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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.

So why am I talking about this? Because to make Task View more beneficial, it automatically shows up on the empty half of the screen whenever you use Snap with multiple apps open. So instead of having to set manually two separate windows, you just snap one window and then Task View lets you pick the next one to fill in the blank space.

Things aren't so easy with Quadrants, however. With that layout you have to fill in three windows first before you'll see Task View fill in the fourth.

Virtual desktops

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, Adobe Photoshop...whatever. 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.

Windows 10 lets you use a seemingly unlimited number of virtual desktops, but if you've ever used OS X or Linux, don't expect Microsoft's take to work the same way. On non-Windows systems, you're typically given at least the impression that those desktops are always there. With Windows, you have to actively create a new desktop, which can take a few seconds the first time you do it.

To create a new desktop, click on the Task View icon on the taskbar, and then--with the Task View interface open--click the text link that says "+ New Desktop" in the lower right-hand corner of the screen.

Hit that, and a new desktop appears at the bottom of the Task View. To navigate between them you can choose between Desktop 1 and Desktop 2. From Task View, you can also drag-and-drop open program windows from the current desktop into a different one, or onto the "+ New Desktop" link to create a new virtual desktop housing the software. 

By default, each virtual desktop shows only the active programs and windows for that particular desktop. If you'd rather know what programs you have open regardless of the desktop you're on, you change this by opening the Settings app in the Start menu and going to System > Multitasking > Virtual desktops.

Keyboard shortcuts

Those are the basics of Task View and virtual desktops, but to get really proficient with these features it's better to forget the mouse and use keyboard shortcuts instead. Jumping into Task View is as simple as hitting the Windows logo key + Tab.

To create a new virtual desktop, hit the Windows logo key + Ctrl + D. To close the current desktop you're on, it's Windows logo key + Ctrl + F4


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