How to use virtual desktops in Windows 10

Virtual desktops have been around for a long time on Linux and Macs. In fact they’ve also been built into Windows for many years, but gaining access to them required special software. Now, with Windows 10, virtual desktops will finally be available witthout having to install extra software. See also: Windows 8 vs Windows 10 comparison.

What is a virtual desktop?

If you have a single monitor attached to your PC or use only your laptop\’s built-in screen, you have one screen – desktop – to run all of your apps. This is fine if you only hop between a browser and a program such as Microsoft Office, but if you have lots of apps open things can get a bit confusing or just plain cumbersome. Virtual desktops are a bit like having lots of monitors: you can create different workspaces (screens) where you can arrange apps;  so if you want one for work-related apps and another for leisure, you can do that.

As they’re virtual they still share all the same data, files, everything, and you can move apps between them easily. It’s just a convenient way of grouping together related applications and tasks. You can’t break anything with them, and they can be very handy, so it’s definitely worth giving them a go.

Creating a virtual desktop

In the taskbar of Windows 10 you’ll see a new icon to the right of the search bar which looks like a rectangle with two smaller ones slightly behind it. This is called Task View, and clicking it will give you a thumbnail view of all the programs which are running. The same thing can be achieved by using the key combination of Win+Tab. When in Task View mode you’ll see an option in the bottom right corner that has a large Plus sign with New Desktop written below. Clicking on this will create a new desktop, one that looks and behaves identically to your normal one, but has no apps running on it. 

How to use Virtual desktops

Obviously on a small or low-resolution screen this won\’t be as useful, but if you have a large monitor then this quick way of arranging apps should become a regular part of your workflow.

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