Use Multiple Desktops in Windows 10

Multiple Desktops in Windows 10 Helps Keep You Organized

Task View in Windows 10
Task View in Windows 10.

With Windows 10 Microsoft finally brought a standard feature on other desktop operating systems to Windows: multiple desktops, which the company calls virtual desktops. This is admittedly a power user feature, but it can be very helpful for anyone who wants some extra bit of organization.

It All Starts with Task View

The key starting point for multiple desktops is Windows 10's Task View (pictured here). The easiest way to access it is the icon to the right of Cortana on the taskbar--it looks like a big rectangle with two smaller ones on either side of it. Alternatively, you can tap the Windows Key + Tab.

Task View is more or less a better-looking version of Alt + Tab. It shows all your open program windows at a glance, and it lets you choose between them.

The biggest difference between Task View and Alt + Tab is that Task View stays open until you dismiss it--unlike the keyboard shortcut.

When you're in Task View if you look down to the right-hand corner you'll see a button that says New desktop. Click that and at the bottom of the Task View area, you'll now see two rectangles labeled Desktop 1 and Desktop 2.

Click on Desktop 2 and you'll land on a clean desktop with no programs running. Your open programs are still available on the first desktop, but now you've got another one open for other purposes.

Why Multiple Desktops?

If you're still scratching your head as to why you'd want more than one desktop to consider how you use your PC every day. If you're on a laptop, switching between Microsoft Word, a browser, and a music app like Groove can be a pain. Putting each program in a different desktop makes moving between them that much easier and removes the need to maximize and minimize each program as you need it.

Another way to use multiple desktops would be to have all your productivity programs on one desktop, and your entertainment or game items on another. Or you could put email and web browsing on one desktop and Microsoft Office on another. The possibilities are endless and really depend on how you'd like to organize your programs.

In case you're wondering, yes you can move open windows between desktops by opening Task View and then using your mouse to drag and drop from one desktop to another.

Once you've got all your desktops set-up you can switch between them using Task View, or by using the keyboard shortcut Windows key + Ctrl + the right or left arrow key. Using the arrow keys is slightly tricky since you have to be aware of which desktop you are on. Multiple desktops are organized on a virtual straight line with two endpoints. Once you reach the end of that line you have to go back the way you came.

What that means in practical terms is that you move from desktop 1 to number 2, 3, and so on using the right arrow key. Once you hit the last desktop, you have to go back through the others using the left arrow. If you feel you'll be jumping between numerous desktops out of order it's best to use Task View where all open desktops are consolidated into one spot.

The multiple desktops feature also has two key options you can adjust to your liking.

Click the Start button in the lower-left corner of your desktop, and then choose the Settings app from the Start menu. Now select System > Multitasking and scroll down until you see the heading "Virtual desktops."

Here there are two options that are fairly easy to understand. The top option lets you decide whether you want to see the icons for every single open program across the taskbar of every desktop or only on the desktop where the program is open.

The second option is a similar setting for the previously mentioned Alt + Tab keyboard shortcut.

Those are the basics of Windows 10's virtual desktops feature. Multiple desktops aren't for everybody, but if you're having trouble keeping your programs organized in one workspace, try creating two, three, or four in Windows 10.