VDesk for Windows 10: launch programs on virtual desktops - gHacks Tech News


VDesk for Windows 10: launch programs on virtual desktops

VDesk is a free, open source, program for the Windows 10 operating system that extends a system's virtual desktop functionality.

Microsoft added a virtual desktop feature to Windows 10 that is completely optional to use. It adds options to Windows 10 to create a number of virtual desktops that users can switch between to separate programs from each other.

The concept is not new and has been part of many Linux distributions for years. Microsoft released a program for Windows XP back then that added virtual desktop functionality to the operating system.

Virtual desktops work similar to using multiple displays but with the difference that only one virtual desktop is visible at a time.

Programs can be moved around between desktops, but there is no option to configure Windows to open programs on virtual desktops (all the time) when they are started.

VDesk: launch programs on virtual desktops


Vdesk is a portable program for Windows that adds the feature to Windows 10. It is a command line program but ships with an option to integrate its functionality in File Explorer.

The main command looks like this: vdesk [n] [command [args]]

  • n sets the index of the virtual desktop you want to launch the program on.
  • [command [args]] specifies the program and arguments that you want it to start.

Use the command vdesk create:4 to create 4 new virtual desktops. The command vdesk run:notepad.exe launches Notepad on a new virtual desktop, while vdesk on:3 run:notepad c:\text.txt opens Notepad on virtual desktop 3 and uses an argument to load text.txt automatically.

So, on:n is used to specify the virtual desktop n, and run: specifies the program that you want to run.

You can run the application on start of Windows 10 to always load programs on virtual desktops when the operating system starts by creating simple batch files, and adding them to one of the many startup locations of the operating system.

The option to launch a program on a new virtual desktop can be added to File Explorer as well. You need to run vdesk -install for that on the command line, and will notice afterwards that a new "open in new virtual desktop" option is available when you right-click on executable files in File Explorer.

The command vdesk -uninstall removes the entry from File Explorer again.

The developer of Vdesk made a demo video that showcases the functionality of the program.

Closing Words

Vdesk extends the virtual desktop functionality on Windows 10 by adding options to the operating system to launch programs on specific desktops.

Now You: Do you make use of virtual desktops?

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  1. Jeff said on June 15, 2016 at 4:11 pm

    Martin, do you know any free program to launch programs directly on secondary physical monitor? Or move the window to monitor where the mouse pointer is, automatically?

    1. Biu said on June 15, 2016 at 5:45 pm

      Hi Jeff,

      Take a look here: https://www.ghacks.net/2015/10/07/start-programs-with-different-settings-on-windows-with-advancedrun/

      I use it to set X,Y coordinates of the opening app, so I can put it on second monitor.

  2. i214chess said on August 31, 2016 at 7:25 am

    May you please create an install guide?
    How do install the context menu too?

    Thanks in advance!

    I just downloaded, from the release page, VDesk.exe but nothing happens when I (R) Click > Run As Admin

    I have this folder open too, waiting, so I can add shortcuts with WDesk commands.

    C:\Users\XYZABC\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Startup

  3. Amstat said on September 5, 2016 at 5:50 pm

    @batchfile test_start.bat
    vdesk 2 notepad
    vdesk 1

    REM This start the Notepad on the Desktop #2 and return to the Desktop #1
    REM Fix issue

  4. Franklin said on September 26, 2017 at 12:58 pm

    On Win10, and using 4 vdesk’s, when [win]+right, the VM (VirtualBOX) receive de focus and works great, but when press [win]+left, the VM captures the key and don’t switch to previous vdesk, any way to solve this?

  5. Bob said on April 21, 2018 at 11:48 pm

    The program does not work. The Vdesk demo is wrong , the install directions are wrong, the command options do not work

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on April 22, 2018 at 7:36 am

      Bob, I have updated the article. The instructions appear to have changed since the review, the updated review reflects that.

  6. Michael A Stoltzfus said on October 25, 2018 at 4:07 pm

    I somewhat recently adopted the whole virtual desktops feature as a way for me to compartmentalize/remain efficient, as I do a lot of task switching at my job. VDesk has made it really easy for me to customize shortcuts so that I can limit the clicking I need to do in order to “compartmentalize” on the fly. Great product!

  7. Fabian Zimmer said on June 21, 2020 at 3:11 pm


    I am encountering an issue, which I haven’t seen on any VDesk related website.
    Some programs cannot be opened by the usual cmd command (for example MendeleyDesktop.exe from https://www.mendeley.com/) and if I try, the message “The system cannot find the file specified” appears.

    Is there a simple fix to this? Or are some programs not targetable?

    1. George Snyder said on July 25, 2020 at 4:57 pm

      The error “The system cannot find the file specified” can occur if VDesk cannot find the specified executable. If it is not on %PATH%, then its full path must be specified on the command line:

      vdesk on:11 run:”C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft\Edge\Application\msedge.exe”

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