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Ideal Desktop for Me
Date: 24 Oct 2011 / Author: SeanParsons / Views: 371297 / Comments: 38570

As many people seem to feel the need to write articles about the perfect desktop as if it were some sort of one size fits all scenario, I decided I would rather write specifically about what I like (which is what everyone else does any way) but I wanted to be upfront about the limitations of this article. Also, as I have recently moved away from using GNOME, my preferred desktop set-up may offer some ideas to others that are contemplating making a desktop switch.

To start with, I should mention that my set-up is on a new laptop I just bought. Here are the specs on my Teo Pro Netbook from ZaReason:

  • Glossy 10.1” WSVGA display @ 1024x600 pixels

  • Intel Atom N450 Processor, 1.66GHz

  • Intel NM10 Express chipset

  • Intel GMA 3150 graphics and video module (shared system memory)

  • 2GB DDR2 667MHz RAM

  • 240 GB HDD

  • Intel HD Audio

  • Speakers on both sides of screen

  • Internal microphone

  • 3-in-1 card reader -- SD/MMC/MS

  • 1.3 megapixel webcam

On this machine I have installed Linux Mint Debian Edition, 32-bit and I'm using XFCE as my desktop environment. LMDE provides the necessary proprietary codecs to make my life simpler. Also the fact that LMDE is a rolling distribution is great as I don't need to worry about the upgrade treadmill anymore and I have to admit that I like the idea of always having all the most current apps installed.

I'm happily using XFCE (which seems much faster than GNOME and KDE) and I believe that between desktop/panel layout and installed applications I have achieved a great deal of efficiency. Below is a simple animation displaying my desktop layout.
You'll notice I'm using 3 panels. The top panel provides weather info for me. The left panel provides shortcuts for common apps and some custom scripts. The bottom panel includes the XFCE menu, app switcher, workspace switcher, applets, volume from gnome (as I didn't like the XFCE volume control), and time.

In the screenshot you'll notice my desktop is pretty sparse, just my home folder and a link to my web server. It also becomes the catch all for whatever I'm actively working on. That is why I have the housekeeper script on my side panel. It follows some simple rules and puts away all my miscellaneous files where they belong. It's just a simple bash script and you can grab it at I apologize for not making the script cleaner (insert drum roll) but I started off with it looking very nice and then every time I change something it becomes a little uglier.

The following is a quick breakdown of the apps that I use:
Internet - Dropbox, Filezilla, Firefox, Giver, Google Chrome (adblock and Kindle cloud reader along with many websites that help me with productivity), NixNote, Sparkleshare, Yarssr
Office - Adobe Reader, Evince, Free Plane, Libre Office (I add my own templates extension, dmaths extension, and many fonts), PDFtk
Multimedia - Audacious, Audacity, Google Music Manager, Pithos, Thoggen, VLC, Xfburn, Pymazon
Graphics - gimp (including data-extras and some various brushes), gtk-recordmydesktop, inkscape, scrot, wink
Games - PyChess is the only game I have installed.
Accessories - Mousepad, Qalculate, Zim
Wine - Audible manager, and I also use wine to run prezi files for offline display.
Other - rdesktop, grandr, eclipse, android sdk, gparted

Some people may have noticed that I did not include an email program. I prefer using my PDA for syncing all my email and If I need to respond with anything more than a couple of sentences, I'll just use my web browser on my desktop.

The last thing I do to make my desktop better for me, is I have added some key-bindings so that ctl-alt-del brings up the log out menu and the Prt Scr button makes scrot automatically take a screenshot.

Let me know if this is helpful to anyone, or if there is something I should be doing differently to make my set-up better.


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