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In this context, the word "desktop" refers not to the computer as a whole, but rather the user's home screen which Windows calls the desktop where one saves files that are regularly used or shortcuts to files and programs.

Which one would you say is, or feels, correct?

The file is in the desktop.

The file is on the desktop.

  • You would very rarely hear "in the desktop", but you may hear "in the Desktop folder". – Dog Lover Jun 17 '15 at 10:19
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    @MaulikV - That's the explanation I was looking for. I had heard that from someone earlier but did not remember it in its entirety. Thanks. – SenthilKumarK Jun 18 '15 at 12:48
  • Okay, then it better go as an answer! :) – Maulik V Jun 19 '15 at 8:50
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Glorfindel's answer is good! But my two cents...

The things that are 'as given' are considered on the 'surface' of the screen and thus, they are 'on the desktop/screen'. The folders are on the screen but to go into* the folder, you need to click it. It's not 'as is'. Hence, something 'in a folder'.

Another concept is, the thing that has 'no boundary' has something 'on' it. But if there's a boundary--say in a photo--it's 'in'. A photo 'on' the desktop; The car 'in' the photo.

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I'd go for 'on the desktop', because the desktop is a metaphor for the old writing desks. You can store items in the writing desk of course, but then they're hidden.

Another possibility is 'The file is in the Desktop folder.'

  • The 2nd possibility you quoted is a good one considering that the Desktop is in essence a folder. But using this option I guess would circumvent the purpose of the desktop, which serves for quick access. So I would go with "on the desktop" as your suggestion unless someone comes up with a better explanation. – SenthilKumarK Jun 17 '15 at 10:22
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    Also consider that you can put a folder on the Desktop in Windows, so it could be that the file is in a folder that is on the Desktop. – ColleenV parted ways Jun 17 '15 at 16:17

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