Desktop icons
The desktop is really just a folder with icons, like the rest. But these icons get special treatment, and here's some ways to affect them:
Remove icontext background
Get rid of the background color of the text underneath the icons on the desktop, and let your wallpaper shine through. There's enough utilities available that handle this.

You might consider Deskcolor. It's free, all versions (XP too), makes the icontext background transparant and let's you pick a color for the text. Just make a shortcut to your startup folder and never think about it anymore. It automatically re-applies it's settings when changes are made to the desktop. Hrm, page is down (wasn't updated for like 2 years, but kept online). License permits it, and since we've found it to be the most conveniŽnt app doing this, find it here (640 kB).

Your normal windows dont have the background color, but to change textcolor for a specific folder, check here.

We'll list some alternatives here too, and if you want some more options, don't forget to check Iconoid and IconDesk at the iconhiding paragraph below.

One alternative to Deskcolor might be Transparant. Also freeware, for Win 9x/NT.

Another freeware one: Invisible! (Win 9x/NT).

There's lots of these. Here's Transtext from Chaossoft (free, Win 9x/2k).
Customize recycle bin
To rename the recycle bin (just by rightclicking the icon on the desktop), open regedit and find the key
HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\CLSID\{645FF040-5081-101B-9F08 -00AA002F954E}\ShellFolder.
Select this, on the right there's a binary value called Attributes. Rightclick it, 'modify'. Instead of 40 01 00 20 it should read 50 01 00 20 to have a 'rename' option. For a 'delete' option it should read 60 01 00 20 or make it say 70 01 00 20 to have both. In XP, you'll also need to edit the dword string called "CallForAttributes" there. Set it to 0x00000000 (0).
Correct with TweakUI if you accidentially delete, or download and doubleclick this file. Both options available after importing these settings.
Now, we once wanted to get rid of our recycle bin icon (all icons, actually) and started to look for something to replace it, preferrably with our own graphics on. After some not very succesful with litestep modules, developer Redllar came around and created the Lompster for us. A skinnable bin, animation options, drag and drop support, options to set buttons with commands or just use the rightclcikmenu, it had all we could have asked for. Unfortunately, project is discontinued and we're not allowed to provide it :(...
But there's SkinTrash. A skinnable recycle bin, featuring 3 states - empty, full and critically full - including a file counter, drag and drop support, option to clear recent documents and some more advanced options. Cool :).
Animated icons
An old quest, animated icons on the desktop. Triggered by a little tool that came with our first Aptiva, long dead now, and in reality a spin-off of Icon Hear-iT, shareware, but it had some fun other visual option with selection of icons etc (still, bit busy)...

There is a freeware alternative these days, ActivIcons, freeware icon changer that ships with the shareware icon-suite "IconForge", but is available as a seperate download too. It's still a bit buggy (need to apply some icons again after changes), but it works nicely.

Still, best choice, though shareware, as told by Aaron Pearce, is MicroAngelo (on Display), latest component of MicroAngelo. It (5.55) "comes with an updated version of On Display that allows users to display ANI files on their desktop with options such as Animate On Selection, Always Animate, Animate In Rotation, etc." Especially the animate when selected only option makes purchasing a valid option, combined with the great icon editor ofcourse ;).
Icons with no name
A brilliant new tweak, found by undefined, and I'm just gonna repeat his words here. How to get icons with no title on your desktop, this time for real!
Yes, old tricks are using spaces, key combinations like ALT+0160 or ALT+255 (or, for font you're using, looking with the Windows character map for the "empty space" character). Effective, you don't see the titles, but when they get focus, a small box, dotted lines, different color still shows up. Tiny, still annoying.

On the dots, btw, in 2k and XP you can make them go away (as noted by binary). Rightclick your desktop, properties, in 2k choose effects tab, in XP appearance tab, effects button. Check "hide underlined letters for keyboard navigation untill I press the alt key".
Undefined on what he found: "Since Windows hides the extensions LNK, URL, and PIF by default, if the filename is removed, the file is unnamed. But there are some limitations: only one unnamed file with a certain extension is allowed per folder, and only the three mentioned extensions create completely hidden filenames."

Regular rename option doesn't allow you to not enter a name though. You can manually do it by opening a command line window, navigate to the directory of the file, then enter:
ren filename.ext ".ext"
But he created a batch file to perform this - for NT/2k/XP only, get it here - you can just drag a shortcut onto it and it takes aways all but extension. Works only for one file.
Then again, the Win 9x DOS prompt starts at c:\windows anyhow, enter "cd c:\windows\desktop" and you're were you will most likely want to be. The 2k/XP desktop folders are in x:\Documents and Settings\"username"\Desktop\, but cmd.exe accepts clipboard content, so another great use for PathCopyEx...
But, like said, only one file named ".lnk" allowed in a folder/on the desktop. Undefined's solution, just create more extensions that behave like .lnk. Download above contains regfiles for 98 and 2k/XP. Just merge to have .lnk2 registered, you can use immediately. Rightclick, choose edit, change all occurrences of "lnk2" to "lnk3", save and merge again for a working .lnk3 extension. Etcetera. Takes a little bit of work, but effect is great.
Final note, for a completely redone desktop, you'll need to create shortcuts to items like My computer, My documents, Recycle bin, afterwards disable those. In XP, options are in display properties, the bin requires some work in all versions, and anything pre-XP works with TweakUI 1.33.
Hide desktop icons
Most icons on your desktop can be removed and/or replaced with bitmaps. TweakUI lets you remove most of them. It doesn't let you remove 'My Computer', though, if you're not in XP.
If you want this, you can use some external utility to hide all desktop icons. There's enough applications that have this option, maybe you're running one already. A complication: you'll mostly also lose all rightclick options on the desktop. Especially annoying to get to display properties this way. Here's some specific applications with a solution.

Besides hiding the icons TrayDesk (free, Win 9x/2k) puts this option in it's menu, accessable from the systray.

Bulent Yukruk created another one, IconDesk (free, all versions). This one leaves the whole rightclick options on the desktop intact! Lots more options available, like icontext background transparancy, icontext color change, (de)activate screensaver.

Iconoid lets you specify an interval for the icons to get hidden. Like when the cursor is not on the desktop for 10 seconds and/or on the desktop, but not moving for 20 seconds. Can hide the completely too, plus it handles icontext (background)color again!

And here's another one, Hide Me! (free, Win 9x), which has the option to specify the width and height of the part of the desktop that will get hidden (it creates kind of an overlay over the icons)!
Apply different views
While your regular folders have view options to apply "list" (small), " details", and with later versions "thumbnails" and "tiles" were aded, on the desktop you're limited to normal icons.
Here's an application, SetShellView 2, that will allow you display the icons using the same view options as Windows Explorer (such as 'Small Icons', 'List' and 'Details'). It's been brought to us by Dan 'FnaD' Findley. Dan wanted to mention that this is a "proof of concept" and there are a few kinks to be worked out. The major issue on our machines is that you have to turn 'Auto Arrange' on and back off prior to this working. Also using the 'List' option, the Recycle Bin disappears.
Then again, Verve has got this icon display options too. You can set them different for different wallpapers, it randomizes, changes them too, and other attached settings are the icontext and background colors (transparancy available), and stretch/tile/center options for the paper.

Notable, AutoSmall. Sets desktop icons to small after a predefined amount of icons is reached (translation thanks to spyder :).

WinT went looking for source of these rightclick options, they are in shell32.dll. When looking with a resource editor, he found menu item #215 partly produced desktop rightclick menu, while #216 has some general parts, also used in folder rightclick menu. He also found he could copy and paste items between menu's.
Building on that, if you take the number from #216, that produces folder rightclick view options, that's 32896, and paste that over the number in this line in #215 - POPUP "&View", 28674, MFT_STRING, MFS_ENABLED, 0 - desktop rightclick menu now has these options too.
They work, fully, but layout and settings are often reset with a refresh, fixes needed, so not recommended for now.

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