What is the difference between Minimize All and Show Desktop?

Date:May 27, 2004 / year-entry #209
Orig Link:https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/oldnewthing/20040527-00/?p=39153
Comments:    40
Summary:The keyboard shortcut for "Minimize All" is +M and The keyboard shortcut for "Show Desktop" is +D. How are they different? "Minimize All" is easier to describe. It minimizes all the windows that support the "Minimize" command. You can minimize a window by selecting "Minimize" from its System menu, or by clicking the 0 button...

The keyboard shortcut for "Minimize All" is ÿ+M and The keyboard shortcut for "Show Desktop" is ÿ+D. How are they different?

"Minimize All" is easier to describe. It minimizes all the windows that support the "Minimize" command. You can minimize a window by selecting "Minimize" from its System menu, or by clicking the 0 button in the title bar. So "Minimize All" is effectively the same as going to each window that is open and clicking the Minimize button. If there is a window that doesn't have a Minimize button, then it is left alone.

"Show Desktop" takes "Minimize All" one step further. After minimizing all the windows that can be minimized, it then takes the desktop and "raises" it to the top of the window stack so that no other windows cover it. (Well, okay, topmost windows continue to cover it.)

So "Show Desktop" manages to get a few more windows out of your way than "Minimize All".

Note, however, that when you return the desktop to its normal state (either by selecting "Show Open Windows" or just by switching to another window), all the un-minimizeable windows come back because the desktop has "lowered" itself back to the bottom of the window stack.

Comments (40)
  1. Scott says:

    Why does "Show Desktop" also have to minimize the windows, instead of just raising the desktop to the top of the window stack?

  2. Snorrk says:

    Maybe its just me – but I find this quite interesting – good post :)

  3. quanta says:

    Wow, what a fine difference. Nifty to know!

    I personally use Win+D, it’s easier to activate with one hand.

  4. Raymond Chen says:

    Scott: Most users don’t understand the "stack", so it ends up less confusing if "Show Desktop" is just "Minimize All with extra sauce".

  5. Cooney says:

    Hey raymond, what’s the code for the windows key? View selection source gave me umlaut-y in the wingdings face.

  6. Raymond Chen says:

    Because that’s what it is. Charmap is your friend.

  7. Kevin Dente says:

    So why is it that when you do a Show Desktop, then restore, the windows always seem to come back in a different order than when you started (even the active window can be different)? That’s the one thing that generally keeps me from using Show Desktop.

  8. ATZ Man says:


    There’s no standardized character code that gets you the windows key character. The umlaut-y code is 255 (even in Unicode), and the wingdings font is a dingbat font with a special character mapping table inside such that code 255 selects the windows key image. As far as HTML goes, what Raymond did to get the Windows key image is as good as you can do if are constrained from using images for some reason. I suspect it is not so handy to put little bitty images inline via the blogging software.

  9. Raymond Chen, who wrote the original Windows Tweak UI power toy, posted an excellent explanation that every Windows power user should read: What is the difference between Minimize All and Show Desktop? The keyboard shortcut for "Minimize All" is [Windows logo] + M and the keyboard shortcut for "Show Desktop"…

  10. Dave says:

    one of the funny things about the mac lifestyle is when long-time mac users make fun of people for calling the command key the ‘apple’ key. it’s the same in-crowd-ism that makes them snicker at you if you say ‘mac oh ess ecks’ instead of ‘oh ess 10’. that’s why i usually say i’m running ‘mac oh ess ecks dot eye eye eye’. i’m not sure if i’m going to download the new ecks dot eye eye eye dot eye vee update or not, though.

  11. Chris says:


    Well, I still sometimes call it the "open-apple" key in fond reminiscence of my Apple IIe. Guess that makes me really old school.

  12. Raymond Chen says:

    Pah. "Paddle button 0".

  13. The problem with Win+D is that it also manages to hide Explorer bars that float over the desktop. Much consternation that caused me.

    OT, but does anyone know where the heck Explorer persists its toolbar settings? For the life fo me I haven’t been able to figure it out.

    Oh, and since we’re in tip mode, didja know that when you detach an Explorer bar (QuickLaunch or a custom one) and float it on the desktop it actually shows up in the task manager as an application? And didja know you can host an HTML page inside an Explorer bar? And didja know… that’s enough!

  14. ko says:

    The one thing i like about [win]-d is that if you’re only looking for something quickly on the desktop, then hit [win]-d again, you get all the windows back again. [win]-m doesn’t do that, although i’ve just discovered if you hit [win]-d twice after [win]-m, you get all the open windows back again.

    I find it useful because there are occasional things which i leave just on the desktop rather than in an easier to reach menu.

  15. David S says:

    Yea, I really hate how Win+D hides items that are "attached" to the desktop. I have my quick launch bar on the left edge of the screen and a little calendar program (Rainlendar) and those go away with Win+D. That’s why I stick with Win+M.

    One thing I noticed with Win+D is that you can "undo" it by pressing Win+D again, a luxary not available when using Win+M.

  16. Jack Mathews says:


    Win+Shift+M undoes the Minimize All Windows.

  17. Jerry Pisk says:

    Klaus – yes, I did know that. Task manager considers every single top level window a separate application, even things such as IE download windows.

    You can host a web page inside a windows explorer because windows explorer and Internet explorer are the same thing. Type C: into IE’s address bar a voila – it turns into Windows explorer.

    Things I do not know – why the taskbar or the tray or taskbar toolbars sometimes lose their always on top setting and their tooltips show behind top level windows. Why does explorer sometimes save its position and sometimes it doesn’t. Why does it randomly decides to hide the status bar when started? Why does it switch to random view in some folders (mostly tiles, but not always), even when I’ve told it a million times that I want List to be my default view. Why does it forget that I wanted to see Control Panel in Icons view, not List (even though I did tell it to remeber individual folder’s view).

  18. David Candy says:


    is where a lot of the taskbar settings are. It’s written on logoff.

  19. Skywing says:

    Why does the Z order get messed up with Show Desktop, then?

    [Try it — if you open a few windows and then toggle Show Desktop a few timess, you tend to get a different window on top each time].

    It seems that Minimize All / Undo Minimize All is less prone to this behavior, but that may just be dumb luck.

  20. Raymond Chen says:

    It’s not that the taskbar loses always-on-top; it’s that there are two always-on-top windows, the tooltip and the taskbar, and they end up fighting with each other.

    Why does it forget views? Because if it remembered every single view you’d complain "Why is it still wasting memory remembering the view of this folder I visited two years ago?" You can use Tweak UI to customize how many views Explorer will remember.

  21. David Candy says:

    Is this why tooltips appear under the taskbar?

  22. Raymond Chen says:

    Yes, I was answering the question, "why the taskbar or the tray or taskbar toolbars sometimes lose their always on top setting and their tooltips show behind top level windows."

  23. Marc Wallace says:

    This is *great* to know. For the last two weeks I’ve been accidentally hitting Apple-D all the time (as I’ve started using Alt-D to get to the address bar in Explorer), and I kept wondering why anyone would make two shortcuts that do the same thing.

    I did notice that Apple-M doesn’t get everything — like apps which are hung or waiting on synchronous network connections. If Apple-D brings the desktop above that, I’ll start using that.

    And, yeah, I’m saying "Apple" for that key with the Microsoft logo on it. So sue me, I’ve been calling it that since "special magic Win95-compatible" keyboards started coming out, because that’s what it is. Besides, it’s nicer than that umlauty y. ;-)

  24. Carlos says:

    Raymond, could you do everyone a favor and stop being a prick about "it’s like this, because oh you’ll complain about that" or "you all don’t like microsoft so we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t" and so on and so on. No one denies you are smart, and it’s your blog but an explanation is fine without the childish editorializing, which only makes you seem very petty and disdainful of the people who buy the products which pays your salary.

  25. Raymond Chen says:

    But what if that’s the actual reason?

  26. Jerry Pisk says:

    Raymond, explorer has the option to reset that data. It’s in Tools -> Folder Options…, View tab and Click either "Reset All Folders" to reset the data you say explorer is forgetting because we’d be cmplaining it remembers it or "Apply to All Folders" to reset all remembered views and set the default to the current one. I agree with Carlos, you (as in Microsoft, not just you personally) are making way too many decisions based on your perception of your average user being a complete idiot, ruining your products for us who actually know something.

    As for those tooltips – I can understand they would appear below the taskbar, they’re two always on top windows, my question was – why do they appear below regular, top level windows, such as IE, Outlook, MSDEV and so on? Those are not always on top…

  27. Jerry Pisk says:

    And one more thing – why exactly is that option called "Remember each folder’s view settings" if according to you it’s not supposed to do that?

  28. Raymond Chen says:

    It does remember them, for a time. The checkbox really means "If you uncheck me, then Explorer will not even try to remember settings."

    The deal is that designing mass-market software is an enormous game of trade-offs. It’s more than just "complete idiots" and "people who actually know something". Corporate deployments are also a huge factor. I’ll make a note to take up this issue in more detail in a future entry.

  29. Scott says:

    I’m curious… Have things like this (and other explanations of weird windows things) ever been documented for the outside world before?

  30. David Candy says:

    To Jerry

    But I don’t see where we (only you) went from talking about windows to talking about folder views. From W2K Resource Kit which AFAIK is the only placed it’s explained for any version.

    Understanding Saved Views and Browsing Folders

    In Windows 2000 Professional, the view you use is not always permanently saved in Windows Explorer. You can control whether the views you use are saved permanently or temporarily by using the Remember each folder’s view settings check box on the View tab of the Folder Options dialog box (see figure 9.3).

    By default the Remember each folder’s view settings option is enabled. When you choose to leave this setting enabled, the following happens:

    The changes you make to a folder’s view is automatically saved when you close the folder.

    The view you use to view one folder is not applied to other folders.

    When you open a folder, it opens in the view you used when you last viewed it.

    When you clear the check box for Remember each folder’s view settings, the following happens:

    When you start Windows Explorer, the first folder you view displays in the folder’s saved view. Windows Explorer holds that view in temporary memory and applies it to all the folders that you visit while Windows Explorer remains open unless you manually alter the view.

    As you browse to other folders (after the initial folder is opened), the saved view for each folder is ignored, and when you quit Windows Explorer, the folder view that you have been using to view multiple folders is deleted from temporary memory.

    The next time you open Windows Explorer, once again, it is the saved view of the first folder you open that determines how you view multiple folders.

    Setting All Folders to the Same View

    Some users want to have all their Windows Explorer folders set to the same view. In Windows 2000 Professional, the default setting is that any change made to a folder’s view is automatically saved when you close the folder and is not applied to other folders. However, you can set all folders to the same view by using the Folder Options command as described in the following procedure.

    To set all folders to the same view

    In My Computer or Windows Explorer, set the view to your preference.

    On the Tools menu, click Folder Options.

    In the Folder Options dialog box, click the View tab.

    Under Folder Views, click Like Current Folder.

    Important The Remember each folder’s view settings check box on the View tab of the Folder Options dialog box (see Figure 9.3) affects how the view settings of individual folders are applied and saved. For more information about the impact of clearing this check box, see "Understanding Saved Views and Browsing Folders" earlier in this chapter.

  31. I’m disappointed in you Raymond. I’ve always been able to read your blog on non-windows computers, but now you’re referring to "ÿ+M" and "the 0 button in the title bar" using font tags?

  32. Saj says:


    It would be enlightening to see what your desktop looks like. Also, what are the top 10 apps that you use daily?

  33. Win Shift M or Win D, respectively.

  34. Marc says:

    The Win+D toggle does not work for windows that do a "Hide when minimized" – they just remain in their icon status in the tray (or whatever it is now called).

  35. Wes says:

    Were on earth do you save the information for desktop windows that it would be a performance issue for Explorer to remember where each window is and how it is laid out? I would have thought it was in that hidden Desktop.ini or whatever file, it would make sense to read that file for folder metrics… instead of wherever you store them

  36. Jul says:

    How does it figure out which windows support the "Minimize" command?

  37. Raymond Chen says:

    Um, by trying to click on the Minimize button?

  38. Moises says:

    In reference to "Win+Shift+M undoes the Minimize All Windows."

    Well the SHIFT key usually does the opposite of a command or keybord shortcut.

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