How to Use Virtual Desktops in Windows 10 Technical Preview
In this Ask the Admin, I’ll show you how to work with virtual desktops in Windows 10 Technical Preview. In Windows 10 Technical Preview: Using Snap, Task View, and Virtual Desktops on the Petri IT Knowledgebase, I wrote about Windows 10’s new desktop features and how implementation would be especially critical to the success of virtual desktops. While virtual desktops still need some refinement, if you want to experiment or have jumped in at the deep end and installed Windows 10 on your PC (not recommended), read on to see how virtual desktops work.
Create and switch between virtual desktops
Let’s start by creating a new virtual desktop. Log in to Windows 10 and follow the instructions below.
- Open Notepad on the current desktop. If Notepad isn’t listed on the Start menu, type Notepad into the Search box at the bottom of the Start menu and press ENTER.
- Now click the Task view icon in the bottom left of the desktop taskbar, next to the Start button and Search icons. If you hover over the icon with the mouse pointer, Task view will appear above it to help you identify the different taskbar icons.
- Click Add a desktop in the bar that appears at the bottom of the screen.
You’ll see three large preview thumbnails in the Task view bar at the bottom of the screen, showing your original desktop on the far left, the new desktop in the center, and the Add a desktop button on the right. To switch to the new desktop, click the center preview thumbnail. TIP It’s also possible to create a new virtual desktop by pressing WIN + CTRL + D.
Switching between virtual desktops
You can see that Notepad still appears in the taskbar, even though it’s not open on the second desktop. This is to allow fast switching between apps no matter which desktop they’re open on.
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The fact that Notepad is running on a different desktop is indicated by the small bar beneath the Notepad icon on the taskbar. But if more than one copy of Notepad is open on the same or different desktops, then this indicator disappears.
- On the second desktop, open Paint.
- To access Task view using the keyboard, press WIN + TAB. Unlike in Windows 8 and earlier, you can release the keys, and Task view will not disappear from the screen.
Now there’s a preview of both open desktops, and the option to open a third if you like, and you can easily switch between open desktops by pressing WIN + CTRL + LEFT and WIN + CTRL + RIGHT, without having to enter Task view.
- Let’s open a third desktop by pressing WIN + CTRL + D.
- Open File Explorer on the third desktop by clicking the File Explorer icon on the desktop taskbar.
To quickly cycle through all the open apps, regardless of which desktop they’re open on, click ALT + TAB.
Moving apps between virtual desktops
Let’s reduce the number of open desktops by moving File Explorer from the third desktop to the second, and closing the third desktop.
- Press WIN + TAB to open Task view.
- If the File Explorer preview is not displayed in the center of the screen, hover over the preview for the third desktop in the Task view bar.
- In the File Explorer preview in the center of the screen, right click, select Move to > Desktop 2 from the menu to move File Explorer to the second desktop. The File Explorer preview will disappear from view.
Close a virtual desktop
Finally, let’s close the third desktop now that there are no apps on it.
- Close the third desktop by hovering the mouse pointer over the preview thumbnail in the Task view bar, and clicking the cross icon when it appears.
If you close a desktop that has open apps, the apps are not closed but moved to the adjacent desktop on the left. Desktops can also be closed by pressing WIN + CTRL + F4.