One of our readers, a longtime OS X user, is now required to use Windows 8.1 at work. After years of using OS X’s Mission Control (formerly known as Exposé) to quickly clear away her active windows and show her desktop, she asked us if there was an equivalent feature in Windows. The answer, we’re glad to provide in this quick tip, is yes!
In Windows 8.1 (and all versions of Windows dating back to Windows 95), you can use the keyboard shortcut Windows Key + D to hide open windows and quickly show the desktop. And when we say “all” windows, we mean it. Windows Explorer, Web browsers, Office documents, email messages. You name it, it gets hidden when you press Windows+D, leaving nothing but a clean desktop.
This serves two primary purposes. First, it helps you easily access desktop files that are hidden under multiple layers of active windows without having to minimize or reposition each window. Second, it can act as a quick and dirty privacy feature, letting you hide whatever you were working on if snooping eyes enter the room. In fact, this latter use has been awarded its own Urban Dictionary definition.
When you’re done reviewing or opening your previously hidden desktop files (or once the coast is clear), just press Windows Key + D again to unhide or restore your windows. Buttons on the taskbar (in the quick launch area for Windows 98 to Windows Vista, and at the far right of the taskbar for Windows 7 and 8) also let you hide open windows and bring the desktop front and center, but a keyboard shortcut is often quicker and the preferred method for power users.
One point of clarification: the shortcut discussed here hides your windows, it does not minimize them (you can use Windows Key + M to do that). The key difference here is, first, using the “minimize all” function may take an extra second or two as the minimize animation plays out for each of your open windows, depending on your PC’s Windows visualization settings. Second, the minimize all command won’t hide any open dialog windows, such as a deletion confirmation or error alert. Using Windows Key + D hides everything immediately.
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