Tom Insam

notes on a blank desktop

Things that have pleased or annoyed me over the last few days. See my last entry for context.

Bad thing: I can't use Screen Capture. Or whatever the Apple Command-Shift-[34] app is called. It writes files to the desktop by default, and I can't seem to change this. With a non-writable desktop, I can't take screen captures, and I'm reluctant to sacrifice the non-writable aspect. I could just let things write to it, and move them quick, but making the the thing 'no access' acts as a fail-safe. Screen captures aren't worth losing that.

Good thing: It's really, really pretty. I can also use quite cluttered-looking wallpapers that I wouldn't otherwise be able to use, and they work well. I've found that the Mac OS 'cycle through the pictures in this folder' background works quite well, too. I never liked it before, because my icons look good in different areas of the screen depending on the wallpaper and where it's 'busy', but with no icons, I can use anything. I feel so arty.

That's it. On the whole, I'm very comfortable with a blank desktop. It's changed my working style almost not at all.

Other notes

blech reminded me that Risc OS had a completely blank desktop, and treated it merely as a background and not somewhere you could put files. The linux equivalent, the ROX Desktop, almost does the same thing, you can place aliases to things on the desktop, which spoils it, but then I recall add-ons to Risc OS that let you do that, so I suppose it's forgivable. Linux weenies are notoriously hard to break of their habits, which I think is a shame. Embrace change!

Comments on my previous entry mentioned that recent versions of Windows are becoming more sparse as it comes to desktops. 'My Computer' has vanished, as has 'Network Neighbourhood', in XP, and apparently 2003 Server takes things further. Longhorn... well, hah, PDC this weekend, we'll see about Longhorn.

My problem with Windows in this respect is that just about every program under the sun feels that it needs its icon on your Start Menu and your Desktop. The particularly arrogant ones want a place on your Quick Launch Thingy as well. All time worst app award goes to Winzip, which by default puts itself on the top of your start menu, thus ranking itself with 'Open Office Document' in importance. Now, I don't know about you, but I don't think I've launched winzip as an app once in the last 5 years. I use the context menu, where it belongs. Why do I need it 2 clicks away at all times?

But I'm getting diverted from my point.

Oooh, windows 3 had a good desktop. It was totally un-special. Windows could minimise to it, but this works, because they were still windows, and therefore allowed to be on the desktop. They were just really small windows. Nothing else could touch the desktop. Windows 95 was weird for ages, all these spaces were things you could put files in..

Gnome 2 for a while had a nice option where you could use ~ as a desktop, flying in the face of all those osses that has decided that the desktop was a 'special' folder, but that treated it like it was your starting point for everything. I really liked ~ as a desktop, it encouraged you to keep things clean, and your desktop then really was the base of your GUI experience, etc, etc, yadda yadda. Alas, this option died, although I think it's still buried in what passes for a registry in Gnome. Pity. Linux users again, I guess.

Enough. I'll stop now. Comments - any other osses / windowing systems with nice desktops?

Update (4 years later!) - I've been informed of a hidden Finder option, this works as of 10.5.3:

defaults write CreateDesktop 0

Prevents the Finder from managing the desktop window. Exactly what I oringinaly wanted - this means there's still a ~/Desktop, and screenshots go there, but I don't have any icons on my background. Lovely.