They come under many names, boss key, panic button or anti boss to name a few. Computer users can make use of these applications to quickly switch from their current desktop view to one that is hiding specific windows, applications or everything.
That's helpful for instance while visiting websites during work that are not work related. A click of the button displays a Word document, Excel spreadsheet or another window that looks work related.
This article lists the majority of free boss key applications available, each with a short summary of what they are offering. Only free programs and extensions have been considered for this list.
Blind Bosskey Lite - professional application that makes use of "hide-lists". The user can add windows, process and executables to the hide list, to hide all selected items with a hotkey or a click on the system tray icon.
BossKey - A 7K application which can create up to ten virtual desktops that are accessible via hotkeys.
Clicky Gone - Open Source software that is offered as a portable version and an installer. Can hide all or selected applications, lots of hotkeys and settings. May take a bit longer to get used to.
Dad's Around, a portable solution that can minimize all windows by pressing a hotkey, silence the audio, blacken the screen and even kill the foreground process.
Don't Panic - Requires initial configuration, namely applications that should be hidden when the panic button is clicked on or activated via hotkey. Offers additional features like clearing recent files and the Internet history.
Hide My Browser Free - has been specifically designed to hide web browser windows.
Has lots of options. Windows can be hidden by pressing the left and right mouse buttons at the same time, or by pressing F12. The application mutes the sound when the windows are hidden, and can furthermore hide all desktop icons and the taskbar if configured to do so.
Plancoin hides windows based on keywords, option to configure an exclude or include listing. Supports hotkeys.
VicMan Boss Key, commercial application that is now offered as freeware. Can hide the active window with a hotkey.
A sophisticated tool that can be configured extensively. It is for instance possible to group applications and set hotkeys for those groups, define system wide hotkeys or password protect the program so that it cannot be accessed without supplying the password first.
WinHide.SB - Can be used to hide specific windows from appearing in the taskbar and on the desktop. Supports hotkeys and controls via the system tray.
Simple Boss Key [Firefox] - Maps the F12 key to minimize the browser. Suggests to open a harmless site in the first tab, as this is shown in the taskbar. May interfere with other add-ons that have mapped the F12 key (like Firebug)
Panic Button [Firefox] - Adds a Panic Button to Firefox that can hide all windows, minimize all windows or quit the browser. Maps F9 to the panic button so that a press of the button will invoke it as well.
Panic Button [Userscript], works in both Firefox and Google Chrome. Displays a Panic button on every page, which when clicked on changes the site to a harmless one.
Work Folder - Not a boss key application per se. It is a gaming site that looks like a folder on the local hard drive.
Do you know additional boss key / panic button applications that have not been included in the list? Let us know in the comments so that we can add them to it.