Great tool for maintaining a clean desktop
July 17, 2008 • Glenn Murray
Although I try to blog about copywriting most of the time, I just couldn’t help myself with this one. Strictly speaking, it’s not really copywriting related. Having said that, I think most copywriters would find this tool useful. But then again, I think most computer users would!
If you’re anything like me, your desktop is awash with shortcuts. I don’t mean a mess, I mean a mass. Everything has its place, and you use them all regularly; the trouble is, you’re running out of space. And the more it spreads, the less usable it becomes. No matter how often you use it, or how logically you position them all, you start taking longer and longer to find the one you’re after.
To make matters worse, the shortcut for displaying the desktop (the Show Desktop button in the Quick Launch bar) reverses the z-order of your open applications. So if you have 10 programs running, and you’re currently editing a document in Word, you click the Show Desktop button, everything’s minimised, but when you go to Alt-Tab to return to your Word document, you find it’s right at the end of the list, so you have to Alt-Tab-Tab-Tab-Tab-Tab-Tab… You get the picture.
Well, if that’s you, then I have some good news for you. A month or two ago, I finally decided to do something about my own overwhelmed (and overwhelming) desktop. I figured there must be a way of managing it better. So I did a bit of a search, and whatdyaknow? There is!
In fact, there are more desktop management tools and desktop supplements than you can poke a shortcut at! I trialled a few (including Google’s sidebar desktop, and a few others that were so bad I can’t even remember their names), and finally settled on one called FSL Launcher. There are two versions: one free (http://fsl.sytes.net/launcher.html) and one paid. (To get the paid, you just make a donation of any amount (at http://fsl.sytes.net/privileged.html) and they send you a password that you can use to download the premium version. It takes them a few days to send it, but they eventually do.) I trialled the freeware one first, and loved it so much that I decided to go the whole hog and ‘buy’ the paid version, which is more powerful.
Here’s a rundown of what FSL Launcher does:
- Instead of placing all your shortcuts on your desktop, you place them in FSL Launcher.
- Then, instead of clicking the Show Desktop button (and reversing the z-order), you simply invoke the launcher by moving your mouse to the top left corner of your monitor and holding it there for a second. (You can set how long the delay is. And with the paid version, you can set a shortcut key to use instead.)
- The launcher displays (wherever you want, whatever size you want) and, hey-presto, there are all your shortcuts, all neatly organised into tabs (again, which you define, e.g. Computer, Finance, Web, etc.). You can even assign icons to each of your short cuts!
- I’ve set mine so that I only have to single-click the shortcuts to launch their programs. (You can also set it up so that it switches between the tabs when you mouse-over them, but I found this too sensitive. I prefer to click the tab.)
- Once you’ve launched the program you want from it, FSL Launcher simply hides itself again. (Although you can set it to be always open, underneath your other programs.)
- And with the paid version, you can launch all of the shortcuts within a particular tab, with a single click. This can come in very handy.
Here’s a screenshot (click to enlarge):
I used the desktop for years, and this is HEAPS better. Love it! Of course, I had to break the habit of clicking the Show Desktop button, but that didn’t take as long as I thought it would.
The only downside I’ve discovered so far (and I use it dozens, maybe hundreds, of times a day), is that when it auto-hides, it takes the focus from the program that you’re currently using. So if you use it to open a Word document and you start typing immediately when the doc opens, 5 seconds later, FSL Launcher steals the focus and your words no longer make it onto the Word page. I think this can be overcome by simply setting FSL Launcher to always display (under your other programs), but I haven’t tested this fully yet. Haven’t had time.
EDIT: I’ve since learned from the FSL Launcher Support Team that the above problem with the focus seems to be unique to my computer. They’ve tested on seven other Windows XP PCs and have been unable to reproduce the problem. (Better support than that offered by any of the other products I use!) Also, I’ve been able to work around it by setting FSL Launcher to permanently display (behind other programs). I suspected this would work, and it does. So that’s good enough for me!