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Making the Most of Virtual Desktops, Task View, and Snap Assist in Windows 10

In this Ask the Admin, I will take a look at putting virtual desktops to use with a bit of help from Task View and Snap Assist.



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Virtual desktop technology has been built into Windows since NT days. It has only recently been realized as a baked-in feature of Windows 10. Before that, you needed to either download a third-party application, use Microsoft’s own Virtual Desktop Manager PowerToy for XP, or use Windows Sysinternals Desktops. Power users rejoiced. This was a feature they had been requesting for years.

I have tried a few times to incorporate virtual desktops into my workflow but it always seemed to take too much effort to set up. In the end, it was not useful enough to warrant the effort involved. Perhaps, I had the wrong approach. Instead of creating a virtual desktop for each group of tasks that have a result in the real world, it would be better to break down my understanding of tasks to groups of windows. I had been creating one for emails, chats, Petri articles, personal tasks, etc.  Let me explain further.

Organize and Quickly Access Groups of Windows

The problems with Windows is that there are too many windows. Consider a feature like Snap and now Snap Assist in Windows 10. Two windows can be quickly positioned, one on the left and one on the right. This works well if there are only two windows open on the desktop. Usually, there are many more open at any one time.

Once you switch to other windows, your snapped windows are still there somewhere. You have to bring them back into focus. You can do this either by searching on the taskbar or using ALT-TAB. It is like having papers on a desk. You lose the important ones in the pile and have to throw everything into the air to find them again.

Task View and virtual desktops in Windows 10 (Image Credit: Russell Smith)
Task View and Virtual Desktops In Windows 10 (Image Credit: Russell Smith)

Files and Piles

You may be a person that likes to separate things into subsets or files. Perhaps, you are a person who organizes tasks into a single group or piles. Microsoft designed virtual desktops to work for both types of people. If something is important, it is perfectly reasonable to create a virtual desktop for a single window. You can easily return to it. If you need two windows snapped left and right, simply put them on their own virtual desktop. They will not get buried under other windows as you bring them into focus. You can just switch back to the virtual desktop as needed.

Task View is for managing virtual desktops and gives you the ability to move windows between desktops as required. This might sound like a restrictive way to work. With the help of Task View and keyboard shortcuts like CTRL+WIN Left/Right, placing windows or groups of windows on separate virtual desktops can make you more productive.

In this article, I explained how to get the most from virtual desktops, Task View, and Snap Assist in Windows 10. For more on how to work with virtual desktops and Task View, see Using Virtual Desktops In Windows 10 on the Petri IT Knowledgebase.

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IT consultant, Contributing Editor @PetriFeed, and trainer @Pluralsight. All about Microsoft, Office 365, Azure, and Windows Server.

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