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How to use virtual desktops in Windows 10

WIN TAB task switching

Virtual desktops are a great way to keep your applications organised in Windows 10

One of the best new features of Windows 10 is its support for virtual desktops. This lets you create as many desktops as you like, which you can switch between with ease, so giving you some of the advantages of multiple monitors on a single screen. Once you’ve set up your virtual desktops, you can have one desktop for work, one for browsing the web and one running a game, for example. Here’s how to use virtual desktops to get organised.

Find out about all the best Windows 10 features and how to use them

Step 1 – Open up Task View

Press Windows-Tab to open the Task View. In the bottom-right corner you’ll see a plus sign with ‘New desktop’ written underneath. Click this to create a second desktop. You can also create new desktops by pressing Windows-Ctrl-D; there’s no limit on how many desktops you can create and they appear to use minimal resources, so you can create as many as you like.

Step 2 – Switch between desktops

When you create your second desktop, it will be labelled Desktop 2, and will be automatically selected. You can then start work on this desktop, opening windows and applications and arranging them according to your needs. To switch between your two desktops you can either go to the Task View by pressing Windows-Tab and clicking on the desktop you want, or simply hold down Windows-Ctrl and use the left and right arrow keys to flick seamlessly between them.

Windows 10 switching and closing desktops

Step 4 – Closing desktops

In Task View you can also close a desktop by clicking the cross in its top-right corner, or select the desktop and press Windows-Ctrl-F4. If you close a desktop, any applications or windows on that desktop won’t close, but will instead move automatically to the next available desktop. Any application that allows for multiple instances of itself, such as the Chrome browser, lets you run different program windows on multiple desktops.

Windows 10 virtual desktops

Step 4 – Fix multi-tasking

By default, if you press Alt-Tab to switch tasks, only the windows and applications currently running on that desktop will appear. The Taskbar will also only show programs that are open on the desktop you’re currently using. You can change this behaviour using the options in Settings, System, Multi-tasking (just type ‘Multi‘ into the Start search). In the ‘Virtual desktops’ section of this Settings menu, you can change both options from ‘Only the desktop I’m using’ to ‘All desktops’. This will let you access any window or application with Alt-Tab or the Taskbar, with Windows switching automatically to the correct desktop as you select the program.

Windows 10 multi-tasking controls

Step 5 – Move applications between desktops

If you want to move a window or application from one desktop to another, make sure you’re currently on the correct desktop, then press Windows-Tab and drag and drop the window onto one of the desktops shown at the bottom of the screen. 

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