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Is your desktop cluttered with icons? Do you keep searching for shortcuts or documents among the dozens of icons on your desktop? And when was the last time you changed your wallpaper?

The desktop is the first thing you see when you log into your account. Would you prefer to look at a stunningly beautiful desktop rather than a cluttered, ugly, and frustrating screen?

This article shows you how to create an awesome minimalist desktop in 7 easy steps. In the end, you’ll find that it’s much more relaxing to have space and a nice view on your desk.

1. Remove Desktop Icons

There are two easy ways to remove all desktop icons for a minimalist desktop:

  • You can manually delete all shortcuts and move any remaining documents to a new folder.
  • You can also right-click onto your desktop, select > Arrange Icons By, and uncheck > Show Desktop Icons.

If you selected the first method, which I would recommend, your desktop will look something like the screenshot below. Empty, except for the Recycle Bin.

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minimalist desktop

2. Hide Recycle Bin

This hack works essentially the same under Windows XP and Windows 7. In Windows XP, go to > Start > Run > type gpedit.msc into the text field and > hit OK. In Windows 7, go to > Start and into the search box type > gpedit.msc then press > Enter.

In the > Local Group Policy Editor click through to > User Configuration > Administrative Templates.

Within the > Desktop folder on the right find the entry > Remove Recycle Bin icon from desktop and double-click it. The properties window for this option will open. Select > enabled to hide the Recycle Bin and > click OK.

minimalist desktop setup

You have to log off or reboot your computer for the change to come into effect.

3. Hide The Taskbar

After hiding all the desktop icons, including the recycle bin; your desktop will look a lot more peaceful. However, there still is this annoying taskbar. To hide it > right-click onto the taskbar and select > Properties. In the properties window check > Auto-hide the taskbar.

And this is the perfect desktop:

minimalist desktop

Alternatively, you can use tools to hide the taskbar to top off your minimalist desktop. Check out my article 6 Tools for Elegant Taskbar Tweaking and 1 to Repair 6 Tools for Elegant Taskbar Tweaking and 1 to Repair 6 Tools for Elegant Taskbar Tweaking and 1 to Repair Read More .

4. Organize Shortcuts and Documents

The perfect desktop, huh? You probably wonder how you’re going to access your documents and folders now. Easy. You’ll add a pretty dock, which will hold everything you need in a clean and organized manner.

RocketDock is one of the most popular dock programs out there. It comes with all icons that are default components of every Windows desktop. You can remove items in the dock by dragging them out, you can change various icon properties, and drag new items into the dock from your folders. Note that documents will be added as shortcuts only.

program dock

The dock can be added to either side of the screen and you can let it hide automatically.

For more docks, have a look at my article Docks – The 6 Best Friends of your Windows Taskbar Docks - The 6 Best Friends of your Windows Taskbar Docks - The 6 Best Friends of your Windows Taskbar Read More .

5. Quickly Access Programs

Now rather than cluttering your pretty dock with shortcuts, you should keep it down to the bare minimum, i.e. items you need the most. For the rest, you can use a program launcher, which will help you to quickly find and open any program or document on your computer.

Launchy is my personal favorite. It’s so simple that there really isn’t much to say about it. You can use it to search programs, files or any bookmarks on your computer. You can even search Google with Launchy.

make minimalist desktop

Shankar introduced Launchy in his post Be more productive with Launchy Keystroke Launcher How To Be More Productive with Launchy Program Launcher How To Be More Productive with Launchy Program Launcher Read More . More tips and tricks can be found here.

Looking for an alternative to Launchy? Jimmy reviewed Executor: A Power Program Launcher for Your Windows PC Executor: A Power Program Launcher for Your Windows PC Executor: A Power Program Launcher for Your Windows PC Read More and Enso Launcher: It Will Make You Feel Like a Hacker Enso Launcher: It Will Make You Feel Like a Hacker Enso Launcher: It Will Make You Feel Like a Hacker Read More . Varun inspected FARR – Launch Your Apps & Find Your Files Quickly FARR - Launch Your Apps & Find Your Files Quickly [Windows] FARR - Launch Your Apps & Find Your Files Quickly [Windows] Read More . And Will listed Top 7 Unknown Free Launcher Applications for Windows. Top 7 Unknown Free Launcher Applications for Windows Top 7 Unknown Free Launcher Applications for Windows Read More

6. Beautiful Wallpapers

Now that your minimalist desktop is perfectly clean and organized, it’s time to look for nice wallpapers. There are many great resources out there, but let me highlight just one.

DeviantART is a fantastic resource for high quality and artistic wallpapers. Under > Category select > Customization and > Wallpaper. You can further specify your search and browse all matching artwork.

wallpaper

For more wallpaper resources, check out Karl’s article Best Sites to Download Very High Resolution Wallpapers Best Sites to Download Very High Resolution Wallpapers Best Sites to Download Very High Resolution Wallpapers Read More . Grant compiled Best Sites To Download Good High-Res Wallpapers (Part Two) Best Sites To Download Good High-Res Wallpapers (Part Two) Best Sites To Download Good High-Res Wallpapers (Part Two) Read More and I summarized The Best Resources to Pimp Your Wallpaper The Best Resources to Pimp Your Wallpaper The Best Resources to Pimp Your Wallpaper Read More

7. Automatically Switch Wallpapers

If you found more than one wallpaper you like on DeviantART, the good news is, you don’t need to choose; you can have them all. Simply use a tool that will automatically switch between all of your favorite wallpapers.

ScrollWall is the tool I personally use. You can add dozens of wallpapers, define how they should be treated (stretched, centered, tiled), and how often the wallpaper should be changed. No fuzz, straight forward, and very easy to set up.

switch wallpaper

In my article The Best Resources to Pimp Your Wallpaper The Best Resources to Pimp Your Wallpaper The Best Resources to Pimp Your Wallpaper Read More I also covered Wallpaper Changer and Wallpaper Juggler. Please use this updated link for Wallpaper Juggler.

If you’re too lazy to search for wallpapers, but still want regular updates, try John’s Background Switcher, which I introduced in my article Take Flickr Straight to your Desktop with Interactive Wallpaper Updates Get Cool Flickr Images as Your Desktop Wallpaper Using John’s Background Switcher Get Cool Flickr Images as Your Desktop Wallpaper Using John’s Background Switcher Read More .

You’re on Mac or Linux? Have a look at Damien’s article 5 Wallpaper Changer Apps For Linux 5 Wallpaper Changer Apps For Linux 5 Wallpaper Changer Apps For Linux Read More or Simon’s piece on Wally – Awesome Wallpaper Rotator for Windows, Mac & Linux Wally- Awesome Wallpaper Rotator for Windows, Mac & Linux Wally- Awesome Wallpaper Rotator for Windows, Mac & Linux Read More .

Need more advice for a super clean desktop? Check out my 3 Steps to an Organized Desktop 3 Steps to an Organized Desktop 3 Steps to an Organized Desktop Read More .

And that’s it. Now you have a fantastic desktop, no clutter, no distractions, just a beautiful, relaxing view. What do you think?

Image credit: mmagallan

  1. sweeeeeet
    March 10, 2010 at 10:22 pm

    Wow... great... i loved the tip on rocketdock! it´s great!

  2. Peter
    March 8, 2010 at 8:32 am

    This is the simplest way to have a tidy desktop:

    http://www.sillysot.com

    No thought is necessary. Want to see your icons? Left click on the desktop. Move the mouse off the desktop to, say a clock, or the taskbar, and the icons disappear after your chosen preset time. It does other tricks too.

    HTH. :-)

  3. Peter
    March 8, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    This is the simplest way to have a tidy desktop:

    http://www.sillysot.com

    No thought is necessary. Want to see your icons? Left click on the desktop. Move the mouse off the desktop to, say a clock, or the taskbar, and the icons disappear after your chosen preset time. It does other tricks too.

    HTH. :-)

  4. Versatile
    February 26, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    I like a minimalistic desktop as well. I like to use a windows shell replacement called EmergeDesktop. This literally clears everything off your desktop, no start menu, no taskbar.

    The whole shell is customizable. From there, I then use Launchy for my program launchy.

  5. ShakiestNerd
    February 26, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    Some great comments here. My wife likes Rocketdock on her laptop.

    A little tougher to get going is Autohotkey - but it is a great customization tool where you can launch applications, open URLs and create macros that get assigned to whatever hotkey you want. Highly recommended.

  6. Dave
    February 26, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    I'm also a big fan of a "blank" desktop. Here's what I use on my XP system.

    At boot, I have a small program called deskview run. (http://jimcofer.com/personal/?...
    It's a tiny app that just does the "small icon/alphabetical list" thing.
    Then another small program called hidedesktopicons runs, that, yep, hides all the icons.
    (http://www.howtogeek.com/geeke...
    Both of these don't stay resident in memory (a plus as far as I'm concerned) so they need to be in your Startup options. (I also keep a shortcut for hidedesktopicons on the desktop - if you run the program a second time, it "unhides" your icons if you need to see them.)

    I've looked at about every launcher/dock application around, and have never found one I liked well enough to justify their sitting in memory. Instead, I use the old trick of creating a new toolbar in the Taskbar. (Right click on the Taskbar > Toolbars > New Toolbar and select Desktop.) When you click "Desktop" in the Taskbar you have an alphabetical list of all your hidden desktop icons, available anywhere you can use the Taskbar (and that's everywhere), plus it takes up no memory. It isn't as fancy as a dockbar with bouncing icons, but it does the trick for me.

  7. Dave
    February 26, 2010 at 4:53 am

    I'm also a big fan of a "blank" desktop. Here's what I use on my XP system.

    At boot, I have a small program called deskview run. (http://jimcofer.com/personal/?p=208)
    It's a tiny app that just does the "small icon/alphabetical list" thing.
    Then another small program called hidedesktopicons runs, that, yep, hides all the icons.
    (http://www.howtogeek.com/geekers/HideDesktopIcons.zip)
    Both of these don't stay resident in memory (a plus as far as I'm concerned) so they need to be in your Startup options. (I also keep a shortcut for hidedesktopicons on the desktop - if you run the program a second time, it "unhides" your icons if you need to see them.)

    I've looked at about every launcher/dock application around, and have never found one I liked well enough to justify their sitting in memory. Instead, I use the old trick of creating a new toolbar in the Taskbar. (Right click on the Taskbar > Toolbars > New Toolbar and select Desktop.) When you click "Desktop" in the Taskbar you have an alphabetical list of all your hidden desktop icons, available anywhere you can use the Taskbar (and that's everywhere), plus it takes up no memory. It isn't as fancy as a dockbar with bouncing icons, but it does the trick for me.

  8. sajniho
    February 26, 2010 at 12:35 am

    I think Launchy is not required in Windows 7 any more. Just hit the Win button and start typing the desired app, Control menu options, files, folders etc. It automatically categorises them and is very fast as well.

    Further, as it is an in-built thing, that means, no additioanal app running in the background.

  9. Tina
    February 25, 2010 at 10:44 pm

    @torx
    That's true. The settings have to be changed manually in the registry. Microsoft provides theses spreadsheets: http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=18c90c80-8b0a-4906-a4f5-ff24cc2030fb&displaylang=en

    @Bryant
    Apparently, this wasn't obvious. :)

    Thanks everyone for your comments and recommendations!

  10. Tina
    February 26, 2010 at 7:44 am

    @torx
    That's true. The settings have to be changed manually in the registry. Microsoft provides theses spreadsheets: http://www.microsoft.com/downl...

    @Bryant
    Apparently, this wasn't obvious. :)

    Thanks everyone for your comments and recommendations!

  11. aoi_sora9x
    February 25, 2010 at 6:26 pm

    Okies, break this down people, hiding ur desktop icons completely is a dumb decision that makes you even less productive than normal.

    If you just wanna hide them temporarily, there's always Stardock's Fence, it helps you hide them using a double click.

    For docks, i dont recommend them because, well, i'm using windows 7. and they mess up easily when u run a software that changes your native resolution (i.e playing games at a lower resolution)

    Launchy sounds like a nifty program, but i find my windows start search box to suit the bill just fine. :/

  12. murphy.derry
    February 25, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    Techie

  13. taylor
    February 25, 2010 at 4:30 pm

    I agree...having an uncluttered and visually pleasing desktop is very nice. For a while I've been using wallche to rotate between desktop backgrounds and it's very nice. Desktopnexus.com is another great site for background pictures. For Rocketdock, one of my favorite addons is called desktop coral. It lets you keep a section of your screen free for the dock so your windows don't cover it, just like on a mac. This was it fully replaces the taskbar. nice article.

  14. taylor
    February 26, 2010 at 1:30 am

    I agree...having an uncluttered and visually pleasing desktop is very nice. For a while I've been using wallche to rotate between desktop backgrounds and it's very nice. Desktopnexus.com is another great site for background pictures. For Rocketdock, one of my favorite addons is called desktop coral. It lets you keep a section of your screen free for the dock so your windows don't cover it, just like on a mac. This was it fully replaces the taskbar. nice article.

  15. Alek Davis
    February 25, 2010 at 11:05 pm

    Two suggestions from another desktop minimalist: Hide Desktop utility for hiding desktop icons when desktop is not in focus (http://www.donationcoder.com/S... and Analogy screen saver (http://www.jessonyip.com/analo...

  16. tewo
    February 25, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    rocketdock and launchy constantly running in the background? thanks, i won't have it.

  17. Frank
    February 25, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    To step 1: You can install Fences from http://www.stardock.com/products/fences/ and hide/show all desktop icons with a double click on the Desktop. Also, Fences is a nice way of arranging your desktop icons in containers.

  18. Bryant
    February 25, 2010 at 2:28 pm

    Fun fact: When I unclicked "Show Desktop Icons" it also disabled the recycling bin.

    Additionally, Windows 7 can do slideshow photos built in. I'm unsure how it affects battery life for laptops, but it can do it.

  19. Alek Davis
    February 25, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    Two suggestions from another desktop minimalist: Hide Desktop utility for hiding desktop icons when desktop is not in focus (http://www.donationcoder.com/Software/Skrommel/index.html#HideDesktop) and Analogy screen saver (http://www.jessonyip.com/analogy/).

  20. torx
    February 25, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    Helpful note: gpedit.msc is not available for the Home versions of Windows Vista/7.

  21. Frank
    February 25, 2010 at 11:34 pm

    To step 1: You can install Fences from http://www.stardock.com/produc... and hide/show all desktop icons with a double click on the Desktop. Also, Fences is a nice way of arranging your desktop icons in containers.

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