Glossary » desktop metaphor
the representation of familiar desktop items in a user interface to help make the capabilities of a computer clear. The prototypical example is the Macintosh desktop which is used as a backdrop for all application windows and the surface on which files are manipulated. Files are organized into folders, and other objects including disks and printers, appear as icons on the background desktop. Traditionally, the Mac included “desk accessories”, including a calculator, notepad, scrapbook, and clock, that correspond to items a person might have on their desk. This organizing metaphor presumably makes new users more comfortable with the system and helps them to learn more quickly how to interact with it.