The purpose of the desktop

The desktop metaphor used to be one of the most clearly distinguishing properties of early graphical user interfaces, and I find that today the desktop still holds great fascination for many people. There are tons of tools out there, apart from what your operating system of choice offers you, to customize the desktop – displaying gadgets and gimmicks, active content that can actually be used instead of only displayed, or simply family photos.

The reason I’m taking the time to blog about this is that every time I stumble upon a new announcement of a tool that runs on the desktop (or I see the carefully crafted icon layout on somebody’s screen), I’m baffled. On the desktop? Where? Oh, desktop… that’s the thing behind all my windows, right? Haven’t seen it in a while… and when I last saw it, I configured it to be a calming dark blue, so that I’ll be able to find something on it, should I actually be required to go look for something in that hidden place, like it happens maybe once a year…

At this point there are 15 windows hiding my desktop, and I don’t consider that to be a comparatively big number. It is hard to reach the desktop, so icons that are created there by installers are useless. Even Vista doesn’t make the “Show desktop” button work much better than it used to. I can’t see my desktop because there are usually (more like always, really) applications running on my computer. Well. So. I don’t get it. How come everybody but me apparently has that weird relationship with their desktop? Care to explain?

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