Magnus Bergman magnus.bergman at
Mon Apr 10 17:28:17 EEST 2006

> > As said earlier the is reason is that most people don't want
> > everything in their home directory to show up on the desktop. But
> > then there are some people who wants exactly that. For that reason
> > Rox filer has an option to use the home directory as desktop
> > directory. Perhaps such an option could be added in your favorite
> > file manager too if you talk with the maintainers (or even better
> > send a patch).
> I think this would be an excellent idea, maybe at some sort of new
> user setup stage, like the first time you start Gnome/KDE/whatever. As
> I say, Nautilus supports this but it's a hidden option.

If it's already supported then there should be no problem. Just enable
it by default in your distro and/or convince other distros to do so
too. This wouldn't need any new standard.

> [...]

> Users only want access to what's important to them. The concept that
> there might be stuff there, but hidden, I would think is more
> complicated, not less. Why should we see only Desktop/, a subdir of
> home -- why don't we see home on the desktop, and then have a
> directory (represented as a folder of course) that people can put all
> their unused stuff in? Wouldn't it make more sense to show the user
> the *top* of this tree rather than a leaf?

As said before, the reason is that a lot of settings and such is also
stored in the home directory (in it's root in most cases). That would
clutter the desktop, which is bad (in the taste of most users). Also
things might break if users (perhaps by mistake) move such files, which
is likely to happen if they are present on the desktop.

> > The way I see it, the desktop is just another subdirectory of my
> > home directory. Thus I should be able to put anything I want
> > wherever I want in my home directory, and not having any
> > application (or standard for that matter) telling me what I can and
> > can't put there.
> I reasonable position, but let me ask you this - can you spell
> 'directory'? Do you understand the difference between a program, and
> the icon that launches it? Yes (or at least I would hope so =P). Most
> home users don't. This is why in XP they bring up a window explaining
> that you aren't deleting a program when you delete it's desktop icon,
> if you drag one to the trash or something.

Yes. But is it really that much easier to understand the difference
between an application and a launcher if the launcher is somewhere else
than on the desktop?

> Hey, why don't we give users the freedom to have root access to
> everything, so they can put their images in /my cools pics!!@ or
> something like that? Why don't we just give them a console, and the
> freedom to write their own operating system into in RPN assembler?
> Great! That's Freedom!

Yes, absolutely. I don't think it's a good idea for a (main stream)
distro to expose users to all that freedom. But that doesn't mean that
there should be a standard that forbids freedom.

> [...]

> Why not make ~/ visible on the desktop, and have Desktop as the
> *visible* subdirectory/folder that they can put things into that they
> don't need at the moment? But call it 'Archive' instead of Desktop --
> or simply let users arrange their own stuff. When it becomes
> cluttered, they know how to create 1-deep subdirectories/folders and
> drop things in there. This is what most people I know do anyway --
> they put everything on their desktop in folders, because they don't
> even know why there is a Computer or Mac HD or My Documents, or why
> they'd put things there. Or why, if developers intended for them to
> use it, it would be obscured, and everything would be naturally saved
> to the desktop.

I don't know exactly how Mac HD or My Documents work (since I never use
Mac nor Windows). But it seems quite redundant to have a separate folder
for "my documents" I must say, since that's exactly what the home
directory is for. But is there a problem with saving files directly to
the desktop? What hinders people from keeping all their documents on the
desktop now?

> > There are also people who think the desktop is not for files at all.
> > There are applications which use it for showing iconified (aka
> > minimized) windows, others using it as a clipboard for lifted (aka
> > cut/copied files).
> >
> > And there also people who don't like to use the "start"-menu or the
> > quickbar. Some of them might like to use the desktop exclusively for
> > application launchers.
> CDE has a pinboard. Whatever.
> The fact remains that, the desktop is a huge, empty space, obscured
> constantly by windows coming up in front of it. Why put application
> launchers there? Why not use it as a natural file-manager instead?
> The concept of multiple windows and drag-n-drop between them, imho, is
> stupid. Every time to want to copy from folder A to folder B, one
> obscure the other, and you have to move and resize and change focus,
> just to drag across one or two files. Ridiculous.

If the desktop is obscured by windows or not depends on how you work
(and on which window manager you use). If you have a very small monitor
(and also a low resolution) you will probably want to maximize the
windows. But if you have a large monitor (which is what traditional
unix desktops are designed for) you will probably find it more
comfortable to have windows smaller than full screen. I think DnD
between multiple windows is one of the main benefits of the concept of
using windows. (If you think it's best if all windows are maximize
always there are so called tabbed window mangers you might find
superior to the traditional ones.)

> You just have one space for files - desktop. You have one bar for
> application shortcuts. You have another bar, perhaps, showing
> locations - of opened folders, attached storage, network shares. Let's
> call it a location bar. You drag files from your file space (desktop)
> to one of the *always visible* icons representing a place you want to
> drag it to on the location bar.
> Simple, effective.

Yes, that sounds like a very reasonable setup. And what you want to do
is to make a standard which forbids everyone from having any other

> [...]

> Oh but, let's let users do things that they *want* to do - removing
> choice is akin to murder, after all. We can't simplify things for
> people - we have to let them have the choice to do it their way. I
> agree, in principal. But this *doesn't* include presenting them with
> something that is counter-intuitive. In my opinion, one place for
> files to be seen, and one place for apps to be launched, is *more*
> logical than having so many different routes to the same thing.

Choice is about two things: choices for the user to make and choices
for the distro/sysadmin to make. I'm not against minimizing the choices
available for the novice/casual user.

> This abstraction is second-nature in the understanding of a
> *developer*, but not in a user, who *doesn't understand how the
> computer works*. Most people don't even seem to understand the
> difference between a file and a program. Windows has brainwashed them
> into Opening files *and* Opening programs.

I really agree to this one. I think the ambiguous term "open" should be
avoided. In favour of more descriptive terms such as "edit files",
"view files" and "run programs".

> They say 'there's something wrong with my microsoft' when they can't
> open a word document (which they've saved to their desktop, because
> it's the simplest and most obvious thing to do. Why does word keep
> opening the file dialogue thing in My Documents? What the hell is
> that, does it contain documents I just used or something? I should
> have bought a Mac...)

This just sounds like a bug in Word. There shouldn't be a problem
opening files stored on the desktop. But since this is the second time
you mention it there must be something I don't know about?

> > Some people don't usually maximize their windows (some
> > window-managers don't even have such a concept) but place them so
> > they don't cover the icons. Some other people only use one
> > application at a time (on each desktop) and therefore they feel no
> > need to access the desktop once the application is started. So if
> > this this is a problem or not only depends on your habits.
> I don't know of any DM that doesn't have a concept of maximizing
> files. If you're referring to the way Mac opens most windows at 90%
> maximized but not fully, well, you can still full-screen things.

No, I was thinking of all TWM based window managers (and I think also
the OW based ones). And again I claim that not everybody want their
windows maximized, and why should they?

> Multiple desktops? There's a reason that both Mac and Windows don't
> have these - people *cannot understand what they don't see*. They just
> don't get it. Look, think of any relative you have in the world that's
> over 25yo or female (This doesn't include your CS-major girlfriend) -
> what do you spend 60% of your time with them doing? Fixing their
> computer and explaining how to right-click on things to see different
> options for them.

I think it's the other way around. People don't use it because Windows
don't have it.

> Multiple desktops are utterly confusing. Or rather, the way their
> implemented is. I use multiple desktops, I think they're very
> effecive, and I couldn't do the volume of work I do without them - but
> I'm a *programmer*. I understand that when you change over to a new
> desktop, and everything just disappears from infront of you, that it's
> still somewhere else that can't be seen. But most users would probably
> think they'd deleted it or done something wrong.

Then you say their implementation is confusing, do you refer to the
free desktop standard or to any specific application(s)?

> Now, if you opened different documents a user clicked on in different
> workspaces, and you showed the icon or name of that document in a
> little bar at the top of the screen (like with a desktop switcher
> applet), and let them click there to see that document, they might
> understand. Why? Because they'd link the concept of clicking on a
> document to it opening up in it's own area. And you know what? You'd
> have to darken the icon of an opened document on the desktop, so that
> when they came across it, they couldn't click it again. They'd
> understand it to be being 'worked on'. Multiple open instances is very
> confusing.

You may have some good ideas there. Is there anything in the current
standard that hinders you from implementing them? Or is there rather a
matter of fixing current applications?

> In short, people think of their computer experience very simply. They
> think of a program as being one thing, and a file as being one thing.
> I know people who double-click on quicklaunch buttons in windows,
> thinking they're icons; open two versions of the same file or program;
> and then get confused, because they don't understand how you can do
> this -- actually have two views of one thing.

This particular problem has been discussed earlier and the simple
solution is to not launch two applications on double clicking (make
double click behave like single click).

> > I'm quite sure that is something only a minority of users want. But
> > sure it could very well be available as an option to satisfy that
> > minority.
> It's only a minority of users because a) you're talking about users on
> linux, which exclusively constitutes hackers and developers, because
> normal home users run at the mention of the word linux; and b) because
> normal users, if there are any on linux anymore, don't write into
> desktop standards discussion forums, so you might not hear their
> views.

I'm not saying a minority of users would want the home directory as
desktop. I'm saying a minority of users want *the consequences* of
having the home directory as desktop. As discussed above.

> > > -does not allow app launchers on the desktop
> >
> > Not allowing applications clutter the desktop with launchers is a
> > good idea. They only need to install a launcher in
> > PREFIX/share/applications, which is how things usually work but
> > perhaps it needs stronger emphasis.
> I agree. So lets put launchers in a menu or bar. It is inefficient to
> have them on the desktop. If people want to do that because it's a pet
> thing to have icons on the desktop, because it's a throwback to the
> customs of their windows days - screw them. The same way we screw home
> users by making systems only developers could possibly use or
> understand. 'Oh, the packager had an error, you just need to change
> the config. The config. Yeah you just edit a config file! No in a
> console. No, okay, go to
> /usr/share/etc/files/xsessions/config/config.config/asdfaew.fgar.gaerheasht
> -- but you have be root first. What's root, uh... well anyway you put
> in a special password... well didn't you write it down at install
> time? What? No install time is when you... oh forget it just use
> Windows.' Yeah, exactly.

This very common argument is pretty much to suggest that systems should
be so complicated that not even developers could understand them. If a
Windows system has problems because "the packager had an error" the
situation isn't much better just because there is no config file that
could be edited to fix the problem. The standard Windows problem
solving solution (format the disk and install everything from scratch)
can be used on X based systems too.

> Minority of users? Minority of developers, hackers, and zealots;
> majority of every single person on earth who isn't a programmer and
> has used a computer at least once.
> > > -removes the /home/user/Desktop directory, because it is no longer
> > > needed
> >
> > Everybody who doesn't need it is free to remove it.
> Except of course they aren't, because then they wouldn't *have a
> desktop in front of them*. 'Oh but they can just go into gconf and
> change the option so that the desktop points to ~/' -- oh, okay, I'm
> sure if Windows asked it's users to raw-edit the registry to change
> desktop viewing options they'd be popular.
> Everybody is free to write their own entire operating system too - oh,
> except most home users can't do that. Actually I only know 3
> individual people in the last 20 years to do it. Freedom seems to be
> the freedom to gain the knowledge required to change the system to the
> way you like it, instead of using something actually, uh, usable and
> friendly and logical? Of course, that's the linux definition of
> 'freedom'.

Yes, but more importantly, everybody is also free to choose not to
follow standards. So why do people follow standards, why do they think
it's important?

The bottom line is this: There are many different opinion of what's
best regarding usability. There are several different concepts which
aren't even really compatible, the usability gets better if they aren't
mixed. Rox for example is heavily based on a document-centric design.
While others lean more toward an application centric design. The users
have the freedom to choose (if they care to), but what matters is that
the distros have the freedom to choose. And why should someone else
make that decision for them really?

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