Windows 10 Virtual or Multiple Desktops Explained

This tutorial explains what the virtual or multiple desktops are and how they are used in Windows 10. Learn how to create, manage and remove the virtual desktops in Windows 10 with examples.

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What are the virtual or multiple desktops?

A desktop is a graphical environment that provides access to applications and documents through the use of simple mouse actions such as clicking, double-clicking, dragging, and right-clicking. It allows users to access multiple applications and documents simultaneously.

By default, Windows provides a single desktop. But if required, we can create and use multiple desktops. Any additional desktop, besides the main desktop which we get just after the login, is considered as virtual desktop. A virtual desktop is the replicated version of main desktop.

When we create an additional desktop (virtual desktop), we increase the total number of desktops. Since we only create virtual desktops, virtual desktops are also referred as multiple desktops. Both terms; virtual desktops and multiple desktop are same and interchangeable.

concepts of virtual desktops

You may think, why someone will bother to create virtual desktop when he already have main desktop?

Purpose of multiple or virtual desktops

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The main purpose of virtual or multiple desktops is to provide an elegant way to group opened applications. A user, who accesses multiple applications simultaneously, can group similar applications to handle similar tasks.

Suppose a graphic designer mainly accesses three types of applications; communications (such as email and chat), documents (such as MSWord and Excel) and graphics (such as Adobe Photoshop and Corel Draw). In this case, he can set three virtual desktops; one desktop for each group of applications.

purpose of virtual desktops

Creating and managing virtual or multiple desktops in Windows 10

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The concept of virtual desktop is not new to Windows. This concept is the part of Windows since Windows XP. But before Windows 10, we had to install additional tools from Microsoft to enable this feature.

In Windows 10, this feature is merged in the core installation. After this merge, no additional tool is required to enable it. It is available for use just after the installation. Let’s take an example, to understand how to use it.

Login in Windows 10 and open Notepad and WordPad

opening applications in main desktop

To create a new virtual desktop, press Win+Ctrl+D or click the Task View icon (available to the right of the Cortana search bar) and click New Desktop

creating new virtual desktop

All virtual desktop are placed in the strip that opens when we click the Task View icon. From this strip, we can flip between all available desktops or if require, can create a new virtual desktop. Select the recently created desktop and click it.

switching between the desktops

Since it’s a completely different desktop, applications opened in previous desktop will not be available here.

new virtual desktop

Open Calculator and Media player in this desktop

opening apps in virtual desktop

Now we have two desktops. In each desktop, we have two opened applications. When we are on first desktop, the second desktop and its opened applications are completely hidden from the screen. Vice versa, when we are on the second desktop, the first desktop and its applications are completely hidden from the screen.

This simple example explains the main purpose of virtual desktops. Virtual desktops not only allow us to group the opened applications based on our requirement but also allow us to keep only the opened applications on screen that are currently being used.

To switch between the virtual desktops, click Task View icon and select the desktop which you want to use.

changing desktops

To move an application from one desktop to other desktop, select it from preview pane and do right click. From right click context menu, select Move to option and click the desktop in which you want to send the application. You can also send the application to new desktop by selecting the New Desktop (available in the end) option.

moving an app to other desktop

In Anniversary update, two more options added in Right click context menu.

change in options

Following table briefly explains these options.

Option Description
Snap left Show desktop and place the selected application in the left side of the desktop.
Snap right Show desktop and place the selected application in the right side of the desktop.
Move to Move selected application to the desktop which will be selected from its right click context menu.
Show this window on all desktops Show selected application in all desktops.
Show windows from this app on all desktops Show all windows or tabs of the selected application in all desktops.
Close Close the selected application.

Deleting a virtual desktop

To remove or delete a virtual desktop, hover desktop thumbnail and click X sign. Removing or deleting a virtual desktop does not close the opened applications in that desktop. It simply moves them in the main desktop.

deleting a virtual desktop

Limitations of virtual desktops

Since a virtual desktop simulates the main desktop, it can be created only from the main desktop. We can create virtual desktops from the main desktop but we cannot create the main desktop from the virtual desktop.

Virtual desktops cannot be saved. We have to create them each time when the system starts. Once created, a virtual desktop remains available only in the running session. When system is shutdown, it is automatically discarded.

Virtual desktops are arranged in the same order in which they are created. There is no way to change their sequence.

To give a separate look and feel, a virtual desktop can’t be customized. A virtual desktop uses all customization of the main desktop such as background color, wallpaper, icons set, application shortcuts, etc. If we change any item that is related with the customization, the change applies on all desktops.

For example, if we change wallpaper in any virtual desktop, new wallpaper applies in all desktops. Same as, if we create a new application shortcut in any desktop, it becomes available in all desktops regardless in which desktop it is created.

To remove these limitations, you can use third party tools such as Windows 10 virtual desktop enhancer and Dexpot.

That’s all for this tutorial. If you like this tutorial, please don’t forget to share it with friends through your favorite social network.

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