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Desktop differences

I don’t leave my office much at work. As a programmer, you’re in for a sentence of sitting for at least 6-hours a day typing away creating and design software. Rewards are good, both tangible and intangible, but to be efficient you have to stay organized. Call it curiousity, call it peeping, but I always make note of how people organize their desktop icons.

Actually, I could write it off as research. Afterall, learning how people naturally organize their workspace directly effects how they interact with software. This information becomes invaluable when designing interfaces for software and even how information is cataloged and organized.

Some people group the icons in different corners of the screen. Some just keep them in a grid. Some make little circles. Some, like myself, like to keep my desktop tidy with only the essentials and current working needs.

As I see, with Windows anyway, you have three places for your links to programs, files, and folders.

  1. Your desktop
  2. Your start menu
  3. Your quick launch bar (next to Start)

I know Apple has their fancy-pants dock, but I won’t speak on that simply because I don’t use it, nor find it terribly useful when organizing my working needs.

My Computer and the Network live in the top-left corner where Windows makes them live, but I move my trash to the lower right-hand corner. I think I like my trash there because the old Mac OS(9?) had the trash in that position and it just made sense. I typically have my windows/folders open near the top of the screen, so dragging them down just feels natural.

Also along the left, I have shortcuts to my main working folders, the ones I access most frequently. To the right, I have folders and shortcuts to things I am currently working on. If I’m making a web site, it’s the web folder, or photo folders.

The most frequently used programs are put in the quick launch bar, like my browser, notepad, iTunes, and Photoshop – so I can hit them at anytime regardless what’s open and get to work. The start menu is where my secondary programs are; the ones I use ever so often, also for reference things – like FTP, CD burner, help files.
When working on Word docs or Photoshop, I typically save them right to the desktop since I’ll be working with them a lot over the next several days (or months). Once I’m done, they get filed away deep in the jungle of anally organized and labeled folders. I’ve read arguments for a complete folder-less organization system, but I do think we naturally want to group things for easy picking. Tools in this folder, games in that folder. Tags work great for searching for data that isn’t yours, but not so much when you’re in control.

Wondering around work, and even at home, the sheer number of icons on people’s desktops just blow me away. Organization be damed! The entire desktop is packed full of icons. Personally, I couldn’t function that way – all those icons I think would make be anxious. It’s not a wallpaper thing, I’m not interested in looking at my lovely background pictures – it’s just a workload thing, I think. When I see less on the desktop I know I have only a few things on my plate to work on. If it’s full of icons I know I’m doing too much and need to 1) organize, and 2) prioritize so each project gets done instead of sitting half-done or not started.

So I guess my desktop is a meter of sorts that tells me when it’s time to shape up. I’ve always been one to take on new projects that seem “fun” or challenging. But when my desktop is full, I know I can’t because I don’t have time.

But to each his own. Icon on fellow computerizers! Icon on!


  1. Thee Thee April 21, 2006

    I agree with you, I like my desktop nice a clean. I currently have only 5 icons on my desktop: My Compuer, IE, VPN Dialer, VPN client and trash.

    I do make a lot of use out of the Quick Launch bar; where I have 10 programs loaded: IE, the 4 main MS Office apps, my computer, my docs, desktop and 2 links to folders buried deep in network drives. It should be noted that my Taskbar is 2 levels. I regularly have 5-10 windows open and this allows me easy access to everything.

    I also have program calculator and wordpad to open with F10 and F11; so that no matter what I am doing I’m never more than 1 keystroke from them.

    My general thoughts are: using a mouse is in-efficient so I try to minimize the time I use it. I can’t remember the last time I was in the Start menu.

  2. Brian Brian April 21, 2006

    Well, the mouse and Start menu aren’t connected.

    Having F-keys for notepad would be great if it wasn’t almost quicker for me to go to Run and type ‘notepad’ – but same diff.

    Plus…the F-keys will change from computer to computer. Like alternate controller config on videogames. If you customize and then move it’s like you almost have to learn all over again. Learning the default settings insures you can move from station to station and not lose much efficiency.

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