Shankar Ganesh

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Get the most out of your screen space

with 43 comments


Crowded Desktop
Photo by William Hartz

Does your desktop resemble the one above? May be you’re running too many applications, all crammed up for space on your 15″ or 17″ monitor, and they’re desperate for more space on your screen. You can’t afford a new monitor this time around or setting a high resolution doesn’t go well with your monitor.

Here’s a practical guide on how you can get rid of all the tempting distractions and put more focus on the most needed jobs by making the best use of the available screen space.

Techniques to get the most out of your screen space:

1. Reduce Desktop Clutter

Too many icons on your desktop? Reduce it to the minimum possible, or replace them all with something like Launchy.

Got too many files? Put them in folders. Name the folders appropriately.
Remove Widget Sidebars, you don’t really use them most of the time.

This will give you a clean and uncluttered desktop, and also save you some time – keeping you productive all day.

2. Auto Hide

Consider setting elements on your screen to ‘auto hide’ if you don’t really use them often.

Something that people don’t really realise – you can auto hide your Window taskbar – just alter the properties.

One app we use quite a lot is Firefox – you can auto hide the menubar (thanks to Harsh!), auto hide the bookmarks bar or even hide all that you don’t want to see if you’re in Fullscreen mode. You get a large room for viewing websites, thanks to these clever work-arounds.

3. Virtual Desktops

Virtual Desktops are pretty handy and come to great use especially if you work with multiple applications all the time. Virtual Desktops get the clutter down on your desktop and help in organizing windows better – you can have your most used windows in Desktop 1, the lesser used in the next one and so on.

Microsoft officially gives you a PowerToy that you can download and install to add the ‘Virtual Desktop’ functionality to Windows XP.

Furthermore, if you want advanced features and additional bells, get a copy of this XP/Vista Virtual Desktop Manager that provides you with thumbnail previews of virtual desktops in Vista.

4. Focusing

You get irritated suddenly seeing the amount of apps running all over your desktop – all cluttered, and distractive. You’re determined to concentrate on one thing, but you’re just frenzied up.

How about highlighting the working area and leaving the rest in dark so that you’re free of all the distractions that keep you unproductive?

Yes, there’s a way to do that. Zorro is an app that can get this done for you – it darkens all areas except the rectangular area you select on the screen – keeping you out of all the unwanted and the unnecessary. You can now focus on what you really want to do.


If you use your computer for a lot of writing work, you could try something called WriteRoom which is a text editor with a cool concept. When you start it, nothing is shown except the text area. So no distractions, just creativity flowing!

5. More Apps

Some apps that don’t fit in the above sections -

WinRoll – Rolls an entire window to just display the title bar. Useful if you have lots of windows open, and want to see one behind the active window.


Tray It! – Too many buttons crowding the Windows Taskbar. Try this app to minimize applications to system tray.

Got any tips, suggestions? Drop them in the comments!

Written by admin

December 5th, 2007 at 2:07 pm

Posted in tips

  • Ashwin

    I have hardly 3-4 icons/folders in my desktop. Cleaning the desktop alone improves productivity and reduces stress by a great deal.

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  • Venkat

    Nice list shankar, thanks

  • Madhur Kapoor

    Nice applications Shankar . Basically i let my desktop get crowded then one day, i just make a new folder and put all the icons in it . But these methods are more efficient.

  • Keith Dsouza

    This is definitely a great way to clean up the desktop I use launchy and trayit quite often will give a try to winroll.

    Right now I do not worry much about screen space when I am at the office as I work in dual monitor mode using a 24 inch monitor in addition to my laptop monitor but these tricks will definitely help me when I get back home and am stuck with only 15.4″ screen real estate.

  • Recliners

    Hey thanks for those tips, i hate clutter too.

  • http://ht Nirmal

    Nice useful compilation, but I clean my desktop manually. :D I dont have too many folders and icons on my desktop.

  • ram

    Nice post shankar, my desktop is messy i clean it sometimes but again it becomes messy. I will try some of what you mentioned

  • Haris

    Awesome post buddy! I needed something like this :D My desktop’s condition is worst than my email’s spam box :P

  • Smackall

    I like launchy the most…. cool app

    Thanks for it…

  • Will Oldham

    Cleaning up desktop has another advantage also. Some have the practice of having fequently folders in the desktop, this will increase the boot time of OS.

  • nicholas francis

    hey very good post dude, and i just moved from blogger to wordpress buddy

  • Logesh

    Hey i am having a 19″ Wide Screen monitor, but i have never used many applications like this :) I have installed Virtual Desktop power toy to maintain virtual desktops. It is very useful for me. I usually separate the media player in one desktop, browser and some other in one desktop like that….

  • Simonne

    Cool! You could hardly find a place to put a needle on my desktop. I declutter it from time to time, but in no time it ends up looking like an open market booth again.

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  • Jalaj

    I use Window+M button to minimize all open windows and use the taskbar buttons to restore the required one. The task bar itself is expanded to include FOUR rows of buttons so that text on each one is clearly visible. At this moment I have 4×10-2 (=38 buttons on the task bar) :)

  • Jalaj

    Forgot to mention the 9 tabs in my firefox. :lol:

  • Syahid Ali

    No.3 works best for me. I suggest Dexpot for this.

  • Shankar Ganesh

    @Ashwin: I agree with you. Having a clean desktop matters a lot to me :)

    @Madhur: Hope these tips will be very useful.

    @Venkat: You’re welcome.

    @Keith: Do try Winroll. It’s a very little, but awesome app.

    @Recliners: You’re welcome.

    @Nirmal: Even I don’t :)

    @Ram: Do try them.

    @Haris: lol glad you liked it.

    @SmackAll: Launchy is one of my favourites too. Saves me a lot of time and prevents clutter.

    @Will Oldham: That might be true, but I just have one or two on my desktop, so it doesn’t matter much.

    @Nicholas: Hey, congrats on the move.

    @Logesh: Thanks for sharing your views.

    @Simonne: I always take care to remove unwanted stuff from the desktop, so it remains clean most of the time :)

    @Jalaj: Hehe, lol one very busy guy you are.

    @Syayhid Ali: Yeah, Dexpot is something I just heard about. Thanks for the heads up :)

  • TechDune

    My desktop is cluttered with plug-ins and themes.. :)
    Hey, what happened to your blog theme are you doing a re-design.

  • Jalaj

    Yes your theme used to have a blue color!! It has now gone simple, but never mind it’s all content that matters!

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  • Shankar Ganesh

    @TechDune: Yeah, testing themes and stuff.
    @Jalaj: Hehe yeah content is king as they say :D Hope to give you all something interesting to read everyday :)

  • rambhai

    wow jus chk the applications opened in that photo~~~thanx good i manually clean my desktop~~~i onli have 4 icons on it

  • rambhai

    wow jus chk the applications opened in that photo~~~thanx good i manually clean my desktop~~~i onli have 4 icons on it~~~can you find me a areo kind of a thing on windows xp~~

  • Bob Ritchie

    Great list – thanks a lot mate!

  • Josh,com_remository/Itemid,26/func,fileinfo/id,18/

    That is a link to my favorite space-saver program. It is called miniMIZE. It is an app that shrinks the window down to a thumbnail upon clicking on minimize. This lets you have lots of things open at once and be able to see them all. When you want a window back, look for its thumbnail, click it, and its back open. I first found it on Lifehacker and haven’t looked back since!

  • Music Site

    I have this probelm of having many icons on my desktop, this is because my family use this pc too and they keep adding new things, sometimes they really drive me crazy,

    for me I am trying to be more organized, as I open only the page that I have work on it or when I am looking for something, and I really like to use the add new tab in IE 7 which make it more easily for me to move from one place to another without having too many pages running on my task bar,

    Thank you for the advice though,

  • I search rapidshare

    I see 19″ monitors dropping down in price all the time. Why not get 2 or 3 of them?

  • Joel

    I dont like to have icons on my desktop so I use docks…its a good alternative…

  • clay

    Great list thanks a lot for sharing.

  • Sumesh

    I’ve a 19″ LCD, so its ok to have clutter. But I have a bit of OCD, so I keep my desktop clean as much as possible.

  • Miracle Blade

    Nice list. I already auto-hide the task bar and try to keep the files on the desktop to a minimum.

  • Ian

    I just can’t work with a really cluttered desktop, its just too distracting.

  • turbanator

    heh good post! I need a clear desktop otherwise i get confused! :)

  • mayuresh

    Cleaning everything up on the computer used to be as much, if not more, work than my real desktop. Thank you for the hints towards programs that can help.

  • Arun Shivaram

    You can use 4 desktop screens at once using Yet anOther Desktop Manager 3D (YODM 3D).Its like a cube with those desktops on its sides.You can choose ur desktop by rotating it. You can move apps from one side to another . Check it out at

  • Cathy Jourdan

    Wow, thank you. I followed your tips and I am less distracted. Thank you!

  • John Touch

    Great article.

    Personally I don’t have this problem as I’m using a 24″ Samsung monitor. I can be as disorganised as I like and still be able to work efficiently!


  • seo blog

    This reminds me of my mac that burned down :( I think I am going to cry :( lol

  • Varun S

    Some of my thoughts:
    1) I have personally found this multiple software-based-desktop not worth it. It takes extra keystrokes to move from one desktop to other.

    2) The pic that you have put is a Mac OS X. The way you can shuffle around the windows of a same app using active screen corners could be blindly copied to windows for its utility. You will appreciate it if you have used MAC OSX.

    3) Having lot of Firefox tabs seems to be the most disorganized thing for me, I often have 50-60 tabs open occupying like 4 GB+ of Virtual memory. In my office desktop its much higher than that. When firefox crashes, I often have lost the pages and I have to navigate again to read them.


  • David Pierce

    This is great stuff! I never really thought about Launchy as a way to make the most out of screen real estate, but it’s a great point!

    The virtual desktops is something I’ve tried, and never really got into. I found it cumbersome to use, and something that I’d either forget about or intentionally not use. I do know a lot of people who swear by them, though, so it might be worth another shot…

    I like John’s point above – just get a huge monitor, and who cares how much stuff you’ve got? :)


  • Shankar Ganesh

    @David: Thanks for dropping by to comment, David :) I recently got a laptop with a widescreen. ;)