Windows 10 tips, tricks and features part 3 – Virtual Desktops and Task View: (alt + tab) ²

In All, News, Operate Efficiently, Uncategorized by Mike Abbott

Have you ever used ‘alt + tab’ to cycle between the open applications on your desktop? If so, you understand how simple tools that facilitate multitasking can have a tremendous impact on your ability to get work done quickly. Windows 10 introduces two game-changing features, Task View and Virtual Desktops, which enable users to stay organized and multitask more efficiently than ever before. If you integrate these new tools into your workflow, they will forever change the way you use your computer.


Task View: If you use the ‘alt + tab’ keyboard shortcut, you may have noticed that holding down the ‘alt’ key after doing so brings up a toolbar that displays all of your open applications. Task View is similar in concept to that toolbar but it is more finely tuned, has additional functionality and doesn’t require you to hold down the ‘alt’ key in order to keep it open. To access Task View, simply click on the icon next to the Cortana box/ start menu or use the keyboard shortcut ‘Windows key + tab.’ Doing so will provide a bird’s-eye-view of the applications and windows that are currently open on your computer. Instead of the dinky toolbar that comes up when you press alt + tab and hold down the ‘alt’ key, all the open apps and windows are spread out across your full screen, providing better visibility and making it easier for you to quickly select the precise window that you wish to open.

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Circled in yellow is the icon you click in order to enter task view. Circled in red is the icon you click in order to add a new virtual desktop.

It also allows you to take some time to decide if you have some applications or windows open that don’t need be and provides a means for closing them out right then and there.

Hover your cursor in the top right hand corner of a window and a x will appear, like the one circled in the photo.

Hover your cursor in the top right hand corner of a window and an ‘X’ will appear, like the one circled here. Click the X to close the window.

Virtual Desktops: If mastering Task View is the first step towards utilizing the new features of Windows 10 to develop a more efficient and organized work flow on your computer – understanding Virtual Desktops is step two. One of the reasons Task View is so useful is that the desktop ceases to be a functional space for moving between applications once you have around five of them open at once. It takes too long to move, resize and minimize them individually in order to get back to the app at the bottom of the pile. With virtual desktops, you can create spaces where it is possible to physically move apps and windows. This allows you to decrease the number of open windows on your desktop and to arrange windows together in logical groups.

When you open task view, you will notice on the bottom right hand corner of your screen that there is a large ‘plus’ icon with the words, “New Desktop” underneath. If you click that or use the keyboard shortcut ‘Windows key + ctrl + D’ you will see two icons appear, one labeled, “Desktop 1,” and another labeled, “Desktop 2.”

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Circled in green are the virtual desktops that have been created. There are three here, but you can add as many as you could possibly want.

Now you can drag and drop windows/ applications into the Desktop 2. Why would you want to do this? Let’s say that you have three different Excel spreadsheets open, Outlook, two different Word documents, a web browser, a music playing application, File Manager and a Sticky Note. Even with Task View, that is a lot to look at and sort through. By adding a few virtual desktops, it is possible to arrange the applications in such a way that it is easy to keep track of where they are and switching between them becomes a simple task.

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There are 13 windows open on this desktop, so many that even in task view it is difficult to quickly locate the window you are looking for.

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Now all of the Word documents have been arranged into a single virtual desktop, leaving just six windows open in desktop one. Now it shouldn’t take longer than a second for you to locate and open any window you desire.

You can use Desktop 1 as a place for miscellaneous apps that you are using relatively frequently, the web browser, Outlook, Sticky Note and File Manager, Desktop 2 for your Excel files, Desktop 3 for your Word Documents and Desktop 4 for your music player. Using the keyboard shortcut ‘ctrl + Windows key + left/right arrow key’ allows you to toggle between Desktops without having to enter Task View. Now you know where all of your apps are located and you are able to toggle to the exact application you want to use with just a couple of keystrokes. It may sound a little complicated, but as soon as you try it out you will understand how it can help your stay organized and get your work done more quickly and efficiently.