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.
I never use them. I hate icons on my desktop, but I do use the Desktop folder.
I use them! I like a tidy desktop, though. I have exactly eight — for the things I use constantly.
I let my desktop grow to two lines, tops.
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