Windows 11 lets you create custom arrangements of apps in different workspaces (called “Virtual Desktops”) that you can switch between quickly using the Task View button. Here’s how to use them.
What Are Virtual Desktops?
Typically, when we say “desktop” in Windows, we usually mean the special storage space located behind all windows, which is also a special type of folder. You can give this desktop a background image and store icons on it. We could unofficially call this the “storage desktop.”
But in an even older sense of UI design history, the term “desktop” also includes the particular arrangement of open application windows in front of that background. So if you imagine a real wooden desk covered with papers in different positions, the entire arrangement could be called a “desktop.” It’s this second definition that the term “Virtual Desktops” applies to.
Up until Windows 10, most Windows PCs without multiple displays had a single desktop. Thanks to a feature called Task View in Windows 11, you can have multiple “virtual desktops” on the same PC and switch between them with ease. Each desktop contains its own arrangement of open windows and applications, but the icons on the “storage desktop” stay the same across all virtual desktops.
How to Create and Use Virtual Desktops
In Windows 11, virtual desktops are just a click away. To get started with them, click the Task View button in your taskbar, which looks like a square overlapping another. Or you can press Windows+Tab on your keyboard.
(If you don’t see the Task View button in your taskbar, right click the taskbar and select “Taskbar Settings,” then flip the switch beside “Task View” to the “On” position.)
Once you open Task View, you’ll see a special screen shows all of your open app windows in one area near the top (if you have any open). You’ll also see a row of virtual desktop thumbnails in a bar that stretches across the lower portion of the screen.
To add a new virtual desktop, click the “New Desktop” button with a plus sign (“+”) on it. Or you can press Windows+Ctrl+D on your keyboard.
A new desktop (numbered sequentially higher, such as “Desktop 2”) will appear in the list. To switch to it, click its thumbnail in Task View.
The new desktop will take over your view on the screen, and it will act just like your first desktop. You can open apps and position their windows any way you want. Apps you open will appear on the taskbar in the virtual desktop as well.
When you switch to another virtual desktop, that arrangement will be preserved, and you can switch back to it later by clicking Task View again and selecting the virtual desktop’s thumbnail.
Also, you can drag apps between virtual desktops in Task View by clicking and dragging the thumbnail of an app window onto the virtual desktop thumbnail at the bottom of the screen. And even cooler, you can set a different desktop background for each virtual desktop, which will make them easier to quickly distinguish as thumbnails.
How to Remove a Virtual Desktop in Windows 11
To remove a virtual desktop in Windows 11, first open Task View by clicking its icon in your taskbar (or by pressing Windows+Tab on your keyboard). Hover your cursor over the thumbnail of the virtual desktop you’d like to close until you see an “X” in the corner, then click or tap the “X.”
Alternately, you can open Task View (Windows+Tab), use your arrow keys to select a virtual desktop thumbnail, then press Delete on your keyboard to remove the selected virtual desktop.
Repeat these steps with any other virtual desktops you’d like to close. App windows that are open in the closed virtual desktop will move to the virtual desktop to the left of it (one number lower) in the list.
Virtual Desktop Keyboard Shortcuts
Windows 11 comes with an array of easy-to-use keyboard shortcuts that can make using virtual desktops more efficient—no mouse necessary. Here are a handful of major ones:
- Windows+Tab: Open Task View
- Windows+Ctrl+Left or Right Arrow: Switch between virtual desktops
- Windows+Ctrl+D: Create a new Virtual Desktop
- Arrow Keys and Enter: Use in Task View to select a Virtual Desktop
- Delete: Pressing this key while Task View is open will remove the selected desktop.
- Escape: Close Task View
Enjoy your new (virtual) desktops!