DeskOnTop: access your desktop from the system tray


DeskOnTop is a free program that resides in the system tray and provides access to your desktop files and folders by popping up a mini-representation of the desktop in the system tray.

Alternately, it can also provide a start menu style list of all your desktop items.

The idea behind DeskOnTop is so simple and obvious it makes me wonder why I haven’t seen more implementations of it: access a miniaturized recreation of the desktop from the system tray.

This is the sort of original program that I love to write about on Freewaregenius.

DeskOnTop mini desktopThe most obvious use for this program is a when you are working with a number of open windows and would prefer not to minimize them in order to access something on the desktop. Instead, you can left click the DeskOnTop icon in the tray and get a hovering representation of the desktop where you can access all of the desktop contents, and where mousing over the icons displays tooltips that reveal the filenames (see screenshot above). Here are more notes on this program

  • DeskOnTop context menu styleTwo display modes: you can either opt for a floating, miniaturized pop-up representation of the desktop (left click) or a cascading, start-menu style list of icons (right click).
  • Displays the desktop icons even if they are hidden on your actual desktop: just think about this for a second. You can disable your desktop icons in order to instantly get a clean and visually pleasing work environment with no icons cluttering your space. Meanwhile, DeskOnTop can provide access to everything that’s there from the system tray.
  • Customizable: the “small” desktop can use your default explorer wallpaper, or can be pointed to a directory of images to use instead. The transparency of the mock desktop, size of the icons, font size and background color in the tooltips as well as the color and thickness of display frames can all be tweaked.
  • Memory consumption: approx 8 megs in memory. Not a lightweight program but quite reasonable, in my opinion.

Wish list (or how this program can be even better):

  • Better stability: I noticed at one point the icons in the small desktop were not being displayed, and in another instance the program stopped functioning and spit out an endless loop of errors (closing and restarting the process fixed the former, while nothing short of a restart fixed the latter). I am hoping these issues will be taken care of in a future veriosn of the program.
  • Better refreshing: while the “small desktop” was good about refreshing in order to accurately reflect the files in the actual desktop, the list representation did not seem to refresh at all until the program was shut down and restarted.
  • Explorer commands in the context menu: the list of programs displayed on right click seems to be rendered graphically and does not support context menu commands, unfortunatley.

The verdict: I really like this program. In general a very nice implementation of an innovative and original idea, but could be better (see wish list above). I’m keeping my fingers crossed that some of the bugs mentioned will be addressed by the developers.

Lately I’ve had to do a number of presentations for work where I had to hook up my laptop to a projector and was feeling self conscious about the mess of icons that clutter my desktop, so I am especially interested in the idea of not displaying icons in the desktop and using DeskOnTop as a substitute in the system tray. All in all a very interesting program that is worth checking out.

Version Tested: 2.01.83

Compatibility: Windows 2000, XP; no info on Vista.

Go to the program home page to download the latest version (approx 0.9 megs).