Your Desktop Is Not a Destination

If you put a picture that is cool you can sometimes act like you have a view outside of your wall-less office then peek out from your work every once in a while. Something like that is cool.

Don’t the One Laptop Per Child people use the desktop to show what is currently being worked on and what nearby people are currently working on?

My desktop backgrounds are culled from the Hubble Telescope’s collection at

The galaxy and nebula images are amazing! The great part is that the images (especially the deep field views: constantly remind me of just how insignificant I am in this universe. Good for keeping a sense of perspective.

These days, I don’t usually have a desktop background at all. It’s not used for shortcuts as I much prefer keyboard quicklaunch apps such as Launchy or SlickRun, to name but two.

However, I used to have a job where people would frequently come to my desk and the desktop background often provided an interesting talking point if I was to minimize everything and click on a shortcut (which was often necessarily the case at the time). You’d be amazed how long some accountants would voluntarily talk about glowing blue mushrooms!

I agree.
Often I see topics like “show us your desktop” on forums but I never post mine. Because there very little interesting to see on it. All the interesting stuff on my desktop is things you dont see: I start my applications with keyboard shortcuts, or automatically at login. They are placed at the right positions by default so for most windows (based on parameters like fullscreen, is it a popup etc) I don’t even have window decorations. This is something you can do with compiz fusion btw: configuring stuff like window decorations, transparancy, based on the title, state, size and all other parameters of your windows. Also with things like the scale plugin etc you can easily drag windows without needing decorations for them. Compiz fusion is a great productivity helper, even though it is most known for it’s visual effects.

In my honest opinion the desktop is one of my favorite features in windows. I like to keep my most used docs/apps right there for easy launching, and I also like to have my downloaded files go right to the desktop so that I don’t have to search for them since I will probably be using them right away.

I have never been a big fan of the start menu, it is great for holding programs that I won’t be using very often, but it ends up being filled with junk, since most programs insist on putting a folder into it.

As far as the background image goes, I have had this laptop for nearly 6 months now, and it still has the default Windows Vista background, although I am now thinking of wasting some time and downloading a new one while I wait for Blizard to finish their weekly maintenence on my realm (I hate when days off fall on Tuesdays).

Great post Jeff, you never seem to be at a loss for something interesting to talk about, and I love this blog because even if the topic is something that I never thought I would be interested in, I still end up getting sucked in and reading the whole thing. Keep up the good work.

Not sure if I agree that all of your screen(s) should be covered with windows all of the time. It depends what you are working on, but often I find myself using the Show Desktop shortcut (Win-D) to hide all that information and data so that I can concentrate on what I am working on at the moment. I tend to work in txt files a lot (from todo lists to coding) and filling up your screen just isn’t needed. Plus I usually have a couple RDP sessions going and reserve one monitor for that.

With that said, I tend to always have unique background going and change it every couple weeks or so. I often make a custom background that “shows” what project I am currently working on (either a logo or abstract layout/colors). That helps me stay focused as I get started each morning, plus customers seem pretty excited about it during demos.

The best part about backgrounds? Locking your screen and letting them distract your co-workers.

Come on! Next you’ll be fretting that looking out the window is also a potential waste of time. And while staring at computer screens can become an entrancing time waster, I find that a soothing, uncluttered desktop is often a great way to focus my thoughts and un-frazzle my nerves.

The good news about desktops is that, for Windows users, they replace the junk that MS supplies by default. A nice bridge between abstract and realistic images are from Astronomy Picture of the Day ( Huge archives, and a good reminder there is a bigger reality out there than your computer – really.

The desktop for me is just a temporary workspace, but I rarely actually see the desktop itself, just the folder. I prefer not to chew up resources needlessly with wallpaper images that I never see.

Ditto for screensavers - the only time I see 'em working is when I’m not working - and if I’m not working on the PC, I’m not in front of it.

Graham is right - we’ve outgrown the notion of our Windows “desktop” being analogous to our actual desktops.

back in 2004, I used this 3200 x 1200 image of the entire first level of Super Mario brothers as my desktop background.

I’d love to grab that pic, but it looks like you might have blown this guy clear off the internet!

a href="" (or wmii or something similar).

I know you are a windows man - but xmonad is like using an IDE for ALL your work. Not having to think about window placement consciously is the greatest! Xmonad also works with multi-monitor setup :slight_smile:

Here’s a local copy of the original version. The one hosted on that site is a little nicer because it adds a smooth blue to black gradient at the top, but it’s essentially the same.

You may need to resize to taste, of course…

The complete first level of Super Mario Brothers as a background image:

Jeeva - I’m not sure about xmonad, but I AM intrigued by the keyboard they have in the screenshots on their website. I’ve never seen that before. Anyone know anything about it?

I don’t agree that you should never see the background. I have two 19" monitors, and usually they’re both covered with something, but occasionally all that whiteness hurts my eyes, and I have to minimize everything on one of my monitors.

Frank, that looks like a Cherry keyboard… not sure which model, but the flat / low profile type

I wonder, by the same logic, would you also insist on covering every inch of your physical desk with information?

There’s times when I’ve been close to that, but not any more thank goodness. Too much information and clutter is distracting and tiring.

Then again, maybe the desktop is more for the average user who isn’t hammering away at the PC each minute of the day, and doesn’t know their way around too well. Then a desktop with pictures of the grandchildren and a few handy shortcuts to useful stuff that they would otherwise be groping around to find might be just the thing.

Well it works like that for my father.

I wonder, by the same logic, would you also insist on covering every inch of your physical desk with information?

The physical world isn’t the virtual world; we shouldn’t project the limitations of one on the other.


/fashion whore

Since you mention this neat idea of filling you desktop with information, I’ve started using a new window manager on my desktop called xmonad ( that implements the idea of all windows being full screen at all times. There are no window borders, default menu bars, etc. It’s a very neat idea to mess around with.

By the way, I love your site. Keep up the excellent work.