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Working with Virtual Desktops

Now that the desktop is once again a first-class Windows citizen, we can all go back to cluttering our screens with umpteen app windows scattered around the desktop. Well, we could go back to that, or we could take advantage of a useful new Windows 10 feature: virtual desktops. A virtual desktop is just like the regular Windows 10 desktop—that is, you can add icons to it, open apps on it, and so on—except that it resides offscreen until you summon it with your mouse or the keyboard. When you do that, Windows 10 moves the current desktop, as well as its icons and running apps, offscreen and replaces them with the second desktop, meaning you now see its icons and apps. So rather than having all your running apps on one desktop, you could create separate desktops for, say, productivity apps, media apps, Internet apps, and so on, then cycle through them as needed.

Adding a Virtual Desktop

To add a new virtual desktop, you have two choices:

  • In the taskbar, select the Task View button (or press Windows Logo+Tab) and then select New Desktop. Windows 10 adds the new virtual desktop to the Task View, as shown in Figure 4.18. Select the desktop thumbnail to switch to it.

    Figure 4.18

    Figure 4.18 In Task View, select New Desktop to add a virtual desktop.

  • Press Windows Logo+Ctrl+D. Windows 10 creates and switches to the new virtual desktop.

Working with Virtual Desktops

Once you have two or more desktops on the go, here’s a rundown of the techniques you can use:

  • Switching desktops—Invoke Task View and then select the icon of the desktop you want. From the keyboard, either press Windows Logo+Ctrl+Right arrow to switch to the next desktop, or press Windows Logo+Ctrl+Left arrow to switch to the previous desktop.
  • Moving an app to a different desktop—Switch to the desktop that has the app you want to move, and then invoke Task View. Drag the app’s thumbnail and drop it on the desktop to which you want it moved.
  • Closing a virtual desktop—Invoke Task View, move the mouse pointer over the desktop you want to remove, and then click Close (X). You can also close the current virtual desktop by pressing Windows Logo+Ctrl+F4.

Customizing Virtual Desktops

Windows 10 offers a couple of customization settings for virtual desktops. To see them, open the Settings app, select System, and then select the Multitasking tab. The Virtual Desktops sections offers two lists:

  • On the Taskbar, Show Windows That Are Open On—By default, Windows 10 shows a taskbar icon for all running apps, regardless of which virtual desktop is current. If you’d rather the taskbar show icons only for the current virtual desktop’s apps, use this list to select Only the Desktop I’m Using.
  • Pressing Alt+Tab Shows Windows That Are Open On—By default, Windows 10 cycles through every running app when you hold down Alt and press Tab, regardless of which virtual desktop is current. If you’d rather that pressing Alt+Tab cycle through only the current virtual desktop’s apps, use this list to select Only the Desktop I’m Using.
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