Nautilus currently defaults to ${HOME}/Desktop/ as the Desktop folder. It is however possible to configure nautilus to have ${HOME}/ as the Desktop. This specification is about having this as default.

  • MarkShuttleworth: I'm strongly opposed to this idea. One of the tough decisions we took early on was to keep the Desktop free of clutter. That is impossible to do if you give the user nowhere to put information EXCEPT the desktop, which is exactly the consequence of making the desktop and $HOME synonymous. By all means continue work on this spec, and make a case that I and others will consider, but since I have strong views on it I thought it best to comment immediately.

    JohnNilsson: This i going to be hard in other words. If keeping the desktop uncluttered is so important another option would be to simply not run nautilus on the root window. I on the other hand thinks an uncluttered desktop is a useless desktop. With something else than the WIMP paradigm I'd probably drop the dektop too. I strongly encourage people to try it out for a few days. The effect is amazing.

    • Similar to a real world desktop, i prefer to use it mainly for stuff i am currently working on (with the addition of a few symlinks, which might also be project-related). More generally speaking: The workspace should not interfere with filing. I agree, that the WIMP paradigm has some deficencies, but those are not resolved by actually taking away the user's only real workspace. Another problem that arises when using $HOME as the desktop is that screen real estate is limited. To somebody tending to a flatter, less hierarchical organisation of files (which makes even more sense with better search abilities) this poses severe limitations. A suggestion to combine simplicity with power: How about having a desktop which makes it clear, that the desktop != 'my computer home' but a view. Imagine e.g. having tabs (propably it's best to adapt/expand a well-known interface metaphor for this) with which you could switch between a desktop-view representation of different folders, e.g. the current desktop folder, $HOME, etc. [-- SaschaBrossmann 2005-12-05 19:48:08] The way I handle filing now is a row of icons with emblems on the desktop. "Attic" for real storage, "Documents", "Photos", "Movies", "Music", "public_html" for sharing and "Projects" for stuff I'm working on. And temporary stuff right on the desktop. [-- JohnNilsson 2022-01-24 05:06:09]

    LionelDricot :

  • The problem : There is a big problem in the current desktop paradigm, problem we've herited from Windows : icons on the desktop can be Applications launcher or document. And there is no way to know what an icon is without clicking on it. Also, it's difficult to understand that files on your desktop are "above" you "Home" folder, as you can see on the desktop (Home folder is itself part of the desktop) but, once in the file selector (or in a nautilus window), it's the desktop folder wich is part of the Home folder ! Wich one is at the top ? (When I discovered Win98, it tooks me a month to understand that there was nothing to understand. It was only pure non-sens).

    • This problem is actually not inherent in the desktop paradigm itself but located in icon design. If the icons provided would significantly differentiate between applications, documents, and other stuff (e.g. actions), it were much clearer. [-- SaschaBrossmann 2005-12-05 19:48:08]

  • My personnal experience : My personnal use is the following : My desktop is my $HOME, where I have differents folders : "Images", Texts", "Projects", "University". Each folder has his own emblem. That make my desktop look really nice and I have always all I want one click away. When I temporary download things, I put them on my desktop so I don't forget to remove them immediatly. I was used to move all my home folder in a backup_folder every 3 months, because my home folder was full of craps, unusable, full of folders. With the discovery of "$HOME==Desktop", I work now with the same desktop since Warty ! Unbelievebale ! I feared a cluttered desktop and I gained an ordered $HOME!

    • I fear that you are generalising your specific workflow style in a way of "what was good for me has to be good for anyone". I tend to disagree, because my personal workflow is different. Nonetheless, coming from a design background i am in a certain way educated for empathy and evaluating things from different perspectives than mine. OTOH i would not like to claim that my view really applies to the majority of intermediate users (remember to design for intermediates, not for absolute novices - unfortunately this is a common fault when simplification is an issue). This can only be resolved by proper research (i.e. conducted tests with large enough sample groups and such). As long as it is not really significantly clear, it would imho be better, to stick with the current default, but offer the user a simple way to chose which ideally also explains pros and cons. It would be nice to have a kind of UI preferences collector like the Ubuntu hardware database collector, though. This could make an evaluation of how people really use things much simpler. [-- SaschaBrossmann 2005-12-05 19:48:08]

    • Sascha : I'm not generalising. I called it "my personnal experience". It nothing more than a reflexion based on my own experience. I admit that I never set up this config for any beginner. [-- LionelDricot 2005-12-05 23:23:08]

  • Put it as default ?And I highly recommend this option as a default since it's a good (I didn't say "better") default. No need to choose between "desktop" and "home" in the Gtk-file-selector. It appears to be simply easier (you remove one concept so it's easier). People that don't understand gconf can even create a folder in this HOME and call it "My Documents" without interfering with anything. But there is maybe a lot of things I didn't think about...

    • It was a good default for you. It would not be a good default for me (given all other circumstances and restraints, the current one is more likely to be 'good'). Further, you might think that you are 'simply' removing a concept, but in fact you are breaking a metaphor (my house -> my desk). The metaphor in its current implementation is flawed, i agree on that (entering your house your view immediately gets fixed to your desktop and turning your head is impossible, at least without arcane knowdledge - oops). It maybe has to be made clearer that the desktop which covers nearly the whole screen real estate does not show all your data but provides a special view on a part of it. Concepts do have to be explained, no matter what. And it does not hold to be true, that a concept that seems to be easier to explain or quicker to grasp on ones own is better (though both is desireable). This would only be true, if this was exactly the only requirement. But such a concept would not have any real goal. [-- SaschaBrossmann 2005-12-05 19:48:08]

    • I said I didn't say "better". I think it's a good default that can easily be learned. But knowing if it's a better default for the majority of the target audience would require some investigations, IMHO. And I think it can only be guessed by experiments with beginners, not by talking. [ LionelDricot ]


The users view of the data organization is currently split it two. For most users the desktop is the base of their personal data organization. When using a file selector for opening and saving files a level below the desktop is introduced, which is inaccessible in ordinary use.

By configuring nautilus to use the home dir as desktop all files the user has access to is availible from the Desktop.

Use cases

  • John is a routine Linux user but he is very bad at organizing files. By having everything on the desktop it's impossible for him ignore the problem and stuff gets organized in a more timley manner. As a bonus he is completley aware of what files he has in his home folder.
  • Sandra is a novice user who, besides web surfing, uses her computer to organize and store photos from her digital camera and from time to time create a document in an office application. She gets confused when she is importing files from the camera because she can't find them on the desktop. When sending files to friends with e-mails she get confused because the files in the file selector doesn't resemble the one on her desktop and she has trouble finding what she wants.


Ship Nautilus with the gconf setting /apps/nautilus/preferences/desktop_is_home_dir enabled.

Outstanding issues

  • Applications that assume the presense of a ${HOME}/Desktop/ dir have to be fixed.
  • Applications that install non .dot-files and directories in ${HOME} have to be handled. Examples (I think): Crossover Office, Realplayer, Opera (creates OperaDownloads by default), some games.

  • Might vastly accelerate the accumulation of clutter on users' Desktops and actually hinder them more than aid them in conveniently and effectively organizing their files.
    • >>>>>[Comment: This was and is my concern about this method; speaking for myself, I use Home and Desktop for different purposes - and keep the ammount of stuff on Desktop to a minimum. I cannot see any reason for all my Home folders to be cluttering up my Desktop. If this option is enabled in future Ubuntu releases, it must be easy to disable on a global/complete basis, not just on a case-by-case basis as suggested in the comment below.]<<<<<<

  • How to differentiate better between data which is actively handled by the users on their own and data which "just belongs" to them, but is normally handled automatically by applications? Further rethinking of the problem might be required.
    • >>>>>[Possible solution: Add a "Hide this" entry to context mennu. Which would add the file to a .hidden file. (If you have any opinions on my AnnotationStyle, by all means create a page for it)]<<<<<<

      • - JohnNilsson (Friday, October 21 2005)

        • Might introduce further trouble though the backdoor, e.g.: How to unhide? How to handle .hidden if a file is moved/copied/...? How to be consistent with the shell? OTOH, FUSE support in current kernels could be very interesting in this respect. [-- SaschaBrossmann 2005-12-05 19:48:08]

BoF agenda and discussion

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HomeAsDesktop (last edited 2008-08-06 16:30:12 by localhost)