You’ve probably come across a situation at home or in the office where you were doing something confidential on your computer and someone else came up right at that time. If you haven’t planned ahead, the only thing you can do is try to minimize the application, which is quite slow and will give the other person enough time to see what you are doing.
In this article, I’ll show you several ways to quickly hide your apps and windows, some of which will be more obvious than others. Depending on who you are trying to hide the windows from (boss, children, wife, etc.), your best method may be different.
CTRL + ALT + DEL
My favorite method at the moment is to just press CTRL + ALT + DEL and then press Enter. By default, the Lock Computer button is highlighted. Pressing three keys will bring up a dialog box with several options such as Lock this PC, Switch user, Log out, and so on. When you press Enter, Lock this PC is automatically selected.
This is the best way to hide everything on the desktop. The only drawback is that it is not very thin and you have to press the same key combination plus password to unlock the computer.
If you have a keyboard with a Windows key on it, you can also press the Windows key + L. This is a much faster way to lock your computer than pressing CTRL + ALT + DEL and then pressing Enter.
Windows key + D
If you don’t want to re-enter your password, you can try another keyboard shortcut. No matter how many programs or windows you have open on your desktop, you can minimize them all by pressing Windows + D.
This will minimize everything open on the desktop. Of course, you must have a Microsoft keyboard that has a real Windows key on it.
This keyboard shortcut is very similar to the Show Desktop button that used to be on the taskbar in Windows XP. If you really like this feature, you can also enable the Show Desktop icon in Windows 7 I also tested adding the Quick Launch Bar in Windows 8 and enabling the Show Desktop icon there. Windows Key + D also works fine in Windows 7 and Windows 8 without having to enable the Show Desktop icon.
Another great way to hide the desktop is to launch the screen saver. All screensavers are stored in Windows with the .SCR file extension. Go ahead and search Windows for * .scr and you should get a list of all screensavers on your computer.
Now all you have to do is create a shortcut to any of these files on your desktop or Quick Launch. Just double-click the shortcut and your screensaver will start automatically, no need to wait until downtime!
You can create a shortcut to the .SCR file on the right by clicking on it, going to Submit and choosing Desktop (create shortcut).
If that’s not enough for you or your hands are more likely to be on the keyboard than on the mouse, you can also use AutoHotKey to assign a hotkey to launch the .SCR file at any time. Using AutoHotKey takes some training, but it is quite powerful even if you only use a fraction of its functionality.
Third Party Utilities
All of the above methods require keyboard interaction, which is normal for laptop users, but can be slower for desktop users who hold a mouse most of the time. There are some really good free utilities that will allow you to hide individual apps or all apps with hotkeys or mouse clicks.
Hide Windows Tool
Window masking tool
Windows Hide Tool is probably my favorite little program for hiding Windows programs because it is easy to use and works very efficiently. The best part is that it removes the program icon from the Windows taskbar, rather than just hiding it from the desktop. It will appear that the program is not even running on your system.
Once you install it on your system, a small blue icon will appear in the notification area. By default, clicking the icon hides the active window on the desktop. Clicking the icon again will bring this application back.
If you right-click on the icon, you will see a bunch of options such as Hide All Windows, Show All Windows, Hidden Windows, and so on. These are all pretty obvious as to what action they will take.
If you click on Settings, you can customize hotkeys and change what happens when you single or double click on the icon in the notification area.
By default, a single click hides / shows the currently active window. You can change this to multiple combinations or hide / show all windows. What’s also cool about the program is that you can set a password when a window is displayed, an application is closed, or the program’s preferences dialog opens.
Thus, even if you leave your computer and someone tries to call the hidden program, they will have to enter the password to see it. Hotkeys are not initially configured, but you can quickly set them here by clicking the box and then pressing the desired keyboard shortcut.
ClickyGone is another program that does the same thing, but with different parameters. After installation, the icon will appear in the notification area. Right-click it and select “Configuration”.
The home screen displays the current shortcuts for various ways to hide windows. For example, to click and hide, you need to press and hold CTRL + ALT and then click anywhere in the window. This program will disappear and you can buy it back using the Toggle All Windows keyboard shortcut, right-clicking the icon in the taskbar, or pressing the Clicky Gone Menu keyboard shortcut.
It is worth noting that the program displays shortcuts with modifiers at the end, not at the beginning. For example, to hide the active window, press SHIFT + CTRL and then press . From the way it is shown in the program, you might think that you need to press and then SHIFT + CTRL, but that won’t work.
On the General tab, you can choose whether to show the icon in the notification area or not, show hidden programs in the notification area, and prevent accidental clicks in full-screen apps.
All screens after Advanced basically allow you to configure hotkeys to perform various tasks like hiding the active window, clicking to hide, showing the ClickyGone menu, etc. The only feature of this program that I liked about Windows Hide Tool was the ability to install password before returning hidden windows.
Hopefully, this is enough so that you can properly hide your data and applications from prying eyes. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to comment. Enjoy!