I want you to close your eyes for a moment. (Still reading? HA! Cheater! Ok, so don't really close your eyes, but close them mentally, you know, suspend belief in reality and all that stuff).
Imagine a world in which there were no computer programs. You turn the computer on to work on your 40-hour project. Instead of opening Word, then opening your rough draft from that, you click on a project folder marked "40-hour project" and a window would open, showing you all your documents for your project. You click on your rough draft and it opens in a window similar to the one showing your project files, but the toolbars now show the icons for editing a text document.
Suddenly, a little note appears in the corner reminding you of your Rhetoric work due soon, so you decide to work on that. You stop to open the spreadsheet containing your hour log for your 40-hour project. It opens in a window similar to that of your text document, but with spreadsheet buttons. When you are done marking your hours, you lasso all your windows for your 40-hour project (rough draft, hour log, and project folder) and drag them into a stack at the bottom of your screen.
Then you open your rhetoric project folder and your paper for that project, and work a while. You decide you have a question, so you click a button at the bottom of the screen, then click the email to show a blank message. You type up the message and send it off. You then decide to work some more on your 40-hour project.
So, you press Alt+Tab and see all the windows for your rhetoric paper. At the end, there's a picture of a stack of windows marked 40-hour project. You release Alt+Tab when that is selected, and all the windows from your rhetoric paper slide automatically into a stack at the bottom of the screen. Then all your 40-hour project windows jump out of the stack and you see your screen just as it was when you were working before your rhetoric paper.
You work for some more, then decide that you really want to copy a sentence or two out of your rhetoric paper. So you click the stack of windows marked "rhetoric project" at the bottom of the screen, and they slide out into a list. You click the text document, and it pops open onto your desktop. When you are done copying the few sentences, you click the minimize button, and it zooms back down to its stack.
After writing a little more, you decide to check your mail. So you click on the mail folder on your desktop. It opens a window marked Inbox filled with all your new messages. Your rhetoric teacher has written you back. You open his mail (which opens in a window similar to that of your papers and spreadsheets) and decide to save it. So you click on the Rhetoric stack and open your rhetoric folder. You drag your rhetoric email into the Rhetoric folder, then minimize the rhetoric folder. You have also received a spam email, which you promptly drag to the trash can at the bottom of the screen. You're done with your mail, so you close the mail folder.
You want to check your Facebook and maybe do a little web surfing, so you Ctrl+click on the stack marked "Web life" at the bottom of the screen. All your 40-hour project windows minimize to their stack and a couple of windows open with your Facebook and a few other sites open.
Now, open your eyes.
Yes, I know that was mean.
(BTW: all concepts presented in this post are Copyright (c) 2008 Nathan Jarus. All rights reserved.)