No Desktop - a two month study



There has been, a probably will be, many debates on the usefulness of the desktop. The desktop used to be the center of operation from system 9 and earlier. This role was more and more difficult to fill as Macintosh acquired a hard disk(s), and multitasking.

The desktop is no longer the root of the file system in X. It is now just another user specific and protected folder.

With this in mind I used the good ol' Tinker Tool and turned off the desktop. This gave me a chance to use the full screen SaverLab with a low processor intensive module! I used my iBook for two months with no desktop. This is what I found.

a) Applications (installers, and downloaders) still expect the desktop to be the default location. Hopefully this will change in time.

b) I couldn't tell when media was mounted! I did not want to have to always go to "My Computer" to see if the new CD, Zip, or image has mounted. The media does not always bring up a window - and I do not necessarily always want it to. The desktop gave me an immediate visual clue what has happened. If somebody has an alternative widget for the "immediate visual clue" - great.

c) Drag and Drop is a form of Cut/Copy and Paste. Copy and paste is used when the source and destination are not accessible at the same time (modes, overlapping and etc) or mousing just does not cut it (application or user limitations). Unlike Windblows, MacOS does not support copy and paste of files. That leaves only drag and drop.

Copy and Paste uses a temporary storage location for transfer of the data. When the Finder fails to have both the source and destination visible (single window mode, column view, overlapping, and etc) then a temporary storage location is needed. Enter the desktop.

Due to the design of the Finder, I have found the desktop role as the file clip-board indispensable.

d) Last but no least, I just like to put in-progress stuff on the desktop.

Until Apple solves at least issues b and c I do not see giving up the desktop.

I agree with the copy and paste thing... I was almost expecting it to work the other day. I think that it should definitely be an option.

The other thing that I am a little annoyed with is the Apple-E / Apple-Y thingie going back and forth between OS 9 and OS X.
I think it would be great it removable media was mounted in the documents section of the dock. There would be room for these since Apple is starting to turn away from using docklings. They would look great right next to all of my HD's which are docked there.

It would also help me get rid of all those disk-image drives which build up as install things.
I no longer use the desktop. I have two 4-column Finder windows open all the time instead. Works better/faster. IMO the Mac OS is also easier to explain to newbies if there's no Desktop. OS X in general is a lot easier to use for newbies than 9 was - proof: since I have X, my mother is able to check for new mail and to browse the web by herself (wuha !) - I think this is due to Multi-user, Dock, language support (different languages for different users), and other things.
Oh GrandHighOne,

You are correct. Despite its underlying complexity, X is easier to use and items are more accessable but the desktop hasn't changed between 9 and X.

I use the column view all the time. I'll try the dual window full screen approach, even though hat means no SaverLab :-(

Go to to download it. SaverLab is an application that hosts screen-savers. The screen-saver windows can be of various sizes, and layers. In other words you can have a screen-saver full screen and always behind your application windows. The desktop picture and icons are obscured by the full screen mode.

Personaly, I liked the "Abstract Motion" screen saver (like an animated stained glass window). It didn't suck too much processor and was not visually intrusive. I then ran Desktop Calender layered on top of the now animated desktop picture. It was cool.
I'll give it a try, but I'm afraid that I won't be able to use it full-time - I need every cycle my 233 Mhz G3 can give me... (but help is on the way: my new Mac is coming October 2001)