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How to use Windows 10's Task View and virtual desktops

Ian Paul | July 28, 2015
Windows 10 brings a lot of great features to the PC, but one that power users are greeting with an exasperated "finally" is virtual desktops.

windows10taskview
Credit: Microsoft

Windows 10 brings a lot of great features to the PC, but one that power users are greeting with an exasperated "finally" is virtual desktops.

This longstanding productivity powerhouse has long been standard on OS X and Linux distributions. Windows has actually supported the feature for a while despite not making virtual desktops available natively, but now the feature is going mainstream as part of Windows 10.

But virtual desktops are not a stand-alone feature. Instead, they're built into Windows 10's new Task View, which is reminiscent of OS X's Exposé feature that shows all your open windows at a glance.

Windows has had something similar for years--you've seen it if you've ever used the keyboard shortcut Alt + Tab to cycle through open programs. But the Alt + Tab feature disappears as soon as you let go of the keyboard. Task View takes a different approach by showing all your open windows in a permanent view that doesn't disappear until you dismiss it or pick a window to be in the foreground.

Starting with 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. We'll start with that, but let me stress this is neither the easiest nor the most efficient way to use the new feature. For that, you'll need to learn a few keyboard shortcuts, which we'll discuss shortly.

But first let's click on the new Task View icon. 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.

Task View and Snap

Windows 10 still supports Snap, a fantastic feature that lets you set a window to take up half your screen. Windows 10 has also bumped up this functionality with a new feature called Quadrants that lets you snap programs into a four-rectangle grid on your display.

To use Snap, hit the Windows logo key and then one of the side arrow keys. The two side keys snap a window to the corresponding half of your display. If you then use the up or down keys, Quadrants activates and snaps the window to the upper or bottom half of that side.

 

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