Over the course of the day, I have to hop between various desktops. That experience set me wondering what a desktop would look like if it were assembled from all the favourite features that I encounter daily. Of course, it's pure fantasy. But just in case, somewhere on the planet, a team of developers is trying to create the ideal desktop, here's a roadmap that they might like to follow.
1. Gnome 3 Dash
Although it's not really had time to prove itself, the Gnome 3 Dash — the bar where running applications and favourites are listed — is an excellent tool. It's smooth, efficient, attractive and highly flexible. When I first encountered this concept, I was sceptical. Then, Unity Ubuntu made me concerned about my preferred desktop. But then Gnome 3 showed the right way to do things — and the Dash is part of that brilliant design.
2. Gnome 3 Search
Like the Gnome 3 Dash, the Gnome 3 Search shows that the Gnome developers really know how to create something incredible. Unlike so many desktop searches, the Gnome 3 Search tool simply works — without exacting a heavy toll on your CPU cycles or memory. I prefer this Search to any of the others because it works exactly as expected, every time.
I have yet to encounter a single problem with it and I do a lot of desktop searching. I realise many users don't consider desktop search a critical component, but those who rely on it heavily know how valuable a good tool can be.
3. Gnome 3 pager
The Linux pager has always been one of my favourite features of the Linux desktop. Gnome 3's take on the Linux pager is the best yet at providing you with a clutter-free, efficient desktop. Gnome 3 does it again.
4. KDE 4 Activities
If you've never used KDE 4 Activities, don't, because if you do, you'll become as dependent on them as you are on the Linux Pager. It surprises me how long it took developers to come up with such a system since now it seems inconceivable that you could do without it. KDE 4 Activities allows you to associate tasks and windows with specific activities, each of which will be on a different, specialised desktop. It's a feat of efficiency.
5. KDE 4 notification system
There's no cleaner notification system on any desktop. Not only does it look good, it performs exceptionally well. It's unobtrusive, but it still manages to keep the user aware of what's going on. And the application integration into the notification area is about as seamless as it gets.
6. Windows 7 Start menu
Initially, I had the KDE 4 menu listed here. But I realised that the Windows 7 Start menu is well designed and easy to manipulate. The problem with including a standard Start button is where to put it. I would love to have a mashup of the Enlightenment E17 Mouse menu and the Windows 7 Start menu. That would be ideal.
7. Enlightenment E17 Shelves
The E17 Shelves are the most flexible panels of any desktop. Not only can you put just about anything in these shelves, you can configure them to look and behave however you want them to. They're like Cairo-Dock with an integrated environment.
8. Enlightenment E17 Compositor
Many people think the compositor has only a cosmetic function. I beg to differ. Being able to see windows behind working windows can often help you get around the desktop.
Better, more efficient window decorators and switchers, highly-configurable shortcuts — there's so much a compositor can offer. But many compositors tend to eat away at the CPU. The Enlightenment compositor, Ecomorph, is one of the finest available. It does everything you would expect from a compositor — and without hogging your GPU or CPU cycles.
9. Fluxbox speed
There is only one desktop faster than Fluxbox and that is console-only. Fluxbox is one of the most minimal desktops that actually offers more than just a cursor to manipulate windows. What's most impressive about Fluxbox is its speed. Naturally, having all the features I would like to see in a desktop would require magic — or masterful coding — to gain Fluxbox-like speeds. But since this is a pipe dream anyway, why not?
10. Classic Gnome flexibility
The Classic Gnome desktop was one of the most flexible desktops available. With Gnome 3, Ubuntu Unity, KDE 4, OS X and Windows 7, there's no longer a mainstream desktop that offers that kind of flexibility. Yes, E17 is highly flexible, but you pay for that flexibility in increased complexity. Most average users don't know how to gain the flexibility from E17 that they would from Classic Gnome, so E17 loses out on this point.
What would your ideal include?
If I had the time, I would mock up an image of this perfect desktop. But in the absence of that graphic, I'll settle on hearing your favourite features. What would make up your ideal desktop?
This story originally appeared as Fantasy mashup: 10 elements for the ultimate desktop on TechRepublic.
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