Bastian, Waldo waldo.bastian at
Fri Apr 7 00:59:26 EEST 2006

[Johnathan: This is a great example that highlights why I think we
should be defining interfaces for integration tasks (Like Portland does)
instead of writing a specification that is more proscribing how a
desktop environment should implement certain functionality (e.g. where
files should be stored and in which format for example), the interface
approach solves the integration problem in a way that allows a
distribution / desktop environment to be much more innovative in how
they actually implement things giving you much more freedom to make
radical changes down the road without breaking existing applications.
See my comments below.]

>I propose an idea about arranging a user's files. First, a little
>Why is it that in Windows/KDE/GNOME/MacOSX etc. there are two
>directories for user information - the user's home area (or My
>Documents, etc.) and the Desktop?
>The separation seems to be historical. Windows has the desktop as an
>area for application shortcuts, while the documents & settings/home
>area was recently invented as a place to store personal files on a
>multi-user system (windows has only been multi-user since 2000,
>remember). But Windows also allows and has allowed the savings of
>files and programs to the desktop, thus confusing the issue. The
>desktop used to be once place on a single-user system - other files
>could be arranged in directories in the system root. But now with the
>compartmentalisation of desktop into a user's home area inside of
>documents & settings etc. etc., things get stupidly complex. Introduce
>the concepts of having application links in the start menu and the
>quicklaunch bar, and suddenly it starts to get very ambiguous and
>The Linux desktops seemed to follow on from this idea because it was
>established convention. Anything including files and app launchers
>could be placed on the desktop. Originally it would seem, Desktop was
>made a separate directory in the user's home area because early
>implementations of the 'Computer' icon or 'Network' icon were actual
>modified launcher files, not as they are today, invisible objects
>which nautilus/kde/etc. place on the desktop field dynamically. So, in
>order to not clutter a user's content with meta-icon-launchers and
>other fluff, there was a line drawn.
>But we are still left with this pointless separation. Why not have one
>place only for applications, and one place for a user's files?
>Applications launched only from a bar, or a menu; and files in the
>user's home area displayed on the desktop?
>What is the point of saving files to the desktop so they're easily
>accessible; but then having to move them into the home directory? 2x
>organisation for the user, wasting time they could be spending
>actually using their files.
>Why have application launchers on the desktop? Once you've launched an
>app, it takes up the screen, and the desktop is obscured so you can't
>launch any others. Isn't this why panels and the 'quick launch' bar in
>windows, and so forth, were invented? Look at the simplicity of the
>Mac OSX dock, I say.
>Many users don't understand the separation of desktop and home area,
>and many windows users save their recent files to the desktop,
>creating a massively cluttered space. Why not organise this space
>using meta-data, or an even more interesting paradigm presented here:
>This allows a home users to see all the things they need to, always.
>No more ferreting around in directory heirarchies, exposed to the
>meaingless structure of the internal system - just all their stuff,
>right there, on the desktop.
>So in short, I move to create a standard which:
>-makes all content in /home/user available on user's desktop space
>-does not allow app launchers on the desktop
>-removes the /home/user/Desktop directory, because it is no longer
>Please give me your suggestions and ideas.

There has been a lively discussion within the Gnome community on whether
$HOME should be used as Desktop directory which, as far as I know,
resulted in only limited support for the idea. Since not everyone agrees
that what you propose is a good idea (in particular for the historical
reasons that you cite) it would be a very bad idea to attempt to
standardize such behavior.

The good news is that the Portland project has recently created a
"xdg-desktop" command line interface that, once it has been released,
applications can (and should) use to install application shortcuts on
the desktop. Individual desktop environments / Linux distributions can
provide an implementation of "xdg-desktop" that installs these
applications elsewhere and provide a desktop environment which follows
the vision that you oulined.


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