Stardock's stellar Groupy organizes windows and programs like browser tabs

This beta software is already superb.
  • Brad Chacos (PC World (US online))
  • 17 November, 2017 05:19

Compelling free programs are a dime a dozen on PCs these days. But for years, Stardock has offered software worth paying for by following a simple formula: Identify a problem with Windows, then fix it for a reasonable price. Start10 restores the ho-hum modern Start Menu to the glories of its heyday. Fences helps manage disheveled desktops. And Stardock’s newest superb offering, Groupy, turns your myriad open windows into the equivalent of browser tabs.

All too often I find myself drowning in open windows, especially since you can't have multiple File Explorer locations open simultaneously. Groupy cures that headache by allowing you to group entirely separate programs, or multiple instances of the same program, into a single desktop window. You could have a a window dedicated to a gaming session—with the Task Manager, Spotify, and populating individual tabs, for example—or a window with tabs devoted to multiple open instances of Excel spreadsheets or Firefox browsers.

Groupy is amazing, and amazingly easy to use.

Once you’ve installed Groupy, simply drag one open window over another to group them together. The two windows become one, with a new file bar at the top that lists each program in its own browser-like tab. Easy-peasy. Here’s a Stardock video showing it in action.

Tabs behave like you’d expect them to. Dragging an app’s tab out from the Groupy file bar pops it back into a standalone window, and hovering your mouse over a tab shows a preview of its contents. When a group gets down to a single tab, the open app reverts to a standard window. You can still Alt + Tab to switch between programs like normal, or use Groupy’s Win + S shortcut to switch between the tabs in a group. Minimizing an app in a group drops the entire collection down into your Windows taskbar.

The Groupy app itself is clean and straightforward. You can tweak the way grouped tabs look, fine-tune how you’d like to tell Groupy to bundle windows together, add exceptions for applications you never want to group, and more.

groupy settings Brad Chacos/IDG

Groupy's settings.

Groupy is still in beta, and while it’s already very useful, it has some rough edges. Those hiccups are most notable with programs that use a custom skin on their file bar, like Spotify or Steam. I couldn’t convince Steam or Origin to merge with any programs whatsoever, dashing my dreams of a single gaming window to rule them all. Merging apps into the custom-skinned launcher proved impossible, though I could drag it into other apps to create groups. But once I coaxed into a group I couldn’t add new windows to the group until I switched to another tab that wasn’t so finicky.

Once, my system became unresponsive after I rapidly and repeatedly created, then disbanded, several program-stuffed groups to test the limits of temperamental apps like Office and Windows UI elements slowed to a crawl. But restarting my system fixed it, and the issue never reared its head during normal use with multiple groups created. This is beta software.

groupy preview Brad Chacos/IDG

Groupy's tab preview in action.

All that said, I’ve only been using Groupy for less than a full workday, and it’s already streamlined the way I work (and game) while dramatically decluttering my monitors. This app is great. The benefits are similar to running multiple virtual desktops devoted to separate dedicated tasks without, you know, having to juggle multiple virtual desktops, while the Windows keyboard shortcuts burned into your brain still work like a charm. The software’s performance impact is minimal—just a couple megabytes of memory, and the barest of CPU percentages when you’re shifting windows around.

Groupy is only available in Stardock’s $30 Object Desktop suite while the software remains in beta. Object Desktop “is a powerful suite of desktop enhancements that transforms your Windows experience,” Stardock says. It packs 12 different apps, including Groupy as well as the aforementioned (and excellent) Fences and Start10. Groupy will launch in standalone form sometime in December for $10.