Windows 10 Virtual Desktops

Virtual desktops were finally added as a built-in feature in Windows 10. If you’ve used Linux or Mac, you know this can be a very useful feature. Having desktops beyond the limitations of a physical display is a powerful way to organize and quickly access groups of windows. If you’re a single-monitor user - or even if you’re not - multiple virtual desktops can be very handy.

In the Windows 10 you can add a seemingly unlimited number of virtual desktops quickly and easily, thanks to the new Task View pane. Unfortunately, Windows 10 multiple desktop functionality is still very limited - you can’t change the wallpaper for individual desktops, and you can’t quickly jump to a particular screen without cycling through all of your open screens.

Using Virtual Desktops in Windows 10

The virtual desktops feature in Windows 10 is called “Task View” and is located on the Taskbar. The simplest way to get to Task View and multiple desktops is to click the new icon next to the Cortana entry box on your taskbar. As you can see above, it shows all my open windows so I can quickly return to a specific program or document. This is an extremely helpful feature for those times when you have tons of windows open at once.

Quick note to multi-monitor users: Task View will only show what you’ve got on a specific monitor. When you hit the icon, Task View is displayed across all your monitors to help you find what you’re looking for, but don’t expect to see all your open windows on one display. If you’re running a full screen video on a specific monitor, then you won’t see Task View on that monitor at all.

Add Virtual Desktop in Windows 10

Virtual desktops are a fantastic way to stay organized. You could, for example, create three virtual desktops. On the first, you put your current work project in Microsoft Excel, Word and Adobe Photoshop. The second desktop is where you keep all your communication and daily planning stuff, such as calendar, email, and Skype. Then the third can be for your music player, or distractions for those quick five minute breaks — like YouTube or a game.

To add a virtual desktop, open up the new Task View pane by clicking the Task View button (two overlapping rectangles) on the taskbar, or by pressing the Windows Key + Tab. In the Task View pane, click New desktop to add a virtual desktop.

If you have two or more desktops already open, the "Add a desktop" button will appear as a gray tile with a plus symbol. You can also quickly add a desktop without entering the Task View pane by using the keyboard shortcut Windows Key + Ctrl + D.

Switch between Desktops

You can switch desktops using the keyboard, as well. To do this, press the Windows key + Tab. The programs on the currently active desktop display as large thumbnails, as discusses above and the thumbnail for the currently active program on that desktop is outlined.

Now, press Tab again. This removes the outline from the active program thumbnail and Task View interface active. Use the arrow keys to move among the desktops on the Task View interface. When you have highlighted the desktop to which you want to switch, press Enter.

To switch between virtual desktops, open the Task View pane and click on the desktop you want to switch to. You can also quickly switch desktops without going into the Task View pane by using the keyboard shortcuts Windows Key + Ctrl + Left Arrow and Windows Key + Ctrl + Right Arrow.

Close a Virtual Desktop

To close a virtual desktop, open up the Task View pane and hover over the desktop you want to close until a small X appears in the upper right corner. Click the X to close the desktop. You can also close desktops without going into the Task View pane by using the keyboard shortcut Windows Key + Ctrl + F4 (this will close the desktop you’re currently on).

If you close a desktop that has open programs on it, those programs are transferred to the next desktop to the left of the one you’re closing.

Move Windows between Virtual Desktops

To move a window from one desktop to another, you first have to open up the Task View pane and then hover over the desktop containing the window you want to move. The windows on that desktop will pop up; find the window you want to move, right-click it, and go to Move to and choose the desktop you want to move the window to. You can drag and drop windows - you can grab the window you want to move and drag it into the desired desktop.

You can enable your task bar to show all the programs that are open on all the desktops, so that it, in effect, acts as a hub. Simply type Virtual Desktop into the Start menu, open the settings and change the first drop-down menu to say "All Desktops".

That’s about all there is to Task View and virtual desktops. This is one of the better features of Windows 10, particularly if you like the idea of having workspaces dedicated to specific programs. Enjoy the extra desktop space and improved efficiency.