by Mike Shea on 9 July 2006
Google Desktop has a feature I like a lot and hope to wire into my system. If you have Google Desktop running, you can hit "control" twice and it will bring up a search box in the center of your screen. You can type any word, phrase, or whatever and it will run it as a query. In preferences, you can set this query to run a Google "I Feel Lucky" search. This way you can just hit CTRL, CTRL, and type "Mike Shea" and it opens Firefox and goes straight to my website. Typing "Everquest" takes you to the EQ Players homepage. Hitting "Wikipedia" or "Google" or "Gmail" or what not will take you automatically to those sites. This can reduce a lot of opening and clicking to get to the pages you want to see the most. It is a great usability feature that helps you just "get things done".
On the other side of the spectrum is ObjectDock. This is an extremely slick task bar that runs a lot like Apple's OS X program launcher. Large beautiful transparent icons will expand and contract based on your mouse focus. You can run it at the top or bottom of your screen just like the Mac's task bar. It comes with a couple of sets of default icons but you will quickly realize that you will want to hunt down new high-resolution icons for your favorite apps.
I do not recommend this program. From a "just get things done" perspective, it is a black hole for your time. Applications are meant to be used, not tweaked. I spent the better half of a Saturday getting the perfect "World of Warcraft" icon when I could have leveled my Hunter to 58 by then (sure, WOW is a waste of time too, but of a different sort). Tweaking and customizing applications will steal your life away from you. Instead of ObjectDock, just use the "Quick Launch" bar on the Windows XP toolbar or use a series of icons on your desktop to launch applications. The expanding effect is slick, but it doesn't make the system any easier to use and it demands a lot of time to get it to look and feel right. Avoid it.
Another Windows XP tip is to avoid cluttering your screen with icons. I have only two icons on my desktop, the Recycle Bin and a 3x SDelete icon that will overwrite files three times over to ensure that it stays gone. I use the latter for things I don't want anyone else, including myself, to ever get a hold of again. Other than those two icons, my desktop is clear. I put all of my draft documents and writings into My Documents. Any downloaded files are saved to my desktop but are then stored or deleted based on what I want to do with them next. This keeps my computer extremely clean and my desktop is a zen-like vehicle for "getting things done". I also avoid any backgrounds, keeping just a pure black background with no distractions to get in my way.
All of this being said, I still did dork with ObjectDock for hours and I am still running it right now. It wastes time and it offers very little true improvement to the usability of my system but its so slick and cool that I just can't bare to get rid of it. As soon as the new smell wears off of it, I'll probably go back to the quick launch.
Just after writing this article, I removed ObjectDock and went back to the Quick Launch Bar. It's much better.
Send comments to email@example.com or follow @mshea on Twitter. If you enjoyed this article, please bookmark and use this link to Amazon.com for your next online purchase.