How to Avoid the Windows 10 Desktop

By Andy Rathbone

The newly beefed‐up Settings app in Windows 10 makes it easier than ever to avoid the desktop. A touchscreen tablet entices you to stick with apps for their finger‐sized tiles and easy‐to‐touch icons. Smartphone owners have enjoyed the app lifestyle for years. Easily downloadable apps offer help for nearly every niche, from bird‐watching to car repair.

A tablet’s lightweight yet large screen makes it easy to read digital books, newspapers, and magazines. You can browse your favorite websites while away from your desk.

But staying nestled within the world of apps can be more difficult than it appears. No matter how hard you try to avoid the desktop and its pin‐sized controls, you’ll find yourself dragged there when you do any of the following things from the Start menu:

  • Manage gadgetry: The Devices area of the Settings app lists all the devices connected to your computer, from printers to mice to portable hard drives. But it shows only their names; to change the settings of many of those devices requires a trip to the desktop’s Control Panel.
  • Run Desktop Programs: If you install or run any older programs designed for the desktop, you’re back in the old-school land of the desktop and its mouse-central design.
  • Manage files: You can access your photos and music files from the Photos and Music apps, respectively. But if you need to visit your OneDrive files or do more advanced tasks — sorting files by creation date, for example — it’s time to visit the desktop.

In short, the apps in Windows 10 handle most simple computing tasks, but when it comes to fine‐tuning your computer’s settings or performing maintenance work, you find yourself returning to the desktop or its Control Panel.

If you constantly return to the desktop for certain tasks, visit the Windows Store to search for an app that can handle the job. Microsoft stocks the store with more apps every day, and as the apps fill more niches, you’ll find yourself relying on the desktop less often.

Until the apps catch up with the desktop, tablet owners might want to pop a portable Bluetooth mouse into their gadget bags for those inevitable trips to the desktop and its tiny buttons and menus.

When running Windows on a tablet, make sure you’re in Tablet mode: Slide your finger inward from the screen’s right edge. When the Notifications pane appears, make sure the Tablet mode button is highlighted. If it’s not highlighted like the adjacent buttons, tap it to switch back to Tablet mode.