One Chance to Make a First Impression

I am not an avid user of desktop icons. I prefer creating custom menus. Recently I had a special use case where the desktop icons were needed.

Try as I might, aligning the icons on the MATE desktop is an effort in futility. Everything aligns nicely until logging in with a new session. Then the icons appear on the desktop in some kind of shotgun pattern.

Adding proverbial salt to the wound, aligning desktop icons on a smaller laptop screen borders on insanity. There is no way to tighten the grid of the icons.

I thought perhaps a work-around would be to align the icons and then disable the Keep Aligned option in the desktop context menu. No dice.

My only “success” was to use an awkward wide spacing. On the laptop this looks horrible and interferes with any conky display.

Searching the web indicates other people have noticed likewise and have filed bug reports. In fairness to the MATE developers, they inherited this design flaw from the original GNOME developers. The GNOME developers have a long history of removing features under the belief of less is better for most users. In a more cynical approach, users are stupid.

Yet MATE has been around a few years now under its own name. Years later the problem remains. Further, MATE is now used by a specific target audience rather than a general audience — users who do not like the GNOME philosophy and specifically want a traditional desktop. As MATE is not a standard or default desktop in many distros, likely most or many MATE users are skilled computers users who want additional features.

Desktop icons are popular with Windows users. Imagine such a user trying to align icons, expecting Windows behavior where the icons align automatically, both vertically and horizontally.

The impression from such a user? Take a guess. Yes, I know, Linux is not Windows. Doesn’t matter with respect to fundamentals and expectations.

A common proverb about desktop environment design is the desktop should never get in the way of the user’s work flow. Much like unwanted mouse wheel cycling and unwanted tooltips, this kind of design flaw does indeed disrupt a user’s work flow.

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: MATE

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