Desktop Customization - Tidying your computers desktop

Desktop Customization - Tidying your computers desktop

There are heaps of beautiful wallpaper designs available on the web, many of them are the work of some very clever and imaginative digital artists.

But when it comes to photo wallpaper, even though the choice is still huge, the vast majority of images cover your desktop with a beautiful image, only for you to then go and clutter up the image with all your desktop icons.

If, like me you frequently drop useful shortcuts on the desktop whilst you are surfing, or you like to organise your work space with all your favourite and most often used program icons easily to hand, you are likely to end up with the effect of that stunning landscape photo completely destroyed with a messy colection of shortcuts which you can't see very well because they are lost against the backgrond image. Sounds familiar?

Well, I'm going to show you how you can overcome this problem by making your own customized desktop wallpaper, that will give you both a pretty image to grace your computer, as well as areas where you can neatly keep your icons together, easily visible and identifiable. (To help you understand what we are aiming for, take a look at these examples [])

First of all you will need two things: your favourite (digital or scanned) photo, and some sort of photo editing software.

Start your photo editing program and locate and open your chosen photograph file. What size (in pixels) is the image? Look at the file info, or the status bar, or image heading, of your editing program to find this. For the purpose of this excercise we'll assume that your PC desktop is set at a resolution (screen size) of 1024 x 768, which is probably the most common choice at the moment. (To change the size of your desktop/screen resolution: right click on your desktop - choose properties - then the "settings" tab, which will present you with the available size choices for your monitor).

So, with a screen size of 1024 x 768 pixels, alter the dimensions of your image to exactly match these dimensions. Warning: don't change both height and width, or you may end up with a distorted image unless the original size is proportionate to 1024 x 768. What you should do is to alter the image width, OR, the height, until you have an image which is the same on one edge, and either the same, or larger on the other edge. Then using the crop tool in your image editor, carefully select enough of the image to match exactly 1024 x 768 pixels.

OK. So now you have your basic background image. Here's the important part: Look at your chosen image and decide which area, or areas, are the least important visually. It may be that the bottom of the image doesn't contain any important detail, or vital part of the scene. Or maybe a part of one side, or the other could be sacrificed without spoiling the overall impact?

Keep in mind that you're not going to completely lose this part of the image - just "ghost" it. What this entails is lowering the image contrast, while raising the brightness, a little at a time until you have a ghosted image in which you can still see the picture but more "dimly" than before. These "ghosted" panels are where you are going to place your icons, so that they stand out much better than before. With careful choice of image and where you place the "ghosted" panels, you can create a very attractive and functional desktop wallpaper.

Back to the actual process: use the selection tool to create a panel, or indeed more than one, at the part(s) of the image you have chosen to "ghost". Now, for each panel at a time, use the contrast and brightness tools, as described above, to alter just the selected area(s). When you are satisfied with the degree of ghosting, you can further enhance your design by adding an outline to the panel, and/or a drop shadow.

When you are happy with the overall design. Save the image as a JPEG file with a bit of compression but not too much if you want to keep the quality reasonably high (a quality setting of about 85%, or level 10 in Photoshop, will do).

Now you are ready to add this wallpaper to your PC's library of wallpapers: to do this right click on your desktop -> choose properties -> then the "Desktop" tab -> then click "Browse" and locate the file you just saved, and finally click OK. Your editing software may have a command for setting the image as your wallpaper more quickly, but keep in mind you might have trouble finding it again if you subsequently change to a different wallpaper.

With your new design loaded on your desktop, you now have to arrange your icons within the panel(s) you made. To make this easier, what I do is to right-click the desktop and then ->"arrange icons by"-> "align to grid" first, then drag and drop the icons to approximately where you want them, leaving "align to grid" to tidy up your rows and columns, then, if your collection of icons doesn't quite align with the panel(s), deselect "align to grid", use the mouse pointer to select a box all around the icons you want to move, then drag the whole tidy pile to where you want them to sit.

(Tip: when de-selecting "align to grid" be careful NOT to accidentally select the next item above: "auto align" or all your carefull arrangements will be undone!)

Et voila! (that's French!) There you are, your first TidyDesktop completed.

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Author: Regular Articles
Robin Dengate has worked for many years as a landscape photographer and runs the landscape photography library Scenic Britain Limited. Landscapes from his collection and that of the Scenic Britain library form the basis of the desktop wallpaper web site
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