Saturday, June 5, 2010

Desktop clutter hell

I'm usually pretty meticulous about having a clean desktop on all my computers but lately I've been too busy to keep up the good habits.  This means that I now have a huge pile of unrelated files on my desktop that will take me anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour to clean up.  Not the end of the world but it got me thinking that there has to be a better way of managing my files.  As always, to the internet for a software solution.  Here are a few of my finds:

Fences uses a very clever way of organizing your desktop by creating shaded areas which become movable and sizable containers for your icons. Double click blank spaces on your desktop and all your fences will fade out, and back. While this is certainly a potentially helpful way of keeping a cluttered desktop organized it doesn't actually deal with the clutter itself.  My experience with it has been that I simply ended with a bunch more fences on my desktop hidden an ever growing collection of files.  Not really the all encompassing solution I was looking for.

DropIt is a simple drop target (a floating image on your desktop) that you can drop files onto to quickly position them in folders of your choice. It allows to set a destination folder for each pattern rule defined and group patterns as different profiles.  While this is certainly a good idea there are severe limits to how useful this can be.  Because DropIt relies so heavily on the file name and extension pattern matching for organizing your files you are limited by the naming conventions you want to manage.  Taking the extra step of renaming a file before dropping it on the target is equivalent to the effort needed to filing it in the folder myself.

Tabbles is similar to DropIt in regards to the drag and drop approach to sorting your files.  However, Tabbles steps it up a notch by tagging and tracking your files with specific tags depending on the icon (or tabble) you drop it on instead of moving to a specific folder based solely on a filename pattern. Think of it as a way of associating multiple keywords to a file and then being able to search and navigate your file system through these keywords (which show up as virtual folders in the Tabbles navigation window).  The net advantage here is that you can associate a single file with multiple tabbles.  This means that you can dump all you files into one giant folder and use Tabbles to make sense of everything.  The program will also monitor your file system and will automatically apply certain default tags to new files, such a file type, to streamline the process.

While this software is  potentially the most useful solution I found I'm sad to say that the free version limits you to only 1000 files.  As such it's not really a practical solution for my work environment as I have well over this amount. Still, I'm tempted to try this at home for a while to see how useful it ends up being over the long term.

BumpTop is a 3D desktop environment that aims to make sense of your desktop by turning your clutter into simulated physical objects that you can throw around, stack, scale, flip through, and even pin to the wall.  While this is more eye candy that anything else the concept is very intriguing.  Unfortunately the software is no longer available since it was acquire by Google in April of 2010.  The company has not issued an official statement of what they intend to do with the software but it seems likely that they will use it in conjunction with their Android OS for a tablet to rival the iPad.  If you are curious you can have a look Anand Agarawala's, the creator of BumpTop (yes a Canadian), talk at TED.  Alternatively you can also play around with a very pale imitation of the software ShockDesktop3D that only has a fraction of the features.

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