Auto arrange vs. visual thinking

Finally the time has arrived where I can take my laptop to the balcony. I have then to do without my new luxury, an extended desktop surface on a second monitor. But spring definitely outweighs this. The bad surprise often happened when I came back and plugged the second monitor in again: My windows 7 did an egomaniacal “Auto arrange” of all my icons!

Now I am not an extreme piler who uses the extended desktop for hundreds of icons. But I do have my habits for keeping my stuff organized. Except special icons at the outer margin for programs that I need for some filetypes as an alternative for the double-clicking default program, and in addition to a few reminder files, my desktop is populated with a lot of shortcuts. To use many shortcuts is not only the best advice (#9) of this Zen and the Art of folder organisation” (via Toolblog), but also the core of my old Desktop usage habits. Even for my currently 32 icons it takes some time to repair the arrangement.

The unauthorized Auto arrange annoyed me particularly for the reason that the desktop is the only remaining folder where Windows 7 had preserved the option of switching Snap to Grid off. When I first read that in all other folders snap to grid is now mandatory, I could hardly believe it. Combined with Auto Arrange off, Snap to Grid off was such a powerful personal productivity tool. And when in Vista you could even combine it with the preview pane, it did almost everything that I usually need: Visual overview (left) and verbal detail (right) — except for some glued connector lines between the files and folder icons.

And now with this strange Windows 7 behavior, the last chance to use the operating system directly for personal productivity is gone! Why can’t I use my folder window as much like a mindmapping tool as possible? Is it so desirable to have countless specialized applications to do such a simple function (none of which does it right yet)? Desirable probably only for the vendors, not for the users.

So it’s only a small consolation that I found the solution of my problem and can now rely on my desktop arrangement again: If I unplug the second monitor while windows is running, I must not plug it in when it is not running.

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