Minimise To The Desktop For Faster Keyboard Access

Minimise To The Desktop For Faster Keyboard Access

If you’re a keyboard shortcut junkie, you probably already know that there’s two ways to get straight to the desktop in Windows without needing to mess around with mice — but you may not know that one is ultimately more useful than the other.

Windows has long supported using the Windows key-M shortcut to minimise all open applications (certainly since Windows 95). You can also use Windows key-D to go directly to the desktop (a shortcut I’ll admit to only learning much more recently).

In immediate terms, the result might appear to be similar: the desktop appears in front of you. However, there’s one crucial distinction. The minimise shortcut also places focus on the desktop itself, so you can navigate between icons using the keyboard. That doesn’t happen with the desktop shortcut — you can see everything, but to actually access any of the desktop goodies, you’ll need to click. (In this case, focus actually stays on the last application you were in; hitting Enter will reopen that window.)

Of course, you might still prefer the D route if you don’t want all your windows minimised — but if you have to access the mouse straight after using a keyboard shortcut, that’s notably less efficient. And if (like me) you prefer running applications maximised (and will end up returning to them using Alt-Tab), then there’s a definite benefit in the Windows-M approach.


  • There’s more than just that as a difference. If you press Windows-D again after you’ve minimised, it will restore the windows as they were before you minimised. Also, in Vista Windows-M doesn’t seem to minimise any documents on other monitors other the main one, and Windows-D in Vista focuses on the desktop as well, so I think it’s Windows-D all the way.

      • I think there must be a problem with your computer, because Windows – D “does” focus on the desktop for me when I use it (ie. can use the keyboard to move around shortcuts etc.) and when I press it again, returns focus to the window I was using before. This is a lot better than Windows – M.

    • I’ve also only learned about Windows-D recently, after trying to learn equivalent windows shortcuts in Linux(Gnome). One advantage of Windows-D is that it will also minimise windows that have open dialog boxes, which Windows-M doesn’t. Can also confirm that when all windows minimised, the arrow keys let me navigate around icons on the desktop (Win XP Pro)

  • I agree with everyone above, I use the minimise restore function of Win+D a lot. Plus it’s more convenient and faster to use Win+D with one hand.

    Your argument about the inefficiency of moving between keyboard and mouse seems flawed for right-handed ppl. I can trigger the Win+D shortcut with my left hand on the keyboard WHILE my right hand is using the mouse. Which is faster than struggling to press Win+M, and than navigating your desktop icons with your keyboard.

    • For me, the point of keyboard shortcuts is not moving out to the mouse at all. (In fact, I don’t have a mouse — I’ve been using a laptop for years — but the principle stands.)

      And it’s hardly a struggle to type Win-M when both hands are on the keyboard. I only keep a handful of items on my desktop, so navigating them is quick. (Anything I want regularly is on the Start menu and accessible with two keystrokes, though sadly Windows 7 is going to eliminate that particular convenience.)

  • Without reading any of the previous comment, i just have this to say;

    “uhhh, no, it doesnt”

    The win+d shortcut, both on my vista machine, and my win 7 machine, DOES put focus on the desktop. Just tap an arrow key. After reading the article, and putting all your differences to practise, i found NONE of them as listed. As far as I can see (right down to restoring windows), the two shortcuts are IDENTICLE.

    • Just tested it again on Vista and there’s definitely no focus — I can tap as many arrow keys as I like after Win-D and nothing happens.

      Perhaps there’s some other factor influencing whether focus becomes avaialble (though whether this is other menu settings, service packs, or whatever, I don’t know). And most commenters here have seen differences between the two (as you’d see if you read them).

      Anyone with multiple monitors want to play spot-the-difference to satisfy our cynical friend?

  • I never knew windows + D before reading this article.

    However for me on vista (Business SP1 if it makes a difference), windows + D does give focus, if by that you mean that I tap arrow keys and it flicks between icons on my desktop.

    But, windows + m does not seem to for me? lol quite bizarre.

  • My Win+D in Win 7 Beta 1 gives me desktop focus too. I typically have one hand on the mouse to scroll through web pages and use the other to Win+D when I have to leave my desktop, rather than locking it. For programs like iTunes that automatically go to the tray instead of minimizing, it is quite handy to clear up some taskbar room.

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