Applies to

Surface RT, Surface 2, Surface Pro, Surface Pro 2, Surface Pro 3, Windows 8.1, Windows RT 8.1.


Using the desktop

Desktop, Start screen, or a little of both? Set up your Surface to use the features you like where you want them.


In the desktop, you can use all kinds of apps and programs—from specialized software to any of the apps from the Windows Store. You can pin your favorite apps and programs to your taskbar so you can get to them quickly, and you can personalize the desktop with different shortcuts, backgrounds, colors, and themes.

No matter how you want to use your Surface, you can switch quickly between apps, windows, and Start screen right from the desktop.

Getting to the desktop

There are a few ways to get to the desktop from anywhere on your Surface. You can do any of the following:

  • From the Start screen, tap or click Desktop. If you don’t see the Desktop tile on the Start screen, swipe up from the middle of the screen to get to Apps view, and then tap or click Desktop.
  • Press Windows logo key Windows logo key+ D on your keyboard.
  • Swipe in from the right edge of the screen, and then tap Search. (If you're using a mouse, point to the upper-right corner of the screen, move the mouse pointer down, and then click Search.). Enter desktop in the search box, and then tap or click Desktop in the results.

Apps on the taskbar

The taskbar is where you can switch between apps you have open and can pin apps you use often so you can open them right from the desktop.

Taskbar with desktop and Windows Store apps

You can typically find the taskbar at the bottom of the desktop, but you can get to it from anywhere on your PC by moving your mouse pointer below the bottom edge of the screen.

If you don't see all your open apps on the taskbar

If your open Windows Store apps don’t appear on your taskbar, see How to use the taskbar to learn how to see Windows Store apps on the taskbar.

Pinning apps to your taskbar

Whether you're using touch or a mouse, you can pin any app to your taskbar so it's easy to open when you're in the desktop.

Step 1: On the Start screen, slide up from the middle of the screen to see the Apps view.
(If you’re using a mouse, click the arrow Down arrow near the lower-left corner of the screen.)
Click arrow to see apps
Step 2: Press and hold or right-click to select the app you want to pin.
(To select multiple apps with a mouse and Typing Cover or keyboard, press and hold Ctrl and then right-click each of the apps you want to pin.)
Select tiles
Step 3: Tap or click Pin to taskbar.
Pin selected apps

Pinning apps you have open

If you're already using an app, you can pin it to the taskbar without going to the Start screen.

Step 1: Press and hold the app's taskbar button and slide your finger up until a menu appears.
(If you're using a mouse, right-click the app button on the taskbar.)
Press, hold, and slide an icon in the taskbar.
Step 2: Tap or click Pin this program to taskbar. The app you pinned will stay on your taskbar even after you close the app.
Select “Pin this program to taskbar.”

Switching between apps on the taskbar

When you're using an app, you can bring up the taskbar to quickly switch back to a different app or to go back to Start.

To see the taskbar when you're using an app that takes up the whole screen, move your mouse pointer below the bottom edge of the screen. Then, click the Start button Start button to go back to Start, or click another app button to switch to a different app.

Close, minimize or split an app

You can close an app with a mouse by moving the cursor to the top of the app and clicking the Close Close button button in the upper-right corner.

Mouse to top of app to see Close and Minimize buttons

If you have the setting to see Windows apps on the taskbar turned on, you’ll see the Minimize button on the taskbar, too, next to the Close button Close button. See How to use the taskbar to learn about this setting.

You can also minimize, close, or split an app to the left or right side of the screen by right-clicking the app icon in the upper-left corner of the title bar.

Right-click icon in upper left corner for more options.

Customizing the desktop

You can customize your desktop with shortcuts to apps and files you use often and colors and images that reflect your personality. Choose from free themes in the Personalization Gallery to bring images, colors, and sound schemes to your desktop all in one beautiful package. For more info about personalizing the desktop, see Get started with themes.

Go to the desktop when you sign in

By default your Surface goes to the Start screen when you sign in. You can choose to instead go to the desktop, or to show the Apps view if you prefer. Here’s how:

Step 1: At the Start screen, tap or click the Search button Search button next to your account picture, and in the search box, enter taskbar, tap or click Taskbar and Navigation in the search results.
Step 2: Tap or click the Navigation tab.
Step 3: Tap or click the When I sign in or close all apps on a screen, go to the desktop instead of Start check box, and tap or click OK.
Tip
To instead show Apps view when you sign in, tap or click Show the Apps view automatically when I go to Start check box, and then tap or click OK.
(Any of the other commands that typically take you to Start will now take you to the Apps view too.)

More options from the Start button

In the lower-left corner of the desktop you'll see the Start button Start button. You can tap or click the it to get to the Start screen, or you can press and hold or right-click it to see a menu of quick and advanced options—you can do things like shut down and sign out, get to Control Panel and Task Manager, or open a Command Prompt window.

The Start button Start button is always available, so you can get to these menu options from anywhere—the desktop, an app, or even the Start screen or Apps view. If you don't see it, move your mouse to the lower-left corner, and the Start button will appear.

More options from the Start button in the lower left corner.


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