I’m not really the Zen type in it’s original sense and history. However, cleanliness, vast space and elegance always caught my eye. The recent shift to a more powerfull Laptop at work inspired me to rethink how I work with the Windows Desktop: No fuss on it1.
The screenshot below illustrates what my desktop currently looks like. The only item that is allowed to remain on the Desktop is the Recycle Bin2 and all icons in the area right to the Taskbar are actually hidden.3 (Click for bigger image):
I think I actually found a decent setup that allows me to save time while keeping my Computer as clean as possible:
I use Launchy to launch programs, run shortcuts from a “Shortcuts” folder that’s indexed with Launchy and to launch specific types of documents from specific locations (PDF’s, VM’s, CHM’s and more) with a few keystrokes. I need no stinkin’ mouse.4
I use the free and fabulous CCleaner to clean up my Computer from time to time: Remove stalled Shortcuts in the StartMenu, clean the various caches, clean Firefox, IE, Safari and a bunch of other programs from unnecessary stuff.
It is safe to say that these two programs are the biggest productivity boosters I found in all the years of meandering the Internet for great software. Really.
I can tell you: If you start working with such a clean desktop, you probably won’t get back to myriads of icons on it. I actually feel a strong urge to have my real desktops as clean as the virtual one as well.
Next Steps: External Monitor bliss#
One of the biggest hassles so far has been the handling of the external monitor. Whenever you add a second monitor to Windows, the default behaviour of the corresponding Fn key is to mirror the desktop to the external monitor. If the resolutions differ, you always get your primary monitor adjusted to the secondary – which is mostly useless.
Fortunately, my graphics card driver offers a desktop contextual menu to switch the “Extended Desktop” on and off – with the small but disturbing “feature” that the secondary monitor will always be set to the minimum of 800x600 pixels resolution instead of the maximum of e.g. 1280x1024 you’d expect.
I think I might have found a solution with UltraMon that I’m currently testing. The software lets you define different Display Profiles and these can be – hooray – be launched via Launchy. I now have setup profiles for the most used external monitors (Home, Office, Beamers) and named them accordingly. With a few keystrokes, I fire up Launchy, enter the name of the Profile I want to use, hit enter and am done. The same holds true for the Wallpapers – I can now switch between the gorgeous designs from mandolux.com at will. Currently using Dirty Lemon though.
If I really need one of these icons, I click on the arrow to unhide them all. This greatly reduces the visual clutter that Windows-Programs tend to generate. The only unfortunate thing is that you have to manually set the “Always hidden” setting for each and every application that has such an icon. ↩︎
I really, really like Launchy. It’s clean, fast and you can configure it enough to selectively add different folders with different kinds of documents in it to launch directly. ↩︎