Minimalism


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First off: I wasn't sure where I should put this, I felt that it could've belonged in 'The Soapbox', 'Customizing and Skinning Section' or this forum, but I felt that since this was not really a rant, it'd fit here best.

I've noticed lately (especially when viewing the monthy desktop threads) that some people have very basic and simple desktops. I, myself, restrict my desktop to a wallpaper, and one icon. But this has led me to question, at what point does minimalism interfere with functionality?

Say you want to access a couple of your favourite programs. Some people use docks, others, an 'apps' folder on their taskbar. I, myself, have five customisable keys on my keyboard which allow me to allocate specific programs to those keys. But what about people who don't have this, luxury, or don't want to use a dock which (in their eyes) obstructs and complicates their minimal, basic desktop?

Browsing through the thread, 'Show your Opera layout', I've noticed that many users simply have an address bar, a row for tabs, and that's pretty much it. They've removed their file menus, status bar, 'junk'. And perhaps in nearly every post, they've used one of the following words: minimal, minimalistic, simple or clean. Is there some need for people to remove every 'unnecessary' item so that in effect, they're left with nothing but skin and bones?

The main thing I'm really trying to question is why we remove all the 'junk' and at what point does this begin to intefere with the ease of use and functionality of a computer? Because obviously, a computer is ultimately for productivity, not some machine to be entered in a 'Miss Desktop' competition.

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well, as far as opera minimalisation goes, a lot of people use mouse-gestures, and in some ways this is a lot faster..

i for one use them, it saves moving the mouse 1000 or so pixels across the screen to get to the navigation buttons..

put it this way, would you rather move the mouse from wherever it is on the screen to the tab bar, or would you rather hold down right click and scroll you mouse wheel, to get a list of tabs where the cursor is?

the only time functionality becomes a problem is when people remove the main parts of the os, ie. the startmenu, or heck, even the taskbar - but in effect, i think that hiding toolbars, desktop icons, and whatever else is fine

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Once it gets to a point in which you have to ADJUST yourself to something, THAT is the point where functionality starts suffering.

I cleared my desktop of icons and went back to having my little three icons in NO time. I simply did not want to have to click the start menu everytime I wanted to browse my files. I can understand wanting to maximize your screen estate, but not so much that you actually remove the File menu.That is a hassle I'm not willing to take on.

Basically, what I'm saying is that if you are on such a bent to make everything minimalistic that you can't access what you KNOW you'll need, that is where you need to say, "Whoa. maybe I should go back a couple steps."

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i keep my desktop fairly clean (only icons i use often....which is around 5-6) and everyonce in a while i'll use the desktop as a temp folder for playing around with files and they all get deleted after

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I don't keep icons on my desktop, I put shortcuts in my windows folder and use the run box to access them

for example if the shortcut "wow" was in C:/Windows, all I have to do is type "wow" in the run box.

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I think when you go to the trouble of removing all of the file menu's and that sort of thing then you're taking it just a bit too far. For me having a minimal desktop is about keeping things simple, while maintaining functionality. I have a clean desktop that I use as workspace when I'm working on something and then when I'm done I move everything off it into storage. I keep my start menu well organized and it's modded slightly so it's easy to get to my most used programs.

I've seen a lot of desktops that look absolutely fantastic but I bet if you asked someone using them to get any kind of work done quickly and easily they would have a hard time doing it!!

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Minimalism doesn't necessarily mean the same thing to everyone. My interpretation of minimalism requires that functionality is not lost and that my desktop works the way I work. To others that may mean a few icons or none, a dock or accessbar, and so on.

Is Firefox popular because, "out of the box", it's minimal already, not bloated with lots of features you might not need? How many features of Word do you use everyday, and how many are there you don't even know about? As Moore's law pushes us onwards, (some) software companies take advantage of improved performance by offering us more.

Then you look at Web 2.0 apps (37signals stuff for example). Simple, small, function-lite apps that do one thing well. This approach is becoming increasingly popular.

Minimalism shouldn't compromise functionality, it should enhance it. Instead of 23 icons on my desktop, causing me to pause when looking for one, I have 4, much easier to find. The choice of which 4 icons is part of "design of minimalism" as well, if I choose the wrong 4 icons then my functionality is impacted.

Another way to look at it is this: how often do you "workaround" an issue with your computer. A minor annoyance that you "put up with". You may spend 2 secs having to open a folder to access a program, rather than getting straight to the program... add that up and you spend a lot of time going around something. Minimalism would suggest you just move the program out of the folder. Not necessarily LESS icons, but certainly faster.

Each to their own of course, what is minimal to me, may be overkill for you.

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^ Absolutely correct. I use opera, in a minimal fashion, but only because i dont need any more buttons or options showing than the ones I frequently use. My desktop will have my frequently used files, and the program shortcuts can reside in a toolbar tucked away to the side of the screen... to me it provides no hinderance or loss in productivity. However I do agree that some desktops are taken to their minimalistic limit but my guess is the user must find it comfortable enough to use...

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I have tried multiple methods of minimalism, and I agree to some of the other posts, while I have made amazing desktops with add on programs, my work time has been impacted.

Right now I go for main programs I use on a small quicklaunch, and no icons on desktop, with the other main programs I use less often on my start menu pinned.

I find this works well for me.

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If you remove all your desktop icons, and make everything minimal and harder to access like I have, you get used to the change over time.

Minimal Desktops are nice and easy on your eyes and even the simplest of designs can be very sexy.

Also, Some minimal Designs can be inspiring, they have inspired me to create minimalistic User Interfaces for the software my friend Writes.

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I only use my pc for browsing the Internet and retrieving Email. So for me it makes sense to have a minimal setup but if I used it for more, say work purposes, I could see how functionality might be impacted.

Apps like "QuickMenu" suggested by MIRROR are excellent if you want minimalism and functionality, nice find there :)

@#47 - Nice trick aswel, im gonna try using that :)

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To me minimalism means increased functionality.

Obviously some people take it to far, and it becomes less functional.

But removing stuff you never use does make your usage of Windows slightly more efficient if you do it right.

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Run tip by #47 is nice... :D

I use blackbox, perfect for minimalism ;)

Nice and clean setups for me, i been long with blackbox

so im used to alternate shell, its funny when i use

someone else computer with default windows ...

When i was on default windows shell

i used quickmenu and it was really nice and fast to

get to apps

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I tried to have a minimalistic desktop - recycle bin, my computer, my documents, installations, and music - then I realised that my problem was that shortcuts kept coming up. So I made a folder called shortcuts. But that kinda stopped working when I wanted to make the shape of a heart with my icons ...

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Minimalism, to me, means "clean"... that's a very different thing than "spare" or "sparse". Minimalism means I take unnecessary stuff off of my machine completely, as soon as I'm sure it's unnecessary.

But I enjoy being a power user, and that goes right down to my GUI... I want to get as much functionality out of it as I can, and at the same time, what is function, without form? Naturally, I want my machine to look fantastic! If it looked boring, I sure wouldn't be drawn to use it very often... sometimes, the eye candy is the main reason I boot in the first place... just to look, to explore, to learn the world of graphic arts...

What's minimalistic about my system, though, is that nothing gets in the way of day-to-day functionality. If something conflicts with something I'm trying to do, out it goes! So there's a delicate balance between how loaded my PC can be, and how well it will work. If it's streamlined nicely, and everything performs well within tolerances, it looks clean to me.

Just as an interesting aside, a friend of mine loads up his PC with AOL and every other gadget he can get his hands on... I've tried for a year to convince him to get some of that stuff off of there, and it's still a convoluted mess... it was at that point, that I realized just why these beasts are referred to as "personal" computers! I might detest tabbed browsing, and somebody else might love it... I might like a sidebar, and for another user, it'd be a major pain to deal with. All in the eye of the beholder...

Thanks for a great topic!

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well, I've seen alot of new, trendy, minimalistic desktops, and I have to agree... I don't really see how a sparce minimalistic look like that works... I mean, they may think it looks like, but as someone on here said, as soon as you have to "get used to" the way your computer works is when you've gone too far.

Don't get me wrong though, my computer is very simple and clean, and I do remove stuff... eg, no icons on desktop (I use a dock for my computer, my documents, recycle bin, etc.). I use the quicklaunch bar (two rows of three icons) for my frequently used programs, and the start menu (neatly organized) for the rest of my programs. The fact is, I have used a computer for years, and I know what I use, and what I don't use. If there is a menu, or toolbar, or anything that I don't use, it will be removed. Because, if only the buttons and toolbars you actually use are right in front of you, using the computer is more effective because you don't have to scan through the crap you don't need. My computer is not funtional for everyone, but it is tailored to my needs.

Still, I wouldn't call my computer minimalistic... just, simple and clean, and unbloated.

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This topic bring to mind the "Featured" section on customize.org, which is always the most basic, crappy looking (but in everyone elses opinion is 1337) desktops ever. The one featured this week is rediculous, it looks terrible to look at, and it just ugh. I personally use a Dock, no icons displayed on the desktop, and the address bar on the taskbar, which makes everything easier for me to do and access. I really loathe the word "Minimal" now thanks to that site, and many other things involving it, especially a lot of themes out there. It seems like they take the true functionality out of existing "better" themes, and I'm just tired of the "trend."

Edit: Excellent topic by the way, I really couldn't have said what you said better myself.

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To me, minimal means clean and uncluttered. The only icons on my desktop are those of games 4 at the most. I use RKLauncher for programs I use frequently and the Quick Launch Bar for links to various folders, so I don't have to use the Start Menu too much.

The only indulgences are a few AveDesk docklets - a drive meter, music folder and recycle bin. This works perfectly fine for me.

Swas, what media player and skin are you using?

Edited by BigGiantHead
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A good question, and some very good answers!

I class minimalism in two areas: Form and Functionality.

For example, consider the desktop: 4 icons and a blank wallpaper. Form wise, if you're using Windows Classic - it will look minimal. Stick on a bulky theme with loads of widgets, animations, distracting wallpaper and whatnot and instantly your UI looks far from minimal. It's now bloated - even though its functionality remains identical. Thats graphical minimalism. People interpert graphic minimalism differently because they (we) are individuals with different tastes and experiences.

Functional minimalism is is totally different. A perfect example is Google. One of the most comprehensively functional websites in the world (Froogle, Images, Groups, Maps, the list is near on endless) is exceedingly minimal. Visit the site: one header, a text box, two buttons and some minimal text. Yet you can access the vast functionality within 1 or two clicks. Thats perfect functional design. Learn from it. Bloated websites try to offer you all of their services on one single page, countless search boxes, buttons, info - it all gets too confusing. Sometimes they then try to make up for the mess by adding a spanky UI design. Which can be visually non-minimal (like my first example). Never, ever do that :?)

Minimalism can be negative also. Some people customise their PC's so they have one button which has multiple sub buttons/menus/whatever. This can lower your productivity because you spend too long flaffing around looking for stuff.

To me, minimal (with XP) is a nice subtle, useable theme. A few icons on my desktop with link to my current work projects (folders you access regularly) and a nice non-distracting wallpaper. The Quicklaunch bar is perfectly good in my opinion. I have it showing only three icons which are my most regularly used (Foobar, Firefox and Photoshop). The other apps are 1 click away (the Quicklaunch bar expand glyph). Why bother with these pointless docks? They achieve nothing and only clutter your UI (and in most cases, sit on top of application status bars (when maximised), getting inthe way of useful information).

I'm a huge fan of minimal applications also. I cannot stand bloated applications that offer too much. If I want to browse the web, I'll open a web-browser. If I wan't to add a task to my schedule, I'll open (the totally awesome) Rainlendar app. Why do businesses insist on making applications ommi-funtional. Opera, for example. It's hideous!

Just my 2 cents!

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