Your Desktop Is Not a Destination

Jeroen Bouwens is correct about setting an image’s position to ‘tile’ will allow a large resolution image to stretch across multiple monitors without distortion.

I’d agree with Andy; my laptop’s desktop works like my physical desktop does: it’s a KIV location for latest files, things I intend to look at later, or things which are meant for a quick look-and-throw.

It’s also one of the most accessible folders on my computer (using XP tablet PC edition since I don’t have the kind of time to tweak linux for tablet usage) - Win+D to access a folder, Win+D to put all your windows back.

The desktop background thus serves a similar purpose - to decorate my KIV folder with whatever image I’m obssessed with at the moment. It’s definitely not overated, I don’t want to have a desktop that’s so cluttered I can’t see the bottom!

I find that this article relates to your previous article on blogging. In fact this article (for me) relates to any task that you might set out for yourself - be it a software project, blogging, weight loss, … etc.

To say it simply, when I plan to do something (anything) I write notes. I put down bullet points and see what I’m thinking. Somehow doing that makes mt thoughts clearer - my brain is stupid like that, as I find just thinking in my head to be rather a poor way of thinking. Then I’ll clean my notes down to a handful of key points that I can use to guide my in my task.

How does this relate to desktops? Well I take a plain image and write these notes on them. On startup the background is there - reminding me of my goals. Since I use a Mac I can hit expose and show my background. With the notes there I can then remind myself of them at idle moments.

Having a desktop with no information seems like a waste. The desktop might be obscured most of the time which is why a bullet point list of your plans and goals would be perfect as this is something that you only need to see ocasionally.

I use my desktop as just that, a desktop. It holds shortcuts for frequently used applications, temp files/downloads, etc. I also have a background picture (of my wife). If I need to access something quickly, I just press Windows+D, and double-click.

So, yes, it is a destination, just as my real desk is. Once the temp item is used, it’s trashed. If it needs to stay longer, it gets moved from the desktop to a permanent place (My Documents or somesuch).

My boss has got IT to set a desktop background and it’s configured to disable background customization by the user. It’s a custom design that says, “If you can read this you’re slacking off!”

So, I guess he agrees with you Jeff…

[Gratuitous self-link warning!] If one likes abstract patterns for desktop wallpaper, one may enjoy Starfish, available for Windows:

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and Macintosh:

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I see your point, although personally I think that too much information (browsers etc) on my desktop is as distracting as any desktop wallpaper I’ve ever had. In fact, probably less so. The reason we (yes, I do it :slight_smile: ) like to change wallpaper is because we realise it’s become invisible and needs a change to make us see it again.

I’m not a multi-mon user (yet), but it’s not too much trouble because I’m better when I only have one thing to focus on, so tend to maximise everything and use alt-tab to navigate around. More than one task at hand makes my eye wander and I then start the long road to procrastination. Now, that’s not to say that sometimes the task at hand would make use of more than one monitor, but as long as only the thing I’m working on is what I can see, I’m fine.

Silly post (trying to keep up with your 4 per week?). It’s personal preference – and sometimes people close their windows to reduce mental clutter while they think.

There is an option in some operating systems and desktop environments to run programs in the “root window”, that is, the desktop layer.

For example, some people run Fluxbox with no desktop icons (the default) and a command shell as the root window. “Minimize all windows” is then equivalent to “get me to a shell”.

I enjoy the waterfall that comes with Vista’s dreamscene.

And you are wrong. You can’t ALWAYS stare at information. Your brain needs a rest and your subconcious needs something to keep your front brain idle on occasion. Some times you just need to sit and THINK. Then, information can be worse that an distraction.

I believe that I mentioned to you that I have a fish tank by my desk that also works towards this goal.

Plus it gives me something else to look at, and constantly changing your visual focal distance is very, very important for people in our profession - it keeps your eyes healthy.

And remember. All work and no play makes Jack a nutjob.

I do agree about the icons however. I use my desktop as a scratch pad. Things may go there for work, but eventually they need to find there way into a more permanent archive or the trash can. I can’t stand a desktop with a trillion icons on the desktop that you’ll never use.

Surprised no one has mentioned Fyre yet. It’s a nifty open source program that makes OSX style backgrounds.

here’s a gallery of example output

My desktop is completely void of icons. I don’t even have a recycle bin icon. My boss pointed out how silly it was to have to minimize everything I was doing to launch a new application and I haven’t gone back since. Pin your most used applications to the start menu and use the quicklaunch bar for anything that you would like to launch from a single click. That’s what those two features are for in the first place.

Oh how I long for the ability to change my desktop background. But the gov’t sees fit to lock down my PC (and those of my employees) to the point that we can’t even access the date/time control panel… or any control panel for that matter.

So, every PC in the office has the XP Bliss background, and we all get the standard USDA screen saver of pictures of Ag products…

When I want to install a new component in to VS or add a plug-in to eclipse, I am supposed to get the Net Admin to do it for me. The government is full of ways to waste time and money.


I pay much more attention to my cellphone background than to my computer.

Like you said, I barely see my Windows desktop. But since my phone has translucent menus and applications, even when I’m doing something I still see the background.

It’s actually pretty nice to look at.

The best desktop I’ve found so far – and I’ve been using it for almost a year now – is gray and white diagonal stripes:
(At the moment, I’m using a version with lighter-gray stripes)

It’s perfectly balanced in terms of luminosity, texture, distracting-ness, aesthetic appeal, and visual cohesion.

Make your own here: is the only desktop site anyone really needs.

(However, I’m also in the “black-never-see-my-desktop” crowd.)

There are utilities to do this, but the only use I have for the background is the server name so I don’t “forget” which server I am using. Saved me and colleagues from installing the new untested patch/software/driver on the PROD instead of DEV!

You’ll notice that when you go to the ‘Display Properties’ and select ‘Desktop’, that the wallpaper selection is labeled ‘Background’.

Yes, that’s right, ‘Background’. It’s contrast, it’s subliminal, it’s decoration. Personally, if I find my desktop covered by anything other than a program window it just means I’m behind in my work.

After all, the desktop is a terrible place to put anything that needs proper organization.

I’m not a big wallpaper/desktop fan either (although at the moment, I have a photo of a moray eel I took from about 2ft away). I used to have a nearly solid background, in a color that complemented my color scheme. The non-solid part were rectangles of arbitrary sizes, centered and docked in each corner. The ‘arbitrary’ sizes were 640x480, 800x600, 1024x768. Of course, that was more useful back in the client-server days, than it is in these days of browser-based applications.


Using a leaky analogy here: compare Fitt’s law for interfaces with your desktop for the file system. It’s simply a folder you can always see with what you need within direct reach. Each icon has a fairly large clickzone (unlike Quick Launch), each icon can be found quickly - no need to keep a window with Recent Downloads open, and it’s trivial to clean up the mess once in a while. Also, it jumps in your face every time you boot; there are few better reminders of “these were the things you were working on yesterday”. Yes, it’s too bad that it’s on the system disk instead of on a separate disk so if the computer tanks your files still may be safe, but hey.

What’s the faster way to download content, study it, then file it away? To put it in a download folder means an extra click. Few put it in the right place the first time, because it also means more work; navigating to the right folder.

As for applications, I agree; it still takes work to sort out favorites that are immediately put in the start menu.

I’m aware that there’s Launchy, but the usability of it goes away when you have to search through large masses of documents.

Also, wmii - ye gods, I’m glad I don’t have to use that. It works for code. I don’t see it working that well for say, making music with plugins.