I am looking for some windows desktop software for my parents. They totally don't know and understand computer. The Windows7 desktop is too complicated for them.

I tried to customize it and make it looks simple, but it's still too complicated for them:(.

I realize I am looking for a desktop like following for my windows 7 PC:

  1. Apple itouch/iphone OS
  2. Android desktop/OS
  3. Google desktop tool bar - if it can be extended to cover all the desk

I really appreciate if someone can suggest a software which can support gadgets and replace the current windows7 desktop with straight forward program launcher like above 1,2,3.

I will love a PC with android/iOS UI with windows 7 running behind.... But for present, it seems impossible.

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  • Perhaps you might want to rename your post to something like 'Good desktop for computer illiterate people (like parents)' or so ? – Rabarberski Apr 4 '11 at 13:44
  • good suggestion – limi Apr 4 '11 at 15:56
  • the real question that you should be asking yourself is "what do my parents need to do with a computer?" Perhaps the answer will lead you to a more streamlined system. For example, if they just need email and a browser perhaps an iPad or similar device is all they need. If they need to use spreadsheets etc, the desktop is the least of the complication they'll face :-) – StevenV Aug 17 '11 at 12:54

While I am not an Apple-fanboy, and as you seem to think outside the Windows box by also mentioning Ubuntu and iOS, I think you should consider an Apple computer in this case, for the following reasons. At least if the price isn't a stopper.

  • the minimal number of pop-ups. I find this one of the biggest annoyances experienced by non-computer literate users. They really have no clue what is being asked all the time, and it's often not there fault: update Java [what's Java anyway? isn't that an island far away], update Acrobat, Flash this, wizard here, wizard there, ...
  • you can put only the required applications in the dock. Perhaps only Mail and Firefox/Safari, so they literally only have two icons to click on.
  • While I don't use iPhoto for a number of reasons, I find it really a no-brainer to get your photos onto your computer. Just connect your digital camera, and the photos are imported. No pop-up asking you which program should handle your camera etc.
  • no practical worries about viruses (and thus no need for antivirus software with pop-ups and perhaps a yearly fee)
  • The backup approach of Time Machine is unrivaled across any operating system, and requires no interaction of the user whatsoever (at least not if you tell them to leave the external hard disk plugged in).
  • I have a feeling that the reduced user permissions of OSX are more failure proof than on Windows, and can actually be used. On Windows XP, I came back from making users 'standard users' instead of users with administrator permissions because the reduced permission level gave problems with some software (e.g. antivirus updates). Windows 7 seems to have improved, but I find the UAC box that dims the complete screen and ask for your permission sometimes hidden behind another window, leaving me wondering for some seconds why the installation of some program seems to halt. So, I guess if it sometimes surprises me, it will certainly surprise less-experience people.

While I don't agree with the usual religious arguments to promote Apple, I do think their computers are very easy to use for people with less interest in computing and limited needs.

I advised two elderly people of buying a cheap Windows laptop about two years ago, but I've regretted it ever since, and I am still looking for a trouble-free backup solution for them.

  • Thanks Rabarberski! These are very good points which really make me understand much deeper. Apple computer could be a good choice, I am going to go to the retail store to play for a while to do an evaluation :). – limi Apr 4 '11 at 13:20
  • Also, the "parental control" mode built into OSX is not just for keeping kids from breaking (into) their machines. It also prevents less tech savvy adults from breaking things. – Chris Nava Apr 4 '11 at 17:15
  • 1
    @limi: Would be nice to know, one year later, what choice you have made – Rabarberski Mar 16 '12 at 9:01

The Windows 7 desktop is fine : Just remove all the useless icons and create icons for the software that they really need to use. Teach them how to click on these icons and ignore completely the Start button. Set up correctly all the default values in the applications that they will use. After some months, they might surprise you.

If you would like a simpler interface than Windows, you might try Eldy. This is a platform that intends to simplify doing the tasks of surfing the web, sending and receiving email, chat and videophone :


Training for elderly, for doing simple and basic operations, can be found in many places.
For example: Teach Parents Tech.

  • Ah, did't knew about Eldy. Good point. Although I wonder whether Eldy solves the zillions of unwanted upgrade popus you get on Windows. – Rabarberski Apr 4 '11 at 13:47

Google's Chrome OS is Ubuntu-based, rather than Windows-based, but it aims to have a very simple user interface. Try it in a VM and see if you think they can cope.

In my experience, Windows file management skills are what dooms the average person who has just "made do" over the last decade without really understanding how to use their computer, so dealing with standard Windows applications is part of the problem for that demographic.


I assume that you do not want to replace the OS, but only the Windows shell. There are a number of options listed at wikipedia. I haven't tried any, so I can't comment on suitability for your needs.


Check out Joli OS. It has a very simple interface.

  • looks good. Downloading... – limi Apr 4 '11 at 13:18

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