Handy Vista trick for desktop icons
Contrary to the conventional wisdom, I think Windows Vista is pretty good. I've had very little trouble with it compared to the trouble I had with, say, Windows XP at this point in its lifecycle. Graphically I think it's very slick looking also. The main complaint that I had with it was that the desktop icons were absurdly large, making the desktop feel very crowded even on my super-groovy 24" 1920x1200 monitor.
I also am much more persnickety about my desktop layout on my computer screen than I am about my actual meatspace desktop layout: system and utility icons in the upper-left corner, network and communications in the upper right, tools for development, recording, and graphics work in the lower right, and the Recycle Bin in the lower left. But Vista has a nasty habit (as did earlier versions of Windows, but Vista seems to do it even more) of running Auto-Arrange and basically lining everything up in an undifferentiated alphanumerically ordered lump on the left side of the screen.
Also, I wanted to be able to do all of this without messing around with the Windows registry. This is an absolutely valid way to handle a lot of the situations that arise during my regular workday, but configuring the desktop shouldn't require going into the guts of the OS. First, that's a very dangerous area for your standard user to be poking around in, since screwing something up can destabilize or completely incapacitate the system. Second, the idea that the interface can't configure himself is inelegant and annoying.
So, after much poking and prodding and Googling, I figured out how to dial all these attributes in. There are a number of options for the icon size:
- Ctrl-mouse wheel on the desktop resizes the icons in small increments.
- Right-click the desktop, click View, then select between Large Icons, Medium Icons, and Classic Icons (I'm using the classic setting).
- Right-click the desktop and click Personalize. In the Personalization dialog that appears, click Window Color and Appearance. Now, in the Appearance Settings dialog, click the Advanced... button. In the Advanced Appearance dialog, click the Item drop-down list and select Icon. You can set the Size then click the OK button.
Once you've adjusted the icon size, you'll probably notice that the icons are oddly spaced, either sitting really far away from each other or crammed right on top of each other (they were too close for me). You can fix this by adjusting the icon spacing. To do this, check the last way of changing the icon size. Two other settings in that drop-down list are Icon Spacing (Horizontal) and Icon Spacing (Vertical). Play with the values for those settings to get a spacing that looks right with the icon size you set. I ended up using 16 for the icon size (this is the classic setting) and 48 for both the horizontal and vertical settings.
Now the last thing is the icon layout on the desktop. This is not directly manageable through any of the standard tools in Vista, which kinda pisses me off. But it is manageable through a Microsoft-provided tool, so I guess that's the next best thing. I've been using this for a little while and it seems to pass the smell test: it actually works and it doesn't seem to do anything to destabilize the system, unlike similar tools I've seen before!