I'm dreaming here... so work with me. During the day, I tend to hop between a number of different desktops and it has made me wonder: What would it be like to mash up all those desktops into one Frankendesktop? Oh sure, it's not even remotely possible. But it's something a team of developers could probably (maybe) realize into an actual working piece of software. So for anyone out there dreaming of creating the ideal desktop, here's a possible roadmap for you to follow.
1: GNOME 3 Dash
Yeah, it's not had much time to really prove itself, but the GNOME 3 Dash is quite an amazing tool. It's slick, it's smooth, it's efficient, it looks great, and it offers a world of possibility. When this concept first came to light, I was skeptical. And then, when Ubuntu Unity hit the ground stumbling I was really concerned for the fate of the desktop that had been my go-to for years. But then GNOME 3 proved it could do it and do it right. The Dash is a work of brilliant design.
2: GNOME 3 Search
Like the GNOME 3 Dash, the GNOME 3 Search shows that the GNOME developers really know how to create something incredible. Unlike so many desktop searches we've used, the GNOME 3 Search tool actually works and works right -- without taking a huge hit from your CPU cycles or memory. Why do I like this Search better than the others? That's a simple question to answer: Because the Search tool works exactly as expected-- every time. I have yet to run into a single hiccup with the GNOME 3 Search tool, and I used desktop searching quite a lot. I realize many users don't feel the desktop search a critical component, but for those who rely upon it heavily... you know how valuable a good search tool can be.
3: GNOME 3 pager
The Linux pager has always been one of my favorite aspects of the Linux desktop. You want a clutter-free, efficient desktop with which to work? Use the Linux pager. And the GNOME 3 take on the Linux pager might be the cleanest, easiest to use yet. There is always one extra desktop available (no matter how many you have), and it's not in the way where you can accidentally switch desktops without meaning to. GNOME 3 does it again.
4: KDE 4 Activities
If you've never used KDE 4 Activities, I suggest you don't try them, because you will grow dependent upon them as much as you have the Linux Pager. It surprises me how long it took developers to come up with such a system. KDE 4 Activities allows you to associate tasks and windows with specific activities, each of which will be on a different, specialized desktop. It's quite a feat of efficiency.
5: KDE 4 notification system
There is no cleaner notification system on any desktop. Not only does it look clean, it performs exceptionally well. It's unobtrusive, but it doesn't lose, in any way, the ability to keep the user aware of what's going on. And the application integration into the notification area is about as seamless as it gets.
6: Windows 7 Start menu
Initially, I had the KDE 4 menu listed here. But I realized that the Windows 7 Start menu is pretty well done and quite easy to manipulate. The problem with including a standard Start button is where to put it. I would love to have a mashup of the Enlightenment E17 Mouse menu and the Windows 7 Start menu. Now that would be ideal.
7: Enlightenment E17 Shelves
If you've never experienced the E17 Shelves (Think Panel), you're not livin'. These are the single most flexible panels of any desktop, bar none. Not only can you put just about anything in these shelves, you can configure them to look and behave just about any way you want. Think Cairo Dock with an integrated environment.
8: Enlightenment E17 Compositor
Most believe the compositor nothing more than eye candy. I beg to differ. The ability to see windows behind working windows can often help you get around the desktop. Better, more efficient window decorators and switchers, highly configurable shortcuts -- there is so much to love about a compositor. But many compositors tend to eat away at the CPU. The Enlightenment Compositor, Ecomorph, is one of the finest out there. It does everything you would expect from a compositor, and it does so without killing your GPU or CPU cycles.
9: Fluxbox speed
There is only one desktop faster than Fluxbox and that is console-only. Fluxbox is one of the most minimal desktops that actually offers more than just a cursor to move windows around. What is most impressive about Fluxbox is its speed. Naturally, having all of the above features involved in a desktop would call for some seriously impressive magic or masterful coding to gain the speeds of a desktop like Fluxbox. But since this is a pipe dream anyway, why not dream big?
10: Classic GNOME flexibility
The Classic GNOME desktop was one of the most flexible desktops available. With GNOME 3, Ubuntu Unity, KDE 4, OS X, and Windows 7, there is no longer a mainstream desktop that offers that kind of flexibility. Yes, E17 is highly flexible, but that flexibility comes at a price: complexity. Most average users don't know how to gain the flexibility from E17 that they would from Classic GNOME, so E17 gets nudged out for this entry.
What would your Frankendesktop include?
If I had the time, I would create a composite image of what this perfect desktop would look like. If any of you are inclined to tackle the project, let's see it. If you are not of the artistic bent, just let us know what would make up your ideal desktop. Creating such a list is a bit tougher than you might think.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.