Modern computers carry a lot of baggage from the past, and desktop icons are perhaps one of the most unsightly remnants of the earliest days of Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs). If you’re still living with them, it’s time to quit.

Desktop Clutter Helps No One

Whether on macOS, Windows, or another graphical operating system, the desktop is a big open space that plays host both to files and to shortcuts to other resources on your device. Over time those desktop shortcuts and files can quickly accumulate to fill the entire screen.

However, even if you only have a desktop with a moderate number of icons, you’re still creating an inefficient space to actually find anything. Hunting for icons on a desktop, especially a modern high-resolution desktop, is a pain. The desktop is a great space for working with applications, but as a place to access apps and store files, it leaves much to be desired.

Docks, Taskbars, and Instant Search Is Superior

Desktops were meant to give users fast access to files and apps without having to dig through the file systems of the computer, but modern operating systems now have several features that do a better job.

Docks (as in macOS) and the taskbar (as in Windows) both let you pin apps to them. Sure they’re both much smaller than a whole desktop, but how many apps do you actually use on a daily basis? The vast majority of us use a handful of apps for work, and when it comes to video games and entertainment, we’re using centralized apps such as Steam or media management apps like Apple Music.

As for getting quick access to files, it’s better to store your files in designated places. Operating systems have default storage locations for downloads, documents, media, files, and so on. The same goes for applications that either use these default locations or their custom locations. There’s little need to keep files on the desktop at all if you’re accessing them through an application.

To put the final nail in the coffin, modern computers have fast SSDs and index the location of all files on the system. Whether you’re using macOS Spotlight Search or Windows’ Start Menu search function, you won’t even have enough time to type out the whole search before the results are ready. Considering that the desktop has finite physical space to put icons, using these instant search functions is objectively better and faster.

Brighten Your Day With a Nice Wallpaper Instead

It’s important to have a pleasant work (or play) environment, and your desktop offers the perfect space to personalize your computer interface by changing the background. Get some nice artwork you enjoy, a photograph that makes you happy, or anything you’d like to look at. Use the slideshow function to rotate your wallpapers, turning your desktop into a digital photo frame.

Decluttering your desktop on Windows is easy and on macOS too, so there’s nothing stopping you from taking a squeegee to that desktop. Without any icons in the way, your desktop will look sleek and minimalist, and you can enjoy the benefits of high-resolution images and the equally high-resolution displays that are now commonplace.

Desktop Widgets Are a Better Use of Space

If you absolutely want to use your desktop space for something functional rather than pure decoration, then widgets are a much more useful use of that space. Both Windows and macOS support widgets, in fact.

Whether you use the built-in widget functionality or one of the many third-party widget solutions, this is a much more useful way to use the desktop than a cluttered grid of icons.

How useful they are depends on your choice of widgets, but you can add anything from current stock prices to the weather. Things you may actually want to know at a glance instead of shortcuts to Solitaire and your word processor!

Here’s an argument for why you should be using your desktop icons instead.

RELATED: You Should Store Files on Your Desktop, Here's Why

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Sydney Butler has over 20 years of experience as a freelance PC technician and system builder. He's worked for more than a decade in user education and spends his time explaining technology to professional, educational, and mainstream audiences. His interests include VR, PC, Mac, gaming, 3D printing, consumer electronics, the web, and privacy. He holds a Master of Arts degree in Research Psychology with a focus on Cyberpsychology in particular.
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