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so I've been doing a lot of personal research on operating systems lately, partially inspired by my personal projects with Linux.

Prior to getting into Linux I didn't really understand the differences between an OS and it's desktop environment. Part of learning that, I've also been delving a lot into the alternative approaches to desktop and CLI environments, like Plan9, Xiki, MSN (a pre www internet network system that MS tried to foist on people) launchers versus start menus versus docks versus taskbars in addition to delving into some of the "widget" and OS UI hacking communities (stuff like Conky, Rainmeter, etc)

One thing I was thinking about recently was the desktop itself. As in the screen, the background where people have little icons etc. I recently started using a mac for work and I find it very annoying how it auto saves all screenshots to the desktop. It occurred to me though that the desktop is a view into a particular folder, much like a file manager.... so why can't the desktop ALSO be the file manager?

What I mean is that the default view of the computer GUI when no other windows are open looks like the normal desktop except for some very basic minimal file manager type UI built into the topbar/dock/taskbar/system-tray/sidemenu/whatever.

Has this been done before? It seems sort of obvious as a thing to try and I'm sure I'm not the first person to think of that, but it's basically impossible to search "file manager desktop" online and get any meaningful results related to my query.

And no, I'm not just some amateur "idea guy" who has posted to UX-SE because I think I've come up with some genius UI pattern idea. I don't even know if this ui pattern is worth pursuing or how functional it is but I'm curious if it's been done before.

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I think what you're describing – a desktop that is "a view into a particular folder, much like a file manager" with "some very basic minimal file manager type UI" – has been implemented by the KDE project with the Plasma Folder View (my emphasis):

The Folder View widget is used to display entries like folders or files from a folder, by default from $HOME/Desktop.

You can choose to view either all files, or filter either by specific regular expressions (e.g., all files with a certain extension) or by file type (e.g. just images).

This widget also supports basic file management properties (moving, copying, cutting and pasting for example), and you can have as many as you want on your desktop.

If you select the layout Folder View in the Desktop Settings you can use one Folder View as the whole desktop, effectively replicating the "old style" desktop paradigm.

Apparently, the KDE team is so convinced of the usability of this paradigm that they have made the Folder View the default desktop setting in their Plasma 5.10 release in 2017 (note though that Linux distributions may change default behaviors like this).

  • Oh wow, this is super dope! Thank you! I'll check this out immediately. – David A. French Feb 12 at 21:02

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