I am a fan of minimalistic user interfaces. I have always been searching for the “perfect” desktop. Well, I discovered that there isn’t really one.
“The thing about perfection is that it’s unknowable. It’s impossible, but it’s also right in front of us all the time.” - Kevin Flynn
Apple have done a fantastic job making the “perfect” desktop with Mac OS X. That is why a lot of people who don’t have a Mac will try and make their OS look like Mac OS X. I used to be one of those people. Since then I have realised it isn’t the best way to a perfect desktop.
Let me start with my Windows 7 desktop. After years of customisation and re-customisation to make Windows look like a Mac, I came sudden realisation: Why not keep Windows the way it is? Well I reverted everything back to the way it was and started from scratch. It’s surprising how well Windows works being Windows. I did, however, make one visual modification. I did install a new visual style, but this one stays true to Windows 7′s Aero, but moves one tiny step towards Apple, by replacing the reflective glass look with a soft gradient, and making the shadows bigger and softer. If you want to check it out’s called Soft7.
Now let me talk about my Ubuntu desktop. This one’s going to be a lot more than one paragraph because Linux is extremely customisable, way more so than Windows.
I did not attempt to make Ubuntu look like Mac OS X, but I did create look inspired by it. The few things I “borrowed” from Apple include borderless windows which create a much crisper look, the dock (in fact, two of them), and the global menu bar. The rest of the look is very loosely based on Mac OS X and is in fact a GTK Theme I borrowed from another OS based on Linux. I got the icons from it as well. Many thanks to DanRabbit, who in my opinion is a genius. I did, however, change a few things, like make the menus borderless to match the windows. Elementary also has a modification to Nautilus which cleans up its interface quite a lot.
Instead of the Gnome Main Menu, I opted for a more “invisible” approach to running apps not present in my dock. Lifehacker pointed me to a fantastic utility called Synapse that is similar in function to Gnome-do but with much more capability. I can easily launch any installed app without browsing for it with my mouse. The only drawback to this is that I need to memorize all the apps I use and have installed, and so far I have had to refresh my memory a couple of times.
The idea behind a global menu bar is that only one application’s menu bar is visible at a time, thus preventing the user from accidentally using the wrong window’s menu bar. It also helps with small windows having long menu bars, such as GIMP. The Gnome-globalmenu is available for Linux and works for most GTK apps. The only app I use that does not benefit from it is OpenOffice. Firefox also doesn’t benefit from globalmenu.
I also all reduced the titlebar to a five-pixel high strip with my own Metacity theme that is blue when active and grey when inactive. This saves a bit of screen real-estate which I can use for other things, like viewing more of this document. The only downside is that I have to find other ways of know what document or image I’m actually working on! Thankfully most programs have ways of doing so.
I’m using a fantastic dock called Docky. It might be a little buggy now and again but it more than makes up for it in all it’s awesomeness. It is simple to use, easy to set up, and look great. It has the 3D reflective table thing going on right out of the box.
And last but definitely not least is Compiz, Linux’s major composite window manager. I have made my own modifications to the configuration, mainly just animations, but also stuff like the desktop wall and th expose feature. All in all this makes for a very unique feel.
Oh and one more thing, though. To match my awesomely minimalistic desktop, I chose some wallpapers from the fabulous selection over at Simple Desktops.