Your Desktop Is Not a Destination

There are no physical limitations stopping people covering their entire desk in paper. Or their floor for that matter.

Some people actually do that, and I used to be one.

There are limitations to the speed with which physical stuff can be opened and closed, but that’s an even stronger argument for leaving it all open on your desk. And yet there may be a downside to it.

The question I asked was meant to be more about the psychology that leads to thinking that a bit of empty screen is “wasted space”, esp when you have three monitors.

And I wasn’t questioning anyone’s right to feel that way, just
probing the thinking a little bit.

So to probe some more… as I’m reading the comments on this blog, there are two big blocks of empty white space in the sidebars. Is that a waste of space? Would it be better if the sidebars were full of some info or other all the way down to the bottom? Or is there advantage in the screen not being too busy and too full?

Feng Shui for monitors? :slight_smile:

I’m actually interested to know what people think about that.

Maybe the post’s point wasn’t really about wasted space at all, but about “not distracting ourselves with pretty frippery”.

I used these fractal backgrounds for a while:

From those, I prefer fractal flames (like those made with Apophysis).

I occasionally used to fret about the perfect desktop and window manager, until it finally clicked: 1024x768 blue pixels. You want an app? Click on it for a menu (1st entry: a terminal; I never call anything else). I haven’t changed it in years, and spend my time doing work inside applications.

So yes, indeed.


Actually, I have 4 desktops (on one monitor) and decided to use 4 background images. However, most of them I see seldom to never, as I am completely against having icons on your desktop. However, at my work I found a use to having icons on the desktop - there are some tasks I have to do on shutdown time (register my hours) so I created shortcuts to the excel files and I get a visual reminder after closing all programs and just before shutting down. at home, on my linux boxen I don’t shut windows before closing, so I rarely see the desktops 1 and 2 (because of all the windows) and 3 and 4 (because I never go there)

My desktops:

  • Desktop 1 is my “play” desktop, not as in gaming but I do my normal surfing here. Desktop changes regularly (every month or so) with usually one of my own more artistic/industrial photos.
  • Desktop 2 is my “work” desktop, for long-term projects. Background here is a picture of Berlusconi resting, which won the world press photo a few years back ( which inspires me to take a short break.
  • Desktop 3 and 4 see few usage. Desktop 3 is a very nice picture of some military in a hailstorm, and desktop 4 is a cell-shaded manga renderinf. I think they have been on there for 2 and 6 years, respectively. 6 years is longer than I have this computer.

there is this really useful “show desktop” button. I hardly ever use it but many people don’t have it in their quick launch button so I teach it to many people who have their desktop cluttered with icons.

Another good site is

I too have four desktop on a single 21 inch monitor. I used to have two 19 inch monitors at my previous workplace, and I usually had one application maximized on each of them. In my current settings, desktops are separated according to subject, so I have a work, fun and reading desktops.
While working I usually have two applications tiled side by side (IDE and reference, IDE and another IDE, IDE and command line, etc…), so I usually don’t see the background. It is however sometimes uncomfortable to have one application maximized on all of my monitor, so I sometimes happen to see the background when only browsing\reading something, and I don’t consider it bad in any way.

Regarding backgrounds, I usually go with something abstract and dark blue. (Microsoft’s “Prairie Wind” tiled is usually my choice)

If you’re writing blog entries about desktops, you are also not making good use of your monitor pixels. Go do some actual work.

Holy Christ. All you people debating the coolest desktop are total tools.

Sorry everyone. I was drinking way too much kool aid when I made that post. I’m a tool for calling you guys out.

I like leaving mine blank, since I dont have the internet, so there’s never anything interesting to put there anyways… PLus it distracts me and sometimes it slows down my computer, for no real reason I can think of.

My desktop on my Apple laptop is a mess of icons but then so is my real desk. Moving the pointer to the top right sweeps away all windows exposing the desktop (with files, shortcuts etc.), moving back brings the windows back. Plus, it being a laptop, the trackpad is within easy reach of the keyboard, so isn’t as inconvenient as moving to the mouse on a desktop machine.

On my XP desktop computer its a whole different story, I much more use command launchers and search for documents, and barely use the Desktop at all.

So I’d say what you say is true for your setup (and likely most other computers), but then not all computers are the same!

nice Senns; I have a pair of 580s also.

although I also agree with you w/ regards to the desktop as a tool, rather than just something to look at.

I don’t have “Show Desktop”-button in my computer. Its a shame, because I use it to clear everything down while I perform some sub task.

But what really annoys me is the lack of skins in programs. For example WinAmp and even Firefox have skins. But Google and YoutTube doesn’t have an option to change the white background to black - or at least I have not found such an option. YouTube Channel has some settings for colors though.

Also the skins could be flashy like they got the look and feel from some fractal generator. That way all the frames, buttons, tabs, and widgets would look and feel eg. “dark and bluish stars with shiny blue widgets” or “black soft round forms with green widgets” or “pink and furry” or “black yellow with gothic styles”.

It would be easier to use precreated skins like in WinAmp than to use random fractal like styles. Also it would be real hard job to integrate the support of dynamic fractal look and feels into every application. Some applications have their own look and feel, like Nero CD Burner.

Some programming languages and environments have look and feel concept in them to some extent. Java Look And Feel is per operating system, where developer can edit the LF somewhat.

If I could choose my style and if everything from the desktop to Google would automaticly use that style, I would call that progress.

I am hard pressed to find somebody, even a non-techie, who would spend time mesmerizing over their desktop. Most people just drop files there, which is quite honestly more efficient than opening up Windows Explorer and looking through folders for stuff. So the pattern is exposing the desktop long enough to locate and use a file, and back to whatever word processor or browser activity prior. whatever wallpaper that exists in the background serves precisely that purpose - a wallpaper that does not make the “wall” look so bland. That’s all there is to it.

That said, i never keep files on my own desktops.

if Johns BackgroundSwitcher has not been mentioned yet it should be :

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has support for :

  1. update time
  2. local repository
  3. flickr/yahoo/phanfare photo albums so you caa pull stuff off the web
  4. multi monitor support - same image everywhere, diff on each monitor (very cool)

I always found it curious that MS left this kind of thing out of Windows but Apple did not.

p.s. anyone know why the CAPTCHA is always the same ?

I think I’m in some weird hybrid mode. I crave a very clean desktop, but I want a cohesive gadget reference and a nice initial image to get the creative juices flowing.

I’m running dual monitor at work and I have some core google desktop gatdgets on the far left sidebar, no icons (minus recycle bin) on the far right, barely any quick launch apps (thanks to Launchy/Google Desktop) and I feel right at home…streamlined yet innovative.

Oh, current wallpaper (have to give props) is the Teocava sheep, in dual monitor form:

I never use a background because of its performance impact!

I go a long time between views of the desktop as I work in various programs. Inevitably, the image data gets swapped out to disk while I consume memory for other purposes. When I eventually need to render the desktop again, Windows has to swap in 3200x1200x3 bytes of image data, which always seems to take about a year.

And on the subject of “desktop-as-a-workspace”, who the heck works on one file, or a small number of files, at a time? Even if I’m doing something mundane like editing a document, I end up chasing images and charts across many directories. Spewing all of your working data onto a flat desktop strikes me as insane. Once I get down to real work in Visual Studio, the thought of trying to use the desktop as any kind of useful interface to the hundreds of relevant files is completely laughable. If your work maps to files on a desktop, it is either trivial or horribly organized.

Its good use of desktop space, if dialogs are big enough. But many dialogs are very tiny and not even resizable.

In Visual Studio 2005 there are news or such in the middle of the start page. I would like to hide the news so that I have a clear desktop in the studio. But I have not found a way to hide the news except by starting a project.

I always you something other than the default wallpaper for windows. It comes in handy when you have your desktop open and multiple virtual machines (VMWares) open at the same time. It can become confusing if your machine and the virtual machines have the same background and/or wallpaper. If mine is different, then I know at a quick glance if I am on my local machine or a virtual machine. So, I use the desktop wallpaper as a kind of marker to where I am.

Kashif: You could also create folders on your C:\InProgress like Important, Recent, Todo etc. Then you could drag shortcuts to those from the original files, that are located in the proper archiving folders through out your machine. That way all the files would be where they belong, but you could have shortcuts to them somewhere else than on your desktop so that you remember what you were doing.