Microsoft has finally added virtual desktops as a built-in feature to Windows 10. Virtual desktops are useful if you run a lot of programs at once and want to organize them into categories, such as for work, web surfing, or playing games.

RELATED: How to Use Virtual Desktops in Windows 10

If you want to open a file or program in a new virtual desktop, you could create a new desktop using the Task View, switch to that desktop, and then open the file or program on that desktop. However, there’s a quicker way using a free tool that adds an option to the context menu.

Download Vdesk and save it in any folder on your hard drive. You don’t install this like a traditional program, so don’t double-click it–instead, save it in a safe place (where it won’t get deleted), and we’ll use a command line argument to create that context menu item.

Open File Explorer and navigate to the folder in which you saved the Vdesk.exe file. Right-click on the file and select “Open command window here” from the popup menu.

To add an option to the context menu that opens a file or folder in a new virtual desktop, type the following command at the prompt and press “Enter”.

vdesk -install

Click the “X” button in the upper-right corner of the command prompt window to close it.

To open a file or program in a new virtual desktop, right-click on the file, program .exe file, or program shortcut and select “Open in new virtual desktop” from the popup menu.

A new virtual desktop is created and the selected file or program is opened on that virtual desktop.

To remove the “Open in new virtual desktop” option from the context menu, open a command prompt window as discussed earlier in this article, type the following command at the prompt, and press “Enter”.

vdesk -uninstall

You can also have a specific file or program open in a new virtual desktop when Windows boots. For example, maybe you have a text file you open in Notepad every time you log into Windows so you can keep a log of your work. Vdesk is a command line tool, so you can create a batch file (a text file with the extension “.bat”) that runs Vdesk with the appropriate commands automatically when Windows starts. The command in the batch file for this example would be something like the following.

vdesk "C:\Users\Lori\Documents\My Work\MyLog.txt"

Be sure to put the appropriate path to the text file you want to open. Also, do not put “notepad” after “vdesk”. Doing so will open Notepad to a new, empty text file instead of opening the file you specify. Simply putting the full path to the text file after the “vdesk” command will open the text file in the default text editor. If you use the “vdesk” command on its own (without the full path) as listed above, you will need to add the full path to the vdesk.exe file to the Path system variable. If you don’t want to add the path to the Path system variable, be sure to put the full path to the vdesk.exe file in the batch file.

Vdesk can be used along with batch files to automatically set up virtual desktops with files and programs open that you use every day every time you boot Windows. You can also use Vdesk to launch a specific number of virtual desktops without opening specific files or programs on them. For example, the following command opens three virtual desktops (all the open programs become part of the first virtual desktop).

vdesk 3

If you have many virtual desktops running, it’s handy to know the number of the virtual desktop you’re currently viewing and there’s a free tool that adds an indicator to the system tray that displays the number of the currently active virtual desktop.

Profile Photo for Lori Kaufman Lori Kaufman
Lori Kaufman is a technology expert with 25 years of experience. She's been a senior technical writer, worked as a programmer, and has even run her own multi-location business.
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