As promised, this is a set of more cohesive notes on actually setting up the dynamic desktop. The following notes apply to Windows XP – however, I’m sure this can be used on any Windows system with a little ingenuity. I won’t go into a lot of detail because the point of this is simply to be creative. These are the steps I used, but I’m sure there are many means to this end.

1. Plan.
I cannot stress enough how time-saving it will be to have a proper plan in place before you even begin. Keep in mind the programs you use most often and how you want everything to be organized. Then write down their full text links (notepad is helpful for this). Ex: file:///c:/program files/your program/program.exe – you’ll understand why when you get to step 2.1

Create a folder on your C: drive (or wherever you like) to contain your desktop page and also your extraneous files that would otherwise clutter up your desktop (such as downloads, documents, shortcuts, etc.).

*Note: pay attention to details and keep “like” items grouped together. The framework you create now will eventually be used with the design and coding.

2. Design and Code.
Designing your desktop is not all that different from designing a webpage. I used XHTML and CSS simply because it’s second nature to me (well, getting there). I also wanted to have the flexibility of changing the layout simply by changing the CSS file. Remember, since you’re the only person who will be using your code, feel free to code with the bare minimum basics ;) – it may be cheating, but hell, it works and it saves time.

*Note: It may also be helpful to include a link on your page directly to your HTML and CSS file for quick editing if you want to add/delete something.

*Note 2: Designing the page for the Win XP desktop is like designing a webpage for IE6 – something to keep in mind when you’re cursing at your layout because “it looks fine in Firefox and all the other browsers, so why is it $%*^ing up in IE?”

2.1 When I link to .exe files – it keeps prompting me to Open, Save, or Download…
If you coded your links as <a href>, Windows will open up a browser window and with it’s new release of IE, it no longer offers you the option of automagically bypassing the settings for running .exe files from the browser window. However, there is a workaround.

3. Implement It.
Now the fun stuff begins. Actually implementing your page. Move all the icons (except the ones you know you want to show on your desktop, I’ll cover how to remove them all in a sec) to the folder you created on your C: drive and organized as you see fit.

Right click on your desktop and select “Properties”. From the tabs, select “Desktop” then click on “Browser” – find the location of your designed webpage and click “Open” – click “OK” and you’re done, you should see your new desktop appear.

If you don’t want any of your icons to show (for instance, your “My Computer” or “Recycle Bin”) because you created a link in the design, right click on your desktop and click on “Arrange Icons By” and uncheck “Show Desktop Icons” from the flyout menu.

That’s it – Enjoy! And this is the result (mine anyway)