Jane asked how she could clear her Windows desktop clutter and interact with an icon on her desktop. The problem is that she has lots of windows open concurrently, and she can’t really even see her desktop through all the windows. Is there an easy way to clear away the clutter and get to the Windows desktop, so she can start up a different app from its desktop icon?
Windows provides several different means of hiding all the currently active windows, effectively clearing the desktop so you can interact with its icons. The simplest one is relatively undiscoverable, unless you tend to randomly click at everything on your desktop! In Windows Vista (and if you’re using Vista, it’s time to upgrade, really), Windows 7, and in the desktop view in Windows 8, you can click on the little vertical rectangle that appears on the right-hand edge of the Task bar—this action minimizes all the active windows, leaving a clean desktop. In Windows 8, the rectangle doesn’t “light up” until you click it, so it’s even more difficult to notice. Clicking the rectangle a second time restores all the active windows to their original positions.
For a more different solution, you can right-click on the Task bar, select Toolbars from the context menu, and then choose Desktop from the list of available toolbars. This action adds a Desktop menu to the Task bar, and you can select the icon in question from this toolbar, rather than clearing the active windows.
Windows also offers the option of minimizing all but the current, active window. The simplest way to do this is to press the Windows key and the Home key simultaneously. This key combination minimizes all but the current window, and pressing it again restores all the windows. (Doug found this one—Ken had never heard of it!)
Windows 8 also provides an alternate, weird, and perhaps useless way to minimize all but the current window. This works, but who would have though of it? Click the header of the active window, and shake it with the mouse. No kidding! This action minimizes all but the active window. Grab and shake again to restore all the active windows. Try it—it works. But it’s weird.