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.