*Nixing Your Windows Workstation – Part 1

At home, I run Ubuntu Linux as my primary OS since I’m a sucker for eye candy (Compiz FTW) and I’m a nerd.  At work, most of my development needs to be done in Windows, and until recently, I found myself missing some of the features that I use at home.  Fortunately, I was able to find some nifty programs that help me put a *nix spin on windows.  Here’s part one of my windows customization fun:

Restore Virtual Desktop Functionality With VirtuaWin

Plain and simple, VirtuaWin is the Windows application that I have been trying to find for many years.  Ever since I got used to virtual desktops when I first tried Linux a few years back, I desperately missed them every time I had to use a Windows machine.  I tried several other programs to provide this functionality, but they never stayed on my machine more than a few minutes.  Some were too slow, some were too bulky, and some just didn’t have the features I was looking for.  VirtuaWin is open source, quick, and easy to use.  Just install, configure your shortcuts to your liking (Ctrl+Alt+left, Ctrl+Alt+right, Ctrl+Alt+H, Ctrl+Alt+L for me), and you’re ready to go.  You can hold down shift (or another custom key) to drag windows with you when you switch desktops, set windows to be sticky across all desktops, change the number of virtual desktops used, and quite a bit more.  It even supports mouse switching, but I don’t find myself using this feature too much at work.  Highly recommended- even for those who aren’t (yet) fans of virtual desktops.

Move Windows Around With Alt+Click Using WinMover

This is a pretty simple one.  In some Linux environments, you can press the Alt key, then click and drag anywhere on the window to move it around.  I use this feature all the time under Linux because it’s easier than hunting for the titlebar when my hand is on the mouse.  Admittedly, this has only limited use, but I missed this feature in Windows nonetheless.  With Compiz’s wobbly windows enabled under Linux, I also find it fun to move windows around this way because it feels more like you’re throwing or dragging them around (what can I say, I’m easily amused).  This behavior can also be nice for laptops where it can be a pain to pinpoint small titlebars with a touchpad.

Bind Caps Lock to Ctrl to Up Your Hacker Street Cred

Okay, so I didn’t actually decide to do this tweak because I missed it from Linux.  It turns out that I just got carried away with all of the tweaks that I had been doing and decided to keep going.  I was a bit skeptical at first, but now I love having my caps lock as another Ctrl key.  It’s much easier to reach the caps lock key vs. the left or right Ctrl, but more importantly, it makes it easier for me to do Ctrl+number to switch tabs in Firefox.  Under Linux, Firefox uses Alt+number to switch directly to a tab which I find to be much easier to type than the Windows default of Ctrl+number.  Unfortunately, I was not able to find a good workaround for rebinding this key in Firefox (and I looked pretty hard), but having Ctrl bound to Caps Lock makes it a lot more comfortable to type.

This little registry tweak below will do the rebinding for you, just copy and paste the text into a .reg file, and import it with regedit.  There’s several resources online to explain exactly what it’s doing if you want to go into more depth.

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Keyboard Layout]
"Scancode Map"=hex:00,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,02,00,00,00,1d,00,3a,00,00,00,00,00

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  1. Chris Bilson
    Posted February 11, 2010 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    Re: #3: Check out autohotkey. You can rebind keys per application, or in windows with specific titles, and all kinds of crazy stuff. It’s a keyboard junkies best friend.

  2. cmarinos
    Posted February 13, 2010 at 1:02 am | Permalink

    @Chris Bilson-

    I have heard good things about autohotkey, but I’ve never tried it out. Since I already find myself turning caps lock on far to often when using other people’s machines, I worry about what using autohotkey could do to me!

    Anyway, thanks for the tip!


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