How to Use Multiple Desktops in Windows 11
The ultimate guide to using multiple desktops in Windows 11.
To switch between desktops in Windows 11, hover over the Task View button in the Taskbar and select the virtual desktop you want to access or press
Tabto launch Task View and select the desired desktop from the bottom. You can also use keyboard shortcuts:
→to go right or
←to go left in the Task View.
Creating and using multiple desktops in Windows 11 is a fantastic feature that allows users to efficiently manage their workspaces. This feature is particularly of interest to users who happen to multitask a lot on their computers.
Windows 11 enables you to effortlessly create several desktops through the Task View feature, which is conveniently found in the Taskbar by default. Although previous versions of Windows included the Task View feature and allowed for the creation of multiple desktops, the customization options were limited. Windows 11, however, provides a wider range of customization choices, which will be explained further below.
Before diving into the steps for creating multiple desktops and exploring the various customization options, it's important for new users to grasp the concept and purpose of using multiple desktops.
Why do I need Multiple Desktops?
The use of multiple desktops, or virtual desktops, is a matter of personal preference, and its benefits may vary from person to person. To help you understand the advantages of this feature and decide if it's right for you, we've outlined some key points below.
Organization and Focus. Virtual desktops allow you to group and separate various windows based on their purpose. For example, you can dedicate one virtual desktop to work-related tasks, and another to entertainment apps and tabs. This organization can help improve your focus and productivity by reducing clutter. You can create as many categories and virtual desktops as you need to suit your preferences.
Easy Window Management. Switching windows between virtual desktops is a simple drag-and-drop process, making it easy to reorganize and manage your workspaces. Despite concerns about added complexity, virtual desktops in Windows 11 actually simplify the user experience.
Customizable Backgrounds. Windows 11 now supports individual wallpapers for each virtual desktop, allowing you to personalize the appearance of each workspace according to your mood or task. This eliminates the need to constantly change your desktop wallpaper as you move between different tasks.
Ultimately, the best way to determine if multiple desktops are right for you is to try it out and see how it fits into your workflow.
Creating Multiple Virtual Desktops in Windows 11
To create a virtual desktop, hover the cursor over the Task View icon in the Taskbar and you will find the currently active desktop mentioned as ‘Desktop 1’ (unless you have renamed it) and an option to create a ‘New desktop’. Click on the option to create a new virtual desktop.
Hovering the cursor over the ‘Task View’ button only displays the various active virtual desktops. However, if you click on the button or employ the
TAB keyboard shortcut, you will find all the active windows on the current desktop displayed at the top and the virtual desktops at the bottom. To create a virtual desktop, click on the ‘New desktop’ option, as you did earlier.
After you create a virtual desktop, it will be displayed alongside the current desktop in Task View.
Can’t Find the Task View Button? It’s Probably Hidden
Although the Task View button is added to the Taskbar by default, you may have hidden it from the Taskbar settings earlier. If that’s the case, here’s how you enable the Task View button.
Right-click anywhere on the empty portion of the Taskbar and select ‘Taskbar Settings’.
Now, make sure the toggle next to ‘Task view’ is enabled and ‘On’ is mentioned before it. In case the ‘Task View’ button is disabled, click on the toggle to enable it.
Switching Desktop in Windows 11
Once you have set up multiple virtual desktops, it’s time you know how to switch between them. You can either do it through Task View or using the keyboard shortcut for the same.
To switch desktops, hover the cursor over the Task View button in the Taskbar, and select the virtual desktop that you want to access. You will then be redirected to it.
You can also press
TAB to launch full Task View, and then select the required virtual desktop from the bottom.
To quickly switch between desktops using keyboard shortcuts, press
→ to switch to the virtual desktop on the right, or
← to switch to the one on the left.
The keyboard shortcuts work great if you have just a couple of virtual desktops open. However, if you have set up multiple virtual desktops, switching through Task View makes more sense.
Rename a Virtual Desktop
To rename a virtual desktop, hover the cursor over the ‘Task View’ button in the Taskbar, click on the name of the virtual desktop, type a new name, and press
ENTER to save the changes.
You can also rename a virtual desktop by right-clicking on the thumbnail in the Task View, and then selecting the ‘Rename’ option from the context menu.
Now type the new name for the virtual desktop and press
Rearranging Virtual Desktops
Rearranging virtual desktops is just as easy. You can either rearrange them by dragging and dropping them or using the keyboard shortcuts.
By Dragging and Dropping
To rearrange virtual desktops, either click on the ‘Task View’ button or press
TAB. Now, click on the virtual desktop that you want to move, and without releasing the click, drag it to the desired position. When you hold and drag a virtual desktop, the others will appear dull.
Once you move it to the desired position, release the click. The other virtual desktops will rearrange accordingly.
Using Keyboard Shortcuts
If you have multiple virtual desktops open and want to rearrange, drag and drop would be convenient. However, if there are just a few, the keyboard shortcuts are just as good. Also, many people don’t prefer the drag and drop method due to a lack of control.
To rearrange virtual desktops using keyboard shortcuts, first, either click on the ‘Task View’ icon or press
TAB to launch Task View. To select a virtual desktop, press the
TAB key. You will now find a black outline along the current virtual desktop. Now press
→ to move the virtual desktop to the right and
← to move it to the left.
The selected virtual desktop will now be moved along the chosen direction.
Change Background of Virtual Desktop
This is one of the customizations that wasn't available in Windows 10 and something users were looking forward to. You can have the desired background for each of the virtual desktops. Here’s how you do it.
To change the background of a virtual desktop, either click on the Task View button in the Taskbar or press
TAB. Now, right-click on the virtual desktop for which you want to change the background and select ‘Choose background’ from the context menu.
The background personalization settings window will open in the selected virtual desktop. Now, select the desired background or theme, as you generally do. It will then be applied just to the current virtual desktop while the others remain unaffected.
Here we have set different backgrounds for each of the individual virtual desktops, to give you an idea of how it works.
Unable to Change Virtual Desktop Background?
Many users have reported being unable to change the background for the selected virtual desktop. This is because if you open ‘Settings’ in one virtual desktop, and try to launch it in another, Windows will automatically redirect you to the first virtual desktop, without any notification or prompt.
The same goes for trying to change the virtual desktop background. If you try and change the background for a virtual desktop, with the ‘Settings’ app open in another, you will be redirected without even realizing, and end up changing the background of the wrong virtual desktop.
To help you understand, let’s take an example. Suppose you want to change the background of ‘Web’ virtual desktop. You would right-click on it and select ‘Choose background’ from the context menu. If you can see, the Settings app is already open on the ‘Work’ virtual desktop. So when you select the ‘Choose background’ option, it will redirect you to the ‘Work’ virtual desktop and any changes made to the background would be applied there, instead of ‘Web’ virtual desktop.
So, how do we fix this issue? It’s pretty simple, actually. All you have to do is ensure that the ‘Settings’ app is not open on any virtual desktop while you make the changes. So, just check all the virtual desktops and close the ‘Settings’ app, if you find it open on any.
Change Virtual Desktop Settings
Windows 11 offers you the option to set what is to be displayed in the Taskbar or the
TAB Task Switcher. You can either have all the open windows across virtual desktops displayed or just the ones on the current virtual desktop.
To change the Virtual Desktop settings, search for ‘Settings’ in the ‘Start Menu’ and click on the relevant search result to launch the app.
In the ‘System’ settings that open by default, scroll down on the right and select ‘Multitasking’.
Now, click on ‘Desktops’ and you will find two options listed under it, each with a menu next to it. Just click on the menu next to each to make the appropriate selection.
If you select the menu next to either of the options, you will find the same two choices listed. The choice ‘On all desktops’ will list all the windows open across virtual desktops, while ‘Only on the desktop I’m using’ will show only the windows on the current virtual desktop.
Select the appropriate choice for each option to enhance your virtual desktop experience.
Move Apps Between Virtual Desktops
Another feature that’s bound to make your Windows 11 virtual desktop experience finer is the ability to move apps between virtual desktops. For instance, you are working on an app that you believe for rather fit on another virtual desktop. You can simply move it from one virtual desktop to the other.
To move apps between virtual desktops, navigate to the virtual desktop where the app is open and press
TAB to launch the Task View. You will now find the app thumbnail on the screen.
Just hold and drag the app to the desired virtual desktop at the bottom and release the mouse button.
You can now access the app from the virtual desktop it has been moved to.
That’s all there’s to Virtual Desktops on Windows 11. Explore the various options and customizations and you will get a hang of it within a few minutes.