Your Desktop Is Not a Destination

You don’t need an extra tool to have a single image span multiple monitors. Just set the background “position” to “Tile” in the display properties of Windows, and an image of the proper resolution will be displayed as you would expect

True, I should have mentioned that. But Display Fusion and Ultramon also offer a “stretch” option for images that aren’t exactly the right size.

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?

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Most people just drop files there, which is quite honestly more efficient than opening up Windows Explorer and looking through folders for stuff

Sure, using the desktop as a scratch area is OK, but that means you have to keep some fragment of it visible-- it’s sort of a catch-22. I’m not against this, I do it myself, but I wonder if it’s just a throwback to the bad old days.

My desktop wallpaper is a picture of my daughter. Which changes as she does. It’s nice to be able to hit window-d or F-11 and get an instant battery recharge.

We usually install a desktop wallpaper on the servers we have to manage. (I say ‘we’, I mean 'people I currently work with and people I’ve worked with in the past). Each server gets it’s own color and the wallpaper has the server name + IP + any relevant contact information about whoever owns that server. Makes it easy when you are using remote desktop to know you got the correct servername/ip when you clicked “connect”. Linux/Unix/OS X servers get a specific MOTD.

Mac users actually get to see their desktop every now and then. There’s this handy F11 key which when you hit it slides all your windows to the edges of the screen with about 10 pixels of each window left visible for visual identification. So when you need to grab something from your desktop, you just hit F11, grab this something, hit F11 again and drop it into your app. Or you can immediately hit F9 and drop it into another app through Expose. Or (in Leopard) you could hit whatever key activates your Spaces and then hit F9 to show Expose in all spaces or F10 to show all windows of active application (again in all spaces). It’s very nice.

Myself, I like to keep the projects I’m working on in folders on my desktop, or if they consist of a single file right there on the desktop. All because of F11/F10/F9 magic.

I’m a fan of turning the last image that left me in stitches into my new wallpaper.

Another tip to make your desktop a destination in Windows: Windows + M key combination. It minimizes all of your active Windows so your desktop is revealed. Very handy if you want to dismiss all the clutter and have no intention of returning to the active task with Windows + D.

On my Linux machine at work (and soon on my Macs at home, as soon as I get 10.5 installed), I make heavy use of virtual desktops/workspaces. I usually have different apps in different workspaces (not necessarily one app per workspace, but bunched together by functional group), and some of those workspaces just have some terminals or other non-full-screen apps, so my background image peeks through.

I think of my desktop as a staging area. I’ve got a couple app shortcuts that I might choose at startup; I also put shortcuts to often used files there and it’s the target for my downloads.

It does take some vigilance to keep it clean but since it’s “in my face”, I tend to stay vigilant. When I used to think like you and try to keep everything in “My Documents”, it turned into crap because I was rarely reminded of how many worthless files were out there.

Also, I keep a recent photo of my son on my desktop because it’s nice to be reminded of priorities during especially stressful days.

The tile option works if your primary display is on the left but it transposes the left and right sides of the photo if your primary display is on the right. That’s why apps like Display Fusion are still useful.

i think lcds are more efficient at displaying white. make your desktop all white to save on electricity when some of your desktop is showing. that way you dont have to feel as bad about it :slight_smile:

(missed the point on purpose)

I agree the desktop is not a destination however it is my starting point. Its what you start the day with, every day. I like to see something personal that will put me in a good mood, so that I’m in the right mindset. I change me background almost weeks to keep the feeling fresh.

I use the desktop as a dumping ground, downloads, samples, videos, random white papers or a tool I’m trying out. But i have a rule. Anything found to be useful gets placed somewhere. I periodicly select all and delete everything on the desktop about once a week. Anything that is on my desktop that hasn’t found a home isn’t worth keeping.

This post somehow reminds me of Microsoft’s Active Desktop :slight_smile: Probably the biggest failure after Microsoft Bob :slight_smile:

The desktop for me is like an easy to access temporary storage space, like my real desktop. It contains things that I’m currently working on, or things I need to deal with. For example:

  • Items recently downloaded
  • Email attachments which I need to read / modify and email back
  • Photos which I’ve recently downloaded from my camera

Once I’ve installed my downloads / read my attachments / sorted out good photos from bad photos from my camera, then I file them away into the hierarchy which is the My Documents folder.

A few notes:

  • The desktop is not an app launcher. That’s what the Start Menu, or the app launcher bar next to the Start Menu and Task Bar, or keyboard shortcuts, are for
  • I only ever maximise my windows when they need to be maximized and those windows which aren’t, I always try and leave the left hand side of the desktop showing, which makes it easier to deal with recent downloads, etc

I find the desktop metaphor frustrating to use.

On a normal physical desktop, you will pull out a file, start working on it from your desk, then once you’re finished put the file back in.

This would be stupid to do on a Windows machine, simply because no one I knows will take a file from a folder (eg. My Documents), move it on their desktop, work on it, and then move it back. It simply easier to jump straight to the file. But wait, what if I have hundreds of files in neatly organized directories:

  • How do you find a particular file I wanted?

  • How do I find the album/music I purchased off iTunes yesterday?

  • What if I didn’t know the file I wanted (e.g can’t remember the name), but wanted to search for specific words regardless of format of the file (e.g. OpenOffice, Word, etc)

This is where tools like Google Desktop and Vista’s Index service come in as they try to tackle this problem that we all have to much information on our computer to manage.

For me, I want to access information instantly without having to think.

Just use wmii or a similar window manager (xmonad, dwm, ion3…) and you’ll never see your desktop’s bottom again.

I periodically replace my desktop wallpaper with an image that relates to my current main project. It reminds me of what I should be focusing the bulk of my attention towards, which keeps me on schedule.

Thanks for the links. Anyway, my desktop contains stuff I need to get done. That’s it!

For a mondrian-grid-style desktop with no background, try a tiling window manager; there are several available. I use rfigura’s branch of dwm (which is one of the most beautiful C programs I’ve ever read).

My desktop background is frequently visible for this reason: nosy co-workers who ‘stop by to chat’ when really what they’re interested in doing is reading whatever is up on my screen (be it personal email, a web page, code, etc). When anyone stops by my cube I minimize everything.

I have a minimal amount of icons on my desktop, but have access to them in a unique way. I simply created a ‘toolbar’ on my taskbar which links directly to the desktop. I then minimize the space it takes up by pulling it tight to the start button, allowing only the word ‘desktop’ to be showing. This allows me to access the desktop (and anything I choose to put on it) by pulling up a ‘drop list’ of its contents. I can also use it to search through ‘my computer’ without opening any folders. It takes a bit of maneuvering to situate the toolbar beside the start button, but it is definitely worth a test run.

“I worry that if we spend too much time obsessing over our desktop backgrounds, we’ll start treating our computers like fashion accessories instead of tools. We should be filling our screens with information, not distracting ourselves with pretty frippery.”

I’ve been thinking about this attitude a lot lately. Why is it exactly that you worry about this? Especially worry that /we/ rather than just /you/ do this? This is a persistent attitude in my home country (USA) and it seems to me to have very deleterious effects on the moral of the populace.

I also find the argument that utilitarian objects are somehow mutually exclusive with pleasing objects to be specious. In your linked essay, you have the bit about screwdriver vs. outfit. I like to use nice tools. What is wrong with tools that in addition to being highly functional are also pleasing? What, at base, is wrong with “pretty frippery”?

I think this attitude suffuses american business and culture so thoroughly that it turns a lot of daily experience into drudgery. I’m honestly curious about your attitude.