How to work with virtual desktops in Windows 10

Learn how to use Windows 10's built-in virtual desktops feature to better manage and switch among multiple apps and windows.

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Image: Matt Elliott/CNET

You can work with and juggle as many apps as you want in Windows—that's the whole point of multitasking—but sometimes you end up with too many apps on your desktop, turning it into a crowded, confusing mess that is difficult to navigate. One solution is to use virtual desktops.

In Windows 10, you can create two, three, or more virtual desktops and populate each one with different apps and windows. One desktop may house all your open Microsoft Office applications; another may house your Adobe applications; a third may house miscellaneous applications. You can create one virtual desktop after another, move an app from one desktop to another, and delete a desktop when you no longer need it. Let's go through one scenario to see how virtual desktops can be of service.

SEE: 20 pro tips to make Windows 10 work the way you want (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

You start the day by opening your email. You open a few other apps, such as File Explorer, your browser, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, iTunes to listen to music, and maybe Skype to receive a video call. Now, you need to open Adobe applications to work on a print or design project that requires Photoshop, InDesign, and Acrobat, but you don't want to add even more apps to your growing desktop; instead, create a second virtual desktop to house them. To do this, click the Task View button on the Taskbar next to the Cortana control. At the top of the window, click the option for New Desktop (Figure A).

Figure A

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Click the thumbnail for Desktop 2 (Figure B).

Figure B

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In Desktop 2, open the applications you need (Figure C).

Figure C

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Click the Task View button, and you can switch back and forth between Desktop 1 and Desktop 2. If you need a third virtual desktop for your applications, click the Task View button and click the entry for New Desktop (Figure D). You can then populate Desktop 3 with additional applications.

Figure D

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Maybe you've scattered similar applications across different desktops. For example, you opened several Microsoft Office applications in different desktops, and now you want to move them all into the same desktop—no problem. Click the Task View button and move to the desktop that contains an app you want to move. Right-click the app's thumbnail, move your cursor to the Move To entry in the menu and select the desktop to which you want to move this application (Figure E).

Figure E

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Continue moving apps to different desktops until you organize your virtual desktops in a way that makes sense to you. If you no longer need any of the applications on a certain desktop, or the desktop is now empty, click the Task View button and click the X on the thumbnail for that desktop to close it (Figure F).

Figure F

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When you're finished with all your open applications and you've saved all your work, close each of the remaining virtual desktops and shut down Windows as you normally would.

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