Does Anyone Use Desktop Icons Anymore?

Does Anyone Use Desktop Icons Anymore?It never fails to amaze me when I’m asked to fix someone’s computer and their desktop is full of shortcuts and files, often overlapping one another. This cluttered mess may or may not reflect the general organizational traits of the individual, but I’m convinced this has more to do with convenience or technical know-how than anything else.

My desktop rarely has more than a few icons on it. When it does, they’re pertinent to a project on which I’m working and will be quickly removed once the project is complete. While writing this article, I may add the attached image to the desktop, edit it in GIMP for size and aspect ratio, and toss it into the Recycle Bin after uploading it. Beyond that, the desktop is generally pretty bare.

I posed this question to LockerGnome’s other contributors and asked them what currently sits on their desktop.

Maximilian Majewski

I never use them. I hate icons on my desktop, but I do use the Desktop folder.

Kat Armstrong

I use them! I like a tidy desktop, though. I have exactly eight — for the things I use constantly.

John McKinlay

I let my desktop grow to two lines, tops.

Robert Glen Fogarty

My desktop is a mess of icons at any given time, but I do have them arranged into groups pertaining to different tasks — and I like having everything I need right in front of me. It may look chaotic to most people, but it suits my needs.

The technically minded can probably get by without having too many desktop icons, but what about the user who doesn’t feel comfortable diving in their system’s file structure? These users are practically forced to use the desktop as their primary storage and data retrieval area. For many users I work with, this is the only part of the system they feel comfortable accessing. Anything beyond the desktop and Start menu is foreign to them, and they’re worried about messing something up by diving in any deeper.

Just try moving one of your parent’s or grandparent’s icons on their desktop. If they’re not technically minded, this could drive them up the wall.

So essentially, almost everyone uses icons on their desktop in one way or another, though the ones who don’t use it at all are typically tech-savvy individuals who prefer organization and despise desktop clutter. I use my desktop as a kind of virtual workbench. It’s where files go that I need and are working on at the time, but this space is usually cleared away before I finish working for the day. In many ways, my digital desktop is cleaner and more organized than my real desktop, which is occasionally littered with items from various projects.

In the end, it all comes down to personal preference. Some folks, regardless of their technical ability, prefer to have everything readily accessible to them on the desktop. Others like a more search-based approach to file management.

With Windows 8 coming around the corner, the traditional desktop’s days may soon be numbered. Windows 9 will undoubtedly either shift the world away from the old desktop even further, or change the way file management works altogether.

What about you? Is your desktop typically wiped clean, or cluttered with icons? Do you use your desktop space as part of your workflow? Please leave a comment and let us know.

Image: Desktop Background by Elena Solomon

Article Written by

Ryan Matthew Pierson has worked as a broadcaster, writer, and producer for media outlets ranging from local radio stations to internationally syndicated programs. His experience includes every aspect of media production. He has over a decade of experience in terrestrial radio, Internet multimedia, and commercial video production.

  • Susan Averello

    I have a few icons on my desktop, mostly I use the quick bar but for something it works. There are tools I use maybe weekly or less, having icons is a way of organizing that for me. I have maybe 12.
    I hate the millions of folders I see some people have but that is their choice. I never used icons in that way. Does it need to be all or nothing.
    Your desktop is neat and uncluttered, someone else is fills it up. Why fuss about it

  • Henry

    Watch out guys, icons are dead now! You know like every other thing declared dead on Lockergnome.

  • Alex Andrei

    on my Mac I have no icon, on my Windows 7 PC I have the My Computer icon and the Recycle bin

  • Cookie

    I have nothing, just waiting for the ability to remove the Recycle Bin.

  • marlene l. kirksey

    My desktop on my MacBook is clutter free- I just have a clock widget.The 22 inch monitor that is hooked up to my MacBook is clutter free also- I just have a calendar and weather widgets and two folders I use for misc items that I use regularly.Meanwhile,I wish I could keep my desk neat as my computer desktops:-)

  • Jorge Aldunate

    On both, Windows and Ubuntu, i do not have any icon at all on the desktop. I use “Search” and the Taskbar on Windows 7, and the dash and the HUD on Ubuntu 12.04.

  • Earle

    i have 11 icons in my taskbar,firefox,second life,zimbra email,Ccleaner,weatherbug,notepad,snipping tool,GVNotifier,paint,spybot n spywareblaster

  • Balazs Varga

    I have the trash bin only.

  • Alex Perkins

    I have the trash can only visible and then an invisible folder

  • Wolfee Darkfang

    I keep a lot of stuff on my desktop to make it easier to find them. It’s usually my sandbox until it fills up then i move the files elsewhere or delete them. Usually internet shortcuts I think are more important bookmarks go there until they are no longer of importance. That makes up about 80% of the icons.

  • Casey Frennier

    I use rocket dock for my icons, or windows search, or speech recognition to open most programs. I mostly use the desktop as a temporary work space for files related to whatever project I’m currently working on. When I finish the project I clean up my desktop and save files to appropriate folders where they can stay better organized and also save a backup copy. I tend to use the top of my actual desk the same way.

  • Kyle Rhoden

    I have about 10 icons and a simple background so it looks clean.

  • Curtis Coburn

    I only have the trash bin. I really like the desktop wall paper on my PC and having a lot of icons just takes away from the pretty picture I have. Sounds weird, but it’s my truth. Also I think it just clutters it. Takes away from the cleanness of the computer. I really like things that are clean. Very organized and everything. That’s how I am with computers, and even life. I like to have things organized, and having a lot of icons just doesn’t keep things organized.

  • Ryan Matthew Pierson

    Did you even read the article, or are you trolling?

  • Stephen Brent Spence

    I thought the Weather bug was riddled with malware?

  • Ross

    On my Macs I have no icons at all on the desktop. When I use Windows, I only have the recycling bin, I would disable it from desktop but I like to keep it empty most of the time. God knows why the Recycling Bin isn’t able to be put on the task bar like program shortcuts.

  • dbingham

    I run Windows XP on my personal machine and have all my program icons on the desktop, I arranged them in a few different categorys for different things I work on, but on my school laptop I don’t use them at all.

  • Bryan “bytehead” Price

    I have a few, but don’t use the icons on my main monitor. My excuse there is that programs update/install, and while I try to remove them, it’s not that big of a deal. My main windows is my browser at full screen. Occasionally the CMD or PS windows and my text editor are there as well, and I just alt-tab to them.

    My secondary monitor is halfway filled with folders that I drag URLs to for later use, and a few shortcut URLs that I really don’t want in my bookmarks. Actually, I don’t use my bookmarks in Firefox for much of anything except for keyword based search and the bookmark bar.

  • straybeat

    I have all the installed program icons, a few games and the ones from Control Panel that I use alot, Add & Remove, mouse, defrag. Then Hijack and those sort of utilities.

  • Justin Haghighi

    I only have the Recycle Bin, and I have my desktop set to hide all icons unless I need to work with the Recycle Bin. I also use my desktop as a workspace from time to time.

  • jon

    My primary desktop computer, which solely runs Linux, only occasionally has icons that may relate to a project I’m working on. My seconday computer, that runs Windows 7, has around ten icons. Mostly folders, “My Computer” “Recycle Bin”, and some application launchers. But most of my icons are either in the start menu (which is why I hate windows 8), or in the taskbar.

  • Steve

    Don’t use them. I have zero icons, not even the recycle bin. This is all I see. My son took this one on vacation in Nice, France.

  • Blake

    I’m very tech savvy. I currently have 45 icons on my desktop. It’s the easiest for me. I hate taking my hands off the keyboard. All I do is press windows plus d, type the first two or three letters of the icon I want and enter. Off I go!

  • Seaumas2

    I use them because: 1.I’m used to them; 2.A double click beats a chase; 3.Convenience; 4.If you know how to manage your desktop environment the matter should not be a problem; 5.Its faster, but not if your system is bloated (Yes, Even Linux runs slow with too many apps and progs. Linux relies as heavily on icons as it does the Internet). I don’t know what all the fuss is about. as far as I’m concerned its a non-issue.

  • ponyt

    I hide all my desktop icons & have them showing in a desktop folder on my taskbar in alphabetical order

  • ‘Tis Moi

    Can someone please explain the odd fixation on having an icon-free desktop? I mean, if I wanted a photo-frame, I’d get one. I actually use my computer to work & the icons are an intelligent way to organize files & folders…I find this whole subject really strange- like it’s another, “which is the best OS” sort of thing.

    • phYnc

      I agree. I tried the blank desktop and it just slowed me down much more. Although I do like to keep as few icons as I can on the desktop. I hover around 3 columns on a 1080 display.

  • Piotr Rewucki

    Have a big monitor or two and nothing on it? It’s like in Springsteen song, well almost. What a waste of space! I mean: what else is desktop designed for? 27 inch photo frame? C’mon!

  • Piotr Rewucki

    Have a big monitor or two and nothing on it? It’s like in Springsteen song, well almost. What a waste of space! I mean: what else is desktop designed for? 27 inch photo frame? C’mon!

  • Mike in Abita Springs

    I am guilty of a desktop that is totally full of icons! 95% of them are links to websites. I have a real problem deleting any of them. I am kind of like a hoarder! But, I have a question. Does a desktop crammed full of icons compromise performance? Granted, I use maybe 10% of the icons so I really could clean out a lot.

  • DerekWyland

    I’ll be honest from my own usage. I’ve moved to the icon links on the taskbar instead of cluttering my desktop. Now, some people still use Icons, mainly my grandmother in my current family and also on the iOS devices I use. I’m not against icons, in fact I find them to have many uses, even today. But for what I do, maybe someone else, I like not having icons on my desktop. My reason…I love seeing my desktop. But hey, I’m one person with one like. Someone may still use icons and I’m fine with it, for it’s another way to take advantage of the system.

  • Christina Auck

    This article seemed to insuate that people who utilize desktop icons are not tech savvy. It was hedged some in a few sentences, but that was the overall feel. I was glad to see comments from techie people defending their use. They’re handy and, like others mentioned, why not put the space to good use rather than a large photo frame.

  • Christina Auck

    This article seemed to insuate that people who utilize desktop icons are not tech savvy. It was hedged some in a few sentences, but that was the overall feel. I was glad to see comments from techie people defending their use. They’re handy and, like others mentioned, why not put the space to good use rather than a large photo frame.

  • Ryan Lawrence

    I’d love to have a more convenient way to have the recycle bin on the Windows 7 super bar, just like how Ubuntu or OSX treats it. Right now, you can place it on there by turning it into a toolbar, but it behaves not as I would hope.

    As for me, I do have a handful icons on my desktop, but they’re all in corners, and most of them are actual files rather than shortcuts (projects, frequently accessed files for work).

  • Lindy

    I’m one of those seniors. I’d like to clear them out but don’t know what to do with them or how to find them later. I wish they could all go into one folder that I could click on…or a couple. I use them all.