Pimp My Desktop

One of my favorite things to read are the Featured Desktop posts on Lifehacker.  For anyone who isn’t familiar, they basically take very unique Windows, Mac, and Linux desktop setups and explain how to configure your computer to look and act just like the featured desktop.   While they all vary quite a bit, the common link is that they all make work for the user incredibly more efficient than a standard desktop environment.

All of these posts have led to me doing quite a bit of experimenting with my setup over the past year.  Prett much every time I see a new idea that I find interesting, I try it out.  Over the past few months though, I’ve come close to finalizing my set up so I figured I’d share it here.  Some of the most unorganized people I’ve ever known have had the most cluttered and chaotic desktops I’ve ever seen.  That’s what I want to avoid.  When you’re on your computer all day long like I am, it’s pretty important to have an environment configured to optimize the way that you work.


First, a little background.  I work on one laptop.  I don’t like going back and forth between multiple computers.  I have a desktop (dual booting Ubuntu and XP) and an Eee PC (running Ubuntu-EEE), and neither gets hardly any use.  Instead, I dock my laptop when I get home into a home-made docking set up that includes a cooling pad and hooks the laptop up to an external monitor, speaker system, and USB hub for the keyboard, mouse, printer, etc.

I mostly do this for simplicity so that I don’t need to install and configure things in multiple places, but it also gives me the added benefit of being able to stop working from home at a seconds notice, suspend my computer, and resume exactly where I left off when I get to wherever I’m going, whether it’s the warehouse or my parents house or a coffee shop.

The laptop itself is relatively modest:  a 2 year old Toshiba Satellite running Vista Business with dual core 1.6 GHz processors and 2 GB of RAM.  The screen is 15 inches and has a resolution of 1280 x 800, but when it’s docked I have a resolution of 1680 x 1050 on my 22 inch monitor.  This extra space is especially helpful when programming.   I’ve considered upgrading several times, but have always come to the conclusion that I really don’t need to.  I keep all of it dust-free and clean with the products in the Laptop Cleaning Kit we sell over on Tastefully Driven.

As far as my files are concerned, most of them are stored online, but the ones that are kept locally are organized under one folder that is backed up regularly (explained here).   I like to keep my desktop free of any files unless I’m working on them at the moment or will be imminently working on them the next time I am on my computer.  Otherwise they get filed away or uploaded to the appropriate final storage spot.

All of this sort is a long-winded way of saying that I have very simple goals for my desktop.  I want it to be clean, organized, simple, and fast.  I think that’s what I have achieved.  Let’s take a look…

Pimp MY Desktop

Below is a screenshot of my ultra simple desktop when it’s at the 1680 x 1050 resolution.  Don’t let that simplicity fool you though.  It’s actually pretty well thought out.  For starters, the background is from the Transblack Featured Desktop.

Pimp My Desktop

I’m not a fan of fancy dock software like RocketDock.  I’ve tried several, and always concluded that the benefit was almost nil and I’d rather not have an extra program running in the background all of the time.  Instead, using Vista’s built-in quick-launch toolbar I created a Windows-7-like task bar with all of my important folders and programs pinned to the taskbar (to get the larger icons, just right-click and go to View.  If your toolbar is locked like mine is, you need to unlock it first).  To save space on the taskbar, I also eliminated unnecessary icons from the lower-right, and made sure that the two applications I always have running (Skype and Songbird) are minimized there and not taking up precious space in the middle of the taskbar.

Pimp My Desktop

I’m also not a huge fan of application launchers like Launchy.  I’m not sure if most people know this, but Vista has it’s own built-in application launcher that works great.  Just click the Windows key on your keyboard (or go to the start menu) and start typing what you’re looking for.  Vista searches your applications, documents, and even your web history and bookmarks.  In the picture below I launched the calculator by simply hitting the Windows key, then typing “calc”, and hitting enter.

Pimp My Desktop

Instead of installing a full-out Vista theme to match my background, I just changed the Window Color and Appearance from the default to Graphite (right click anywhere on the desktop and select Personalize).

Pimp My Desktop

Of course, I’m also using the YABS theme for Songbird.  Not so much to match the black desktop, but because it is definitely the best skin they have:

Songbird YABS

All in all, this is hands down the best set up I’ve ever had.  Of course, I’m also addicted to tweaking it so it might not stay this way very long 🙂

6 comments on Pimp My Desktop

  1. Leigh says:

    I’m envious of your clear desktop, Adam. I try and try to keep from saving things on the desktop and constantly fail. I once had 94 desktop icons – I couldn’t find anything!

  2. Brad says:

    What does your “homemade docking setup” consist of? Do you just plug everything in or do you have something more orderly?

  3. Adam McFarland says:

    Brad – I wish it was more orderly than that. I basically set it up on the cooling pad, turn that on, then plug in the monitor, USB hub, and speakers. I have all of the wires tied off so it’s somewhat organized, but it’s far from ideal. True docking stations seem to cost $150+ (at least for the “official” Toshiba one) and I’m not really willing to pay that to reduce the number of things I need to plug in from 3 to 1 🙂

  4. ardianzzz says:

    im using windows xp home. classic theme, no wallpaper, no annoying startup programs.. working with great performance

  5. shay says:

    something new

  6. […] month I finally decided to upgrade my laptop. I’d been running the old Toshiba since 2007. At the time it was a powerhouse. It still served me well right up to the end, when a […]

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