The anti-desktop movement

An opinionated minority of advanced computer users are rebelling against the WIMP (windows, icons, menus, pointers) model of HCI. They are developing and promoting alternative interfaces (typically desiigned to work with unix-based systems) that embody their opinions.

I haven’t used any of these yet, but here are the ones I keep encountering references to:

Most if not all of these credit the terminal-only GNU Screen (a program I do use) with inspiration. The ideas of Jef Raskin undoubtedly are a factor too.

It’s an interesting, obscure, significant little movement (if I dare use that term). It’s worth keeping your eye on to see where this all goes.

Matt Rose commented on Fri Mar 16 16:38:17 2007:

You forgot about the new OLPC UI Sugar

Paul commented on Fri Mar 16 22:54:22 2007:

I wouldn’t have thought to include that, but you’re right – there are definitely shared motivations there. I think one reason Sugar doesn’t feel like it fits in is that all the other projects I listed have a certain air of… crankiness!

Matt Rose commented on Mon Mar 19 15:34:30 2007:

That’s kinda why I thought it was necessary, I guess. The desktop may not be the best UI metaphor, but after looking at those other UIs, I wasn’t really impressed. They’re minimalistic, but there’s nothing particularly innovative, and for all the faults of GNOME, or the OSX gui, they allow me to get anything done easily.

Olivier Ansaldi commented on Mon Mar 19 17:49:03 2007:

Hi Paul,

check out WMII and the even leaner DWM. I haven’t had the time to investigate the latter but I had a great time with the former. For development I think it is one of the best WM. For browsing, gimp’ing and so on, where the mouse tends to rule, it’s a bit too limited.

I’m sure you’ll appreciate the philosophy behind these WM!

henrik commented on Sat Mar 31 21:26:43 2007:


Sorry, but most anti GUI movements are not based on making the average user more efficient, but rather make the specialist user feel better. I am not really convinced that the specialist user is actually all that efficient on average.

I find it very hard to take most of these arguments serious when there are so many obvious usability improvements yet to be done for shells.