When people hear the phrase “Virtual Desktops” they probably think of “Virtual Reality” headsets.
It’s fine – I used to make the same error; it actually turns out that Virtual Desktops are better than that: well at least when it comes to productivity.
I named this post the vim and viability of Virtual Desktops because – well for one, I like the word vim which means energy and because I want to show you how to get the most out of this new feature that was inaugurated with Windows 10.
If people wanted Virtual Desktops in older versions of Windows, they would have to install special software fit for the task. Conversely, in Windows 10, Virtual Desktops are baked right into the sweet goodness of the operating system.
Let me show you how to get started with this potentially powerful feature. We’re going to group tasks by desktop so we can get organized.
In the Windows 10 Taskbar you’ll see what looks like two tiny stacked rectangles sitting between the search button and Internet Explorer icons.
This is where your Virtual happiness lives.
Microsoft calls it Task view but I like Virtual Desktops better because – let’s face it: Virtual Desktops sounds cooler and is easier to remember.
Clicking the Virtual Desktops button darkens the screen and produces a simple little button called Add a desktop.
Keyboard hipsters can press the Windows Logo key + Ctrl + d to open a new desktop – boring people can click the plus sign.
You’ll see a thumbnail preview of your desktop. Since I don’t have anything open on any of my desktops it doesn’t look very exciting. But the point is that there are now two completely separate desktops that I can setup individually.
For example, I can have one desktop for all my work related tasks such as Outlook, Photoshop and Sublime Text and the other desktop for personal things such as Twitter, eBooks and reading about R Kelly’s latest album.
I went ahead and opened the Calculator app in one desktop and fixedbyvonnie in the other. Now when I click the Task View button I can cycle through my desktops by clicking the appropriate thumbnail.
You can also amaze shuffle desktops using Windows Logo Key + Ctrl + Left or Right Arrow Key
Incidentally, Alt + Tab still cycles between the open apps running on each desktop, but Windows Logo Key + Ctrl + Left or Right Arrow key cycles between entire desktops that contain your apps.
Pressing Windows Logo Key + Ctrl + F4 closes the current Virtual Desktop. If your desktop has apps in it, they’ll be pushed over to an adjacent desktop. Windows is smart enough to move your open apps to to the next Desktop in the list.
Here’s the quick breakdown of the keyboard shortcuts:
- Windows Logo Key + Tab Launches the Virtual Desktop manager
- Windows Logo Key + Ctrl + d Silently creates a new Virtual Desktop
- Windows Logo Key + Ctrl + Left/Right Arrow Keys Flips through Virtual Desktops
- Windows Logo Key + Ctrl + F4 Closes the active Virtual Desktop
You can also manually move apps between desktops by right clicking the Desktop thumbnail and clicking the Move to option. Desktop numbering reads from left to right as you expected.
When using multiple desktops pay attention to the application icons sitting in the taskbar.
I’m currently in the fixedbyvonnie virtual desktop but notice the ultra-thin horizontal bar line under the green calculator app icon; it’s inconspicuous so might have to squint.
Apps with this horizontal underline mean that the app is actually open on a different desktop. Clicking the icon will whisk you away to the app on the other desktop.
The Bottom Line
In the beginning, using Virtual Desktops will feel weird but after playing with it for 15 to 20 minutes it should begin to feel intuitive.
Admittedly this Task View feature is far from perfect. You can’t use the handy (pun intended) three finger swipe that Mac users embrace for switching desktops but I’m happy to see Microsoft making a step in the right direction.
So how do you feel about Virtual Desktops in Windows 10? Do you think people will like it?
Share your comments below.