Over the past few months, I’ve been thinking of some ideas for a shell. Some of the ideas I’ve been thinking of invlolve the use of miniture application Windows instead of the current minimised ‘taskbar’ style representation. I think that multiple desktops would be very well suited to this form of minimisation. The concept of using different virtual desktops for different tasks is not a new one. For example, in Linux my second desktop is for work, third for Web, forth Media and so on. Many current virtual desktops do not take this separation of roles into account, just giving the user more than one of the same desktop. Modifying the virtual desktop idea into more of a virtual ‘task space’ paradigm would increase the use of such technology.
For example, take the example of web browsing. You would set aside a task space for this, mentally associating that desktop space with web browsing and giving it a name as such. Then onto this space you add all your various bits to do with web browsing. Links to browsers, sites, news streams etc could live on the desktop. After a while, that space would become just the space where the web lives, making it much easier to multi task when working. The brain becomes trained to switch to that desktop when web browsing within a short space of time.
Sorting desktops into themes such as web, email, work, media, games and so on breaks the task of finding what you want down into smaller pieces. You first go to the right task space and then find the particular program, site or whatever you wish from that base. More often than not, the item you wish to find is directly infront of you where you left it. When moving between many applications the extra level of heirarchy provided by having task spaces is invaluable.
Freedom to set up work and home taskspaces on a laptop for example would mean that you can give your full concentration to the task in hand, not being distracted by home things at work and vice versa. As computers become more integrated into all aspects of our lives, the concept of a single desktop falls down. After all, you have separate desks and furniture for home and work; even people that work from home usually have a study to do their work. Why try to force a single desktop to take on all roles when you could split the two up in such a simple and intuitive way? For a single desktop is starting to become a jack of all trades, master of none.