Your Desktop Is Not a Destination

it is fun to have a unique desktop background

Yep. Totally agree. That’s why I always create my own backgrounds.
Right now, it’s totally black, with the orange outline of Hurricane Polymar Logo (old japanese anime…)

If your desktop should never be visible and is not “a destination”, then doesn’t that mean that the whole desktop metaphor is failing us?

If we tried to be true to the real-life desk metaphor, then the documents/files that you are currently working on would be sitting on your desk (next to your calculator, coffee mug and photo of your kids).

In real life, writing a new letter means placing a blank sheet of paper on the desk and getting your pen out. Only when it is finished would it be placed in the filing cabinet.

Likewise editing/reviewing existing documents means going to the filing cabinet, taking the files out and laying them out on your desk.

However, the “correct” way of working with documents on a PC means that they should be immediately filed to “My Documents” (or your fileserver) and subsequent edits performed from there.

This might make sense to the mild OCD/Aspergers-like minds of us geeks, but to Grandpa Joe the physical metaphor has completely broken down. Why would you sit inside the filing cabinet to write letters, while your desk remains empty?

This is why we see so many novice PC users with desktops covered in clutter. As usual its not “stupid users”, it is “stupid interface”.

And no, I’m not suggesting that Microsoft Bob was a better interface. I think rather that we have outgrown the desk and filing cabinet metaphor.

Is it me, or is the default Ubuntu background very reminiscent of the Apple Aqua images, coloured brown?

My favorite desktop wallpaper site is:
There are a lot of fantastic and mind blowing wallpapers in this web-site.

Thanks for pointing out the Flickr groups; I do a fair bit of photography on top of being a geek, and I make my own desktop wallpapers quite a lot (having something you’ve created yourself as a wallpaper can be quite inspirational…) Anyway, I’ve now started contributing a few of my wallpaper-worthy images to that group :slight_smile:

I tried that displayfusion thing but I like another freeware .NET wallpaper app “John’s Background Switcher” for local nested pictures. It also has direct integration with Flickr like displayfusion. This is for my home system.

At work, no “switchers” allowed so I go with a default XP pic and Sysinternal’s “BGInfo.exe” which writes network interface information statically on top of your pleasant background. I like to see my uptime right there.

I suppose you would be interested in those gadget/widget applications. I tried putzing around with Samurize, which seems to pixel-level customizable.

I’m also a no-icon-on-desktop person, but that’s probably because I like to see them wallpapers.

I also prefer a clean desktop, but you might be proselytizing a bit much here; sometimes what you’re working doesn’t fill up even one monitor, much less three, in which case you’re better off having a lot of exposed desktop than opening random applications to fill up the screen with noise. Make effective use of the screen real estate available, but don’t fill it with stuff just for the sake of filling it with stuff.

There’s a false dichotomy in your post as well: computers can be both tools and fashion accessories, kind of like what mobile phones have become. There’s nothing wrong with making a tool look and work just the way you want it to.

Finally, you found some good resources for desktop backgrounds, but there’s one really good site you didn’t find: has been around since 1998 and includes, among a lot of other things, a great wallpaper repository (13,000 and counting).

It’s all about personalization. I love great wallpapers on my desktop as they serve as an inspiration and reminder of great things. Example, having a USAF background, I love fighter jets. It’s motivating to rotate through great wallpapers (example: see ).

For abstract wallpapers I suggest to visit these sites:,, and

Jeff- This post should be required reading for every idiot working at software companies (especially those companies that make installation software) who thinks it is a good idea to shove their icons on my desktop. I either end up fighting the installer or I’m forced to go back to the desktop and remove the icon after the fact.

Two things about Macs: First, using Leopard, your desktop images influence the way your menu bar looks, so they do have an always-visible influence. Second, using Expos, you can quickly get all windows out of the way, which will show your desktop picture.

I use win Vistas dreamscape.
Its all living flowing water in the background making the screen 3D.
Finnaly I am happy watching deep underwater fishes at my desktop without the need to load a video.

I albait admit, I dont use the computer to much for tools, its most for fun :wink:

I wished they added a fireplace dreamscene, so I could bring out the marshmallows. Nothing beats a fire in the woods and a pan of coffe.

The desktop IS a destination, albeit a temporary one. I thought the analogy was relevant, and I use my Windows desktop like I use my physical desktop. It’s where documents live after I first create them and while they are most actively being worked on. After that, of course, they’re filed away in a good folder scheme (though even then, I most often use Google Desktop search to find them).

To me, the desktop metaphor is complete bull (a legacy from the past, when people needed a desktop metaphor).

I’d rather have system info and smart shortcuts instead. Let’s call it a ‘Control Board’. You can have your task manager available, ‘my documents’, ‘My Programs’, etc. Just dump the bleeding Desktop, it’s not needed anymore.

Yes, I feel strongly about this. I hope you noticed.

I use a plain, black desktop too. I don’t see it often and when I do, it’s to click an icon. Having a desktop image makes the icons harder to sort out. This may not be the case any more, but wasn’t desktop wallpaper a machine resource drain too?

Hello Jeff,

I feel rather the same way, but felt that as the desktop metaphor is so ingrained in the modern OS and is essentially unavoidable, it’s worth using that space productively. My current wallpaper is a table of ascii hex/oct/HTML codes. I think if you have a concise cheat sheet that you find yourself referring to frequently, the desktop is a fairly good place to put it – Win+D to refer, and Win+D to return to your task.

On my Fedora VM I even found a way to hack a few config files to get a desktop which was an instance of Firefox! That was groovy…

it seems at all you don’t use much your desktop.
I personally use it a lot, to create/delete/organize/launch stuff.
For me the wallpaper, must not be too distractive,
and at the same times not “too” uniform.
I think the “non uniformity” help the eyes to position easier icons,
and at the same times it’s less boring.
Also, colors have a psychological impact, and I would find depressing to always have a black background.

Some ideas for replacing the current desktop-as-a-directory paradigm:

  1. A “persisted” application space. That is, I could take an application(or a group) running on the taskbar, freeze its state, and save it for a later time (and have that be visually represented on the desktop).

  2. Desktop AS explorer. It would behave somewhat like a maximized explorer window so that whatever folder you click on moves the desktop into that context.

I always minimize everything to desktop when I have to be away from my desk. Right now I’m using this wallpaper from Portal: (more options in the root directory)

Oh, also:

Window managers like wmii and ratpoison are great for exactly this reason:
With regular windowing systems, I spend a fair amount of the time dragging windows around so they are not overlapping, ratpoison/wmii are tilling window managers.
With wmii, if you want a new terminal open, you hit alt+return, the existing windows in the column are shoved up, and the new one is created in the space. You don’t ever see the desktop (Well, unless you float the only window you have open, which is only necessary for applications like “GIMP”)

I really wish there was such a tiling system for OS X - I’ve compiled wmii to run inside X11, but since I can’t run OS X applications inside X11, it’s fairly useless.

Oh, wmii site: