This guy* who gave a presentation with Patrick Cauldwell yesterday revealed his desktop during the presentation. Here's what it looked like:

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at:

You and your opinions.

I prefer using SlickRun for applications. I use the Quicklaunch for my most important applications (because I sometimes need to run them as an admin so I drag them to my MakeMeAdmin command window).

I use the desktop for shortcuts to items I’m currently working on.

The problem is that non computer savy users end up saving everything to their desktop. Even if the guy giving the presentation is the most organized and tech savy individual in the world, his desktop mimics what I constantly see on my own father’s machine! So he immediately looks like a novice.

I personally keep my desktop clear of ALL icons (even the recycle bin icon is gone). I pin things to the start menu so that they are much more handy. I just got tired of having to restore all of my open windows after using Windows-D to get to something. As you said it totally disrupts your flow. And it is particularly annoying on multiple monitors since even applications that are not on the primary monitor get minimized when you show the desktop.

I’ve been iconless for about a year and I just love it! Seeing desktops like the one you’ve presented just makes me cringe.

I fall on the desktop zen side of the fence, I only have one item on my desktop, a shortcut to Password Minder. AppRocket and TopDesk get me to where I need to go.

I must agree, there are a few icons on my desktop, but mostly because I’ve been to lazy to clear them off. The thought of having to minimize what I have open just to launch an app always seemed counterintuitive and counterproductive to me.

I think Matt hits it on the head about non savy users. My wife, who I actually think is fairly computer savy (a notch above the ‘average’ user anyway, but not a geek) keeps her desktop covered in icons. I also notice she tends to change her wallpaper every day or two. I guess mine might get changed twice a year or so. I still have a pic of my kids at Christmas on my laptop.

Instead of the desktop, I have my start bar set to take up two rows. First row is quick launch, where I keep the apps I’m in and out of all day, second row is running programs. I also set it to autohide, so it doesn’t take any space away from my active window.


I second the SlickRun recommendation. I have db servers scripted so if I type server name database, query analyzer pops up on that server/db

The only icon on my desktop is the recycle bin.

Look at the 4th column top row. Isn’t “Blue Sky Airlines” Excel’s tutorial spreadsheet? Why would anyone need that on their desktop? And what is this the video file called women? A desktop tells more about a person than you might think.

I remember when I had to do a presentation with a friends laptop and discovered that some spy ware program had created something called the “sex dialer” which was displayed prominently on the desktop. Luckly I caught it the night before.

I keep the Address toolbar docked in my taskbars on all machines so that i can quickly navigate to folders and websites via the keyboard. A handy side effect of this is that i can launch any program on the path or the desktop by just typing the name.

While adding things to the system path is easy enough, putting shortcuts to programs and commonly-used documents directly on the desktop allows me to rely on autocomplete to save me even more typing…

Needless to say, my desktop is never empty.

I learned that there are 3 purist desktop usage schools:

  1. Application Oriented Desktop - is the default Windows concept in which your desktop contains shortcuts for all your favorite applications. In other words it is a desktop-as-launchpad approach. For example, on my windows box I keep all my game shortcuts on the dekstop. Why? Because to play a game I usually shut down all the other applications anyway to improve performance and limit interuptions. Desktop is a logical place for these type of shortcuts.

  2. Content Oriented Desktop - is what you see there on the picture. Desktop is used to store and organize data for quick access. People who really preach content oriented method usually have all the stuff neatly organized into folders are interesst areas. For example, frequently edited documents go on the bottom right, to-do documents on top right and etc… Documents that are not needed are filed away in one of the many desktop folders. I personally don’t like this idea, but I know people who claim it increases their productivity.

  3. Clean Desktop - the third school practiced by Ubuntu/Kubuntu developpers is to reserve desktop for displaying a cool wallpaper, and maybe some widgets. This setup makes most sense in a multi-tasking environment where you have many applications running and so you rarely see the desktop anyway. My Kubuntu desktop has no icons. I use it for an embedded terminal (a borderless transparent aterm) and I have gkrellem sittign in the corner letting me know my CPU usage and etc…

To tell you the truth, each method has it’s charm, obvious benefits and drawbacks. I personally use #3 on my work laptop, and a very limited #1 on my home gaming machine (I have mainly game shortcuts on the desktop).

I very often dump downloads, documents and things I have to sort out shortly on the desktop - then I never deal with them and end up somewhat near that… thing.

I have recently realized that it has a mental impact on me. I get mentally exhausted when I as much as glance at the desktop in that state. I suppose I have soon reached the point where I must deal with it.

I would be more inclined to keep things on my desktop if the Windows Show/Hide desktop worked in a consistent, reasonable, reliable way. Because it doesn’t, I virtually never see my desktop.

Is that really Netscape 3/4 that I spy? …Wow.

Problem is that document icons make for very bad filing systems; they’re all identical. You need to open the accounting spreadsheet, the only way to find it is to focus on each and every excel icon and read the (often cut-off) name in turn. The only way you can be remotely productive is to memorize the location of everything and never change it (and pray windows never resets their positions in a fit of fancy). Unique icons aren’t just cute, they’re a necessity for quick visual scanning.

My boss has this problem all the time. Then again, I see people with desks piled high with real paper files and other crud, who claim to be more productive but really just ignore the extra mental fatigue in favor of laziness. (I’m sometimes one of them…) It breeds a packrat mentality, you never need to get rid of junk if it’s all hidden under other stuff and forgotten.

For those people who can’t bring themselves to delete anything from the desktop: why not place miscellaneous files in a temp or download folder? You don’t have to worry about accidently deleting anything, and you get a desktop free of clutter. First thing I do when I get a new comp is create a directory called “temp” on the root. It’s a holdover from the days of using old terminal apps like Telemate where downloaded files would be placed in c:\download by default. I also have a subdir within temp called “software” where I dump the install file of every program and driver that I download. Really helpful when you want to rebuild your comp.

My digital desktop is clean. Occasional stray files sit there before being tucked away into the file system never to be found again w/o using MSN Desktop search.

However my physical desktop is a mess. Go figure.

  1. I hate that the default download location is the Desktop. Not hard to change, but …

  2. A fun thing to do is to visit an 80-year who just got his first computer (true story) and have a gander at his desktop.

  3. What on EARTH does that stupid Windows thing mean when it offers to clean up “unused icons on your desktop”? Who the hell asked THEM to mind the store? Sheesh.

  4. “why not place miscellaneous files in a temp or download folder?” Well, heh-heh, then your temp folders gets crufted up. As I happen to know.

In any event, the desktop is for everyone to use as they like. Peace.

unfortunately I end up like this too often, and then I try to organize, and end up with folders like “needs sorted” or “unused desktop icons”. I agree with an earlier post - why do we need the desktop. I have my other computer (an iMac) set up to load email, browser, newsreader, and itunes at startup. I use quicksilver to launch programs or files. I leave the dock visible only to see if I have new emails or news items. On my PC, I can’t have startup items because it loads them in the wrong order (firefox before networking finishes), or just takes way too long. But both of the comps have folders with bizarre names that are simply holding crap until I have a free life to deal with it.

There’s a place for miscellaneous files that Ijust discovered. It’s called the recycle bin. I just have to remember to use it.

My desktop has 13 icons on it, which is about my limit. Generally speaking, those are the most recent installs or documents. Once I get used to a new program/document (or I stop using it) it gets tossed into “unused desktop icons”.

To access my less frequently used programs I use Seek v2.0.3. It is a AutoHotkey script that allows me to type a few bits from the prgram’s name, and then hit enter/enter or select from a short list.

Seek is very nice for that occasional use of Python (which current lives in Start- All Programs- Programming- Alternative Languages- Python. Or any other similar “I use it, but not every day” tool. It allows me to deeply organize my programs in the start menu and yet have fingertip access without remember the exact filename.


I agree: the guy’s desktop shows that he is a hack.

If he’s doing presentations this way, he can’t be anything else but a hack.

There’s no clear organization to the stuff. It’s just random junk.

So when all desktops goes 3D I can really use my first person shooter experience from my computer games to navigate safely through my boss’s pc. ? I enjoy the joke where you take a screenshot of somebody’s desktop and they can’t understand why nothing responds to their desperate clicking. :slight_smile:

Anyway, desktop is only good for one thing and that is to show a wallpaper. If you wanted to make desktops useful, it should be as multiple desktops.