Windows 10 Virtual Desktops

One of the great new features MS has added in Windows 10 is virtual desktops. This has been supported in other OSs for a long time so it is good to see that MS has caught up to this. In fact it was available with addons as far back as XP but now it is integrated into Windows. The idea has actually been around since the beginning of GUIs as it was seen on the pioneering Xerox PARC platforms. One of the biggest advantages is for power users with lots of windows open. In order to prevent running out of space for taskbar buttons, applications can be worked on in different virtual desktops, splitting the total number of windows across more than one desktop and keeping the number of them at a manageable level.
Virtual desktops are created and accessed using the task view button which appears on taskbars next to the search button. The button can be turned on and off so it may not be visible in which case you need to change taskbar settings. When you click on the button, along with the display of existing virtual desktops and the option to switch between them, you will also see a + sign you can click to add a new virtual desktop (or press Win+Control+D).
Some of the other capabilities include hover-peeking over the desktop to see what is in it and being able to drag windows between desktops. A few other useful keyboard shortcuts include:
  • Win+Ctrl+left-arrow/right-arrow: Cycle between desktops
  • Win+Ctrl+F4: Close current desktop (any open windows will get moved to the previous desktop)
  • Win+Tab: shortcut for the Task View button
Any virtual desktop can use all your monitors or just one monitor, it depends entirely on your choice of which screens to use. When the task view is selected you get to see all the apps that are open on all your screens so you can switch to a different desktop without needing to remember which one has which app in it. The hover peek shows previews of every window and which display that window is on when you hover the mouse over a particular desktop.
MS refers to the option of having the taskbar display all open windows or only the ones that are open on each desktop. I couldn’t find any setting that lets me configure it and observed sometimes the taskbar would show all open apps across desktops and other times it wouldn’t, which seems to be a glitch in the feature. Using the keyboard shortcuts to scroll between desktops is impressive as it actually scrolls the screen sideways. I expect to use this feature a lot on the computer that I draw the maps on, with probably several desktops just for different maps I am working on, so it will be interesting to try out. An issue I have run into is applications that can only run a single instance, which means they can only run in one desktop. Google Earth is an example of this and so the instance of it has to be dragged between desktops depending on which one you need it in currently.