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TECH TALK: Rethinking the Desktop: Spaces

September 19th, 2002 · No Comments

One Screen, Two Spaces. Why?

In the past few years, the Internet has dramatically increased the connections that we are able to make with people, information and applications. For starters, most of us have Hotmail or Yahoo (or another equivalent) email addresses separate from the one we get at work. Concomitant with the email address now comes the presence through an Instant Messaging tool. Whether we like it or now, we’ve already started donning multiple identities.

One way to separate the identities is to use distinct computers – do one’s corporate activities at the workplace computer, and personal activities from the one at home. This is easier said that one. For many, it is not possible to have separate computers. Also, at times, it is not possible to cleanly separate activities as email and IM have extended working hours, and friends and family connect to us during business hours.

So, even as the number of relationships and interactions we maintain has gone up manifold, the screen area available to co-ordinate these has barely increased. In fact, I remember as a software developer in the early 1990s, using two monitors on the desktop – one for writing the programs, and the other for running the application and doing the debugging. Many financial workstations have dual monitors. So, considering the complexity and diversity of information and activities that we need to track, why not think of having two workspaces on the same monitor? At one level, think of the two spaces as doubling the screen area. But more importantly, the two spaces represent the two hats that we wear while using the computer.

The Digital Dashboard comprises of two Spaces – a personal space, which we can designate as “MySpace” and a business-related space, which we can designate as “WorkSpace”. The two spaces have an identical set of tools and applications (described yesterday) which can be combined and arranged together differently. A single click from the bottom of the screen (on the taskbar) should toggle between the two spaces. Each space can provide access to information from the other, but what each space does is bring into sharper focus that information and those activities relevant to the specific space.

(On a related note, the idea of two Spaces came up as I was looking at the Linux Thin Client desktop and thinking about what is it that we can leverage from the desktop which is not there on Windows, and which can genuinely give a benefit to users. So, while not having Windows and Office may “disappoint” some users, the second desktop can be one which can “delight” and perhaps, even encourage users to switch from Windows to Linux. Of course, there is a little additional work in terms of switching between two desktop spaces, but I do not think that will be a problem: we seem to handle multiple TV remotes and multiple car steerings quite well! The time has come for multiple Spaces. Let’s start with two.)

Tomorrow: Spaces (continued)

“Rethinking the Desktop”

Tags: Tech Talk

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