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Sarah UKFast | Account Manager

Desktop Psychology

5 April 2006 by Chris N

You can tell a lot about a person by sneaking up to their desk when they’re out of the office, rifling through their pockets and messing around on their PC – or, if you’re afforded god-like status by virtue of network permissions and the like (and don’t mind missing out on the pocket-rifling), you can do so via VNC. Not to say that I’ve ever done this, but I keep my eyes open and have noticed a few things about my colleagues’ desktops.

At the helm of R&D, Daz runs a two-screen behemoth of a desktop. Aside from making me jealous this lets him juggle about ten things at once, and gives him the luxury of running both a ‘testing’ screen and a ‘coding’ screen. For a man with such an elephantine memory this system is perfect – as for me, when I try it I’m always forgetting where I’ve left the mouse pointer.

Like Darren, designer Rich favours a CRT monitor over TFT. Being a design bod and thus obsessed with Pantone references and the like, he needs the superior colour reproduction. Rich has only the one monitor, but to make up for this he has it set to a resolution that means the biggest 72pt text comes out eye-bleedingly small. When he’s not battling with his weapons of choice, Dreamweaver, Fireworks and Photoshop, it’s always amusing to send Rich an email and watch him peering at the screen trying to decipher the small print.

My next door neighbour Giles likes things much like I do – highly customised. He has that whole ‘Windows taskbar on the top of the screen’ look going on (a case of Mac OS envy?), and a set of wallpapers drawn from his current work on Airwaves-Ducati, all carefully tailored in his beloved Gimp.

Desktop wallpaper is one of the most revealing components of your setup – if you’re going to customise one thing, normally the wallpaper is it. Next to Giles, Laura has an inexplicable picture of some men with some fish. Jonathan has a picture of his little god-daughter, last time I looked Rob in sales had his dog, and his manager George has some kind of fantasy island. Work, fish, family, pets and holidays – all subjects that pop unbidden into our minds during the course of a working day.

Myself, I have a jarringly minimalist Windows environment that’s been tweaked and fiddled with as much as is humanly possibly. There are no icons on the desktop itself. None! This tends to upset anyone who tries to use my PC, and in turn that pleases me greatly. It’s mine, get off (NB. this attitude can backfire when you need to ask tech support to fix something). It’s a very different approach from that of someone like Daz or Laura, plastering files across the desktop, using it as another inbox. I have my quick shortcuts to Ultraedit, Firefox and Filezilla in my taskbar, and all documents are hidden away in rigid directories. It’s anal, and perhaps a little contrary – but it’s me, and I love working in my way.

As for desktop images, if Jonathan has a picture of his goddaughter, well, he’s a people person. So Giles must be an aspirational type, with his pictures of superbikes, and George is thinking ahead to his honeymoon. If this is all so, I’m not quite sure what my collection of wickedly grinning Terminator pictures says about me…

Anyone else care to psychoanalyse through the medium of the desktop?