesome!

  24. Peter says:

    Check the Compiz Fusion (or other versons) for linux… Besides its scale (=expose) plugin it’s got some pretty cool things too. It can really compete with Mac OS eye candy – when it gets a bit more stable, to be honest, but the looks are definitely worth the try.

  25. Runey says:

    just tried topdesk, i actually REALLY like it. it’s a bit slow but i did NOT expect the smoothness of the mac system, and this is fantastic, very responsive to my moving my mouse to bottom corner of screen, best one i’ve tried so far. :) barring any random freezes or something, this is definitely the best solution i’ve come across

(c) 2001-2007 Michael Moncur. All rights reserved, but feel free to quote me.
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