How to use virtual desktops in Windows 10

Abhishek Baxi

Looking for more How To posts? Check out our How To Page for all the latest tips on Windows, Microsoft Teams, LinkedIn, and more!

Virtual desktops allow users to manage their virtual workspace and go beyond the limitations of a physical display and organize and quickly access apps and windows. It’s particularly handy in a single-monitor setup.

Virtual desktops give you more desktop space to group related windows and help you quickly locate and switch to any window or group of windows. Using such organizational tool, you can easily re-organize your groups and move windows as tasks evolve.

I use two to three virtual desktops at anytime. One is usually to separate personal apps and work apps in different desktops, and another with just Word so that I can do focussed writing without getting distracted by other apps.

History of Virtual Desktops

Ask any geek – old ones like me, that is – virtual desktops is a popular ‘power user’ thing since many years. Interesting trivia… back in the 1980s, Xerox PARC created one of the earliest virtual desktop experiences called Rooms back in the 1980s.

A version of Rooms was made available for Windows 3.x – the first such instance on Windows. In Windows XP, Microsoft introduced Virtual Desktop Manager as part of the Windows XP PowerToys collection. Then, a while later, Microsoft released the Sysinternals Desktops add-on that offered similar functionality. Windows 10 though, is the first time we see virtual desktops as a mainstream feature.

Virtual Desktops on Windows 10

virutal desktops windows 10

Once the concept of virtual desktops gained popularity, Microsoft decided to build native virtual desktop experience directly into Windows 10.

To add a virtual desktop, open the new Task View pane by clicking the Task View button (two overlapping rectangles) on the taskbar or by pressing the Windows Key + Tab. In the Task View pane, click New desktop to add a virtual desktop. You can also add a desktop without entering the Task View pane by using the keyboard shortcut Windows Key + Ctrl + D. There’s no limit to how many desktops one can create.

You can hover over each desktop preview and Windows will let you peek into any desktop to see what windows are open there – without switching to that desktop. You can even click on the app preview from task view to bring that window straight to the top.

To switch between virtual desktops, open the Task View pane and click on the desktop you want to switch to. You can also switch desktops by using the keyboard shortcuts Windows Key + Ctrl + Left Arrow and Windows Key + Ctrl + Right Arrow.

To close a virtual desktop, open up the Task View pane and hover over the desktop you want to close until a small X appears in the upper right corner. Click the X to close the desktop or you by using the keyboard shortcut Windows Key + Ctrl + F4.