OS X Tip: Keep Desktop items on your desktop

Desktop Screenshot - Items to keep

Contrary to what so many others would believe is proper ‘desktop’ organization which implies the the use of Quicksilver and lack of icon “clutter”, I often find it essential to maintain a small collection of frequently accessed folders (aliases) on my desktop. Unfortunately, due to hastiness when selecting temporary items for mass deletion (CMD+Delete followed with a CMD+Shift+Delete), I would often select folders which I did not want to delete. It was only later when I would look to access the aliases that I would realize my mistake(s).

The following are a few simple tips to ensure that desktop files and folders stay exactly where you want them to be [withstanding those accidental moments when trashing multiple files without inspecting filenames].

  • Differentiate between items with noticeable icons – To ensure that pertinent items are prominently displayed when compared to other files / folders, swap icons. Icon changes are as simple as getting info on an item (CMD+I) and copying and pasting the new icon on to the current (top left corner of the info pane).
  • "Get Info" and lock files / folders – Select files or folders that you want to keep your desktop and press CMD+I (Get Info). About halfway down the Info pane is an option under General titled Locked. Tick the Locked box. Doing so will restrict any changes from being made to the file or folder (including accidental deletion).
  • Reduce clutter with temporary folders – Much of the desktop clutter that I find myself dealing with pertain to miscellaneous internet downloads. These very files are often temporary and soon find their way into the trash. Assign a specific "Download" folder for Safari or Firefox to dump files differentiating disposable files from the rest. Check out Hazel if you’re interested in automating the process of maintaining a clutter free Desktop.

Are you a minimalist Desktop clutter-less user who relies solely on quick launch applications and utilities like Quicksilver or Spotlight? Or, do you prefer a little Desktop clutter to get you through the day?

Discuss - 16 Comments

  1. Derek says:

    I have full content enabled in Feedburner. I guess when I add the !–more– tag to posts it gets cut off. Do you know of a workaround so Feedburner doesn’t respect that tag?

  2. Glenn Wolsey says:

    No desktop clutter here, just one icon. the main HDD.

  3. Richard Neal says:

    I use Path Finder and don’t display anything on my Desktop, instead using it with GeekTool to display my console logs and such. By the way, its kind of annoying that I can’t read this whole thing from my RSS reader since the last paragraph is cut off.

  4. Andy says:

    Think I’ll just stick with an empty desktop and Quicksilver, thx!

  5. I got hit with the more tag issue as well, and switched to using excerpts on my homepage… I wrote a little plugin that makes that a lot more bearable as well, although the simplicity of using Ronald’s is really nice. I actually like the c6excerpts plugin now because I can tag any section of the post to be the excerpt, display it on the homepage with formatting and links, and have it display inline in the post when the full post is displayed. It doesn’t change the feeds at all, either. I’ve just stopped using the more tag…

    In regards to the desktop, I’m somewhere in between. I keep one or two pleasant looking folder icons that contain the “working” icons I need for day-to-day work. The desktop stays uncluttered, and clicking an icon gives me a Path Finder window that’s much easier to work with. Path Finder, Quicksilver and Spirited Away are regular tools in my arsenal. Yes, I like Merlin Mann.

  6. […] So THAT’S how you change individual icons! (Plus other good points on managing your OSX desktop clutter, like the lock command. I’m another person who likes to keep some stuff on the desktop). Though I’m still working out the finer points. Some folders are refusing to accept some new icons, whilst they like others. Odd. […]

  7. I treat my desktop just like my real world desktop. A temporary storage for what I am currently using. There is no need to have all sorts of paperwork, projects, and photos laying all over your real desk, they all have a storage place. So I treat my Mac desktop like that as well.

    It makes working on a project easier at the time, all of my pieces of the puzzle laid out right in front of me. But when I’m done they all get routed to where they really belong.

    A side note, the computer renders every folder or icon on the desktop and treats it as an open window. So the less the better.

  8. Derek says:

    I am going to have to try Pathfinder to see what all the fuss is about. I recall having installed it a long time ago and thinking to myself, I like simplicity. Judging from the website, it looks very much like a power tool (even more so than it was before). Brett, any tips or resources that I should check out? Specifics?

  9. Eh, Path Finder is a personal opinion kind of thing. I love it for it’s file stack and other useful things that you really miss when you don’t have them. I can’t recall off hand if you use TextMate, but there’s a script on my blog for opening files in TM from PF. And if you close all the drawers and hide some panels, you can keep Path Finder pretty simple and still harness a lot of its power.

  10. Derek says:

    Looking back at some of my bookmarks I discovered that I had actually saved the page using TextMate from PathFinder 😉

  11. These are some good thoughts. Recently I tracked down some applescripters to really help me do something neat. I had been taking a ton of screenshots and uploading them to different places for email, or to flickr etc, and generally I had to go sort these out from the desktop if I didn’t directly paste them into an email or Photoshop. The applescripts help me by assigning certain keystrokes (using fastscripts lite) to a script which in this case sends the screenshot to a certain folder, keeping my desktop sorted. Very helpful.

    On the other hand, one thing I’ve wanted to find, was a way of keeping several Icons in a specific place, and of a different size than others on my desktop. I often use the “sort by kind” function to clean up my desktop, but then folders that I, like you, like to know where they are, have been sorted into a different place. I’d like to have them be larger and left justified on the screen all the time. Any ideas?

  12. Derek says:

    If memory serves me right, a version of Mac OS offered the function of resizing specific icons from the rest (either OS driven or application / utility driven). Reminded me of how I want that functionality back. I’m going to have to dig around to enable that.

  13. Derek,
    Yeah, let me know what you find out. I’ll be tracking.

  14. […] *Tip: Don’t go over board here. Sometimes it is better to keep a few icons on the desktop that are frequently used. If you want to do this and not make the mistake of trashing the wrong alias then check out this post. […]

  15. […] *Tip: Don’t go over board here. Sometimes it is better to keep a few icons on the desktop that are frequently used. If you want to do this and not make the mistake of trashing the wrong alias then check out this post. […]

  16. noname says:

    at least the desktop seems as if it´s empty.
    i love this tool.
    keeps me good looking…