My first linux was called Antix. A leightweight distro based on MEPIS. I had an old laptop, which had broken display, so I tear the lid apart from the body and got something like ASUS Eee Keyboard long time before it was actualy invented. Only mine was assembeled by Acer.
Anyway, I booted up my first Linux, that was able to run on that device without any notable issues and I started to be very confused by the WM. There was IceWM as a default window manager and JWM (Joe's Windows Manager) as a second option. Aside from the fact, that the whole concept with different WM's was baffling for me as a former Windows user, I was very confused by the desktop.
In Windows it's similar to physical desk. You put all your instruments on it, one next to other, sometimes into logically separated segments, but usually just into a large clutter, that grows with every new app and file into new level of chaos. Then you cover your desktop, and all its content, with current piece of work.
Whilst in my first linux, the desktop was just… a nice wallpaper. Asside from the system info in the corner, there was really nothing. What a waste of the screen, though a former Windows user, almost all covered with just a photo? Where will I put all my crap? And where are all apps.
It took me some time to find out, that the apps are reachable from perfectly structured main menu, which rolls out after right click on the desktop, so the apps are there, but better organized, and after another while I also realized, that all my mess can be strewed into my home folder, which is Documents and settings in Windows language.
As I adopted this new paradigm of work flow, I realized, what a UI nightmare the Windows desktop really is. Imagine you have three windows opened on the screen, you want to go to your desktop. Some people clicks on the taskbar button, poweruser press Win + D to switch to desktop, you spent some time searching the file icon on the foreground of colorfull photography and when you are done, you opens all previously suspended windows – each window separately.
The desktop and windows features simply don't play nicely together. It's just much more convenient to open desktop in a file manager (explorer) as a folder in another window, because you then have a real tab on the taskbar and you can easily switch between your work and the desktop and you can easily arrange the desktop as any other window on your screen.
So is the desktop really usefull for one thing only – display a nice wallpaper which improves your mood, when you start the computer at the beginnig of your work day? It might be picture of your sweatheart, your child, grandchildren, pet or caressing animals.
To be fair, the desktop could be utilized slightly more than that. You can place there shortcuts for applications, which you run when you start a computer and maybe a little bit more stuff, but only if you will not use it as, you know, a desktop.
From time of Windows XP, there is little known feature of taskbar called toolbars. You right click on the taskbar, select Toolbars >> New toolbar… and there you select a folder, which appears on the takbar as toolbar, which contains files from that folder and if there isn't enough space for all the files, the toolbar shows just arrow "»", which opens menu with rest of the files. Actually, the toolbar can shorten to show just its name and all files are then reachable only through the "»" menu.
Windows Vista and newer even contains prepared Desktop toolbar, which you can enable by right click on the taskbar and select Toolbar >> Desktop. This toolbar contains not only all your desktop shortcuts, but also This PC, Network, Control Panel, Libraries and all your Favorite places. All these paths easily reachable and always accessible on the windows taskbar. Well that's desktop I can live with.
There is only one bug, which annoyed me on my multi monitor system with Intel IGP and Windows 8.1. When I opened the Desktop menu, there was long lag till menu and every submenu appeared which also stoped my mouse cursor to respond. I find yout, that this lag can be fixed by unchecking Fade or slide menus into view in Visual Effects tab in System properties >> Performance Options. If you also experience such lag, checkout that setting and maybe consider turn off some other fancy effects, that just causes troubles or slows your productivity, such as Fade out menu items after click or Smoth-scroll list boxes and any other you find redundant.