macOS Mojave declutters desktops instantly by stacking files into neat groups

The new Stacks feature in macOS Mojave automatically declutters files on your desktop by organizing them into custom groups

Stacks is a cool new feature in macOS Mojave that automatically organizes messy desktops by stacking files neatly into various groups at the side of the screen. To clean up a cluttered desktop, use Stacks to have the items tidied away into related sets, then use the grouping and sorting options to personalize their appearance and layout precisely to your liking.

The desktop is so crucial to how many of us use our Macs.

If you’re like me, you probably save any files and projects you’re actively working on to the desktop. But as those things start piling up, you end up with a messy, very cluttered desktop.

The new Stacks feature in macOS Mojave banishes desktop clutter.

Decluttering desktops around the world

Stacks actually isn’t a new feature.

Your Mac can already display a folder in the Dock as a stack of files, but that’s where any similarities between the old Stacks and Stacks for the desktop in macOS Mojave end.

Put simply, a stack in the Dock is just a folder shortcut.

Mojave’s Stacks for the desktop is so much more. It’s a new way to organize files that over time have amassed on your desktop and cluttered your view. It reminds us somewhat of the Finder’s Clean Up function that aligns and sorts desktop icons, but with lots of smarts.

But don’t take my word for it, watch the short video embedded below to see Stacks in action.

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Here’s a quick overview of what you can do with Stacks:

  • Organize the messiest of desktops by arranging files into relevant piles
  • Group by kind to stacks of images, documents, spreadsheets, PDFs and more
  • Sort a stack according to crucial file attributes, including date and tags
  • Drag a file out of a stack and drop it into a document, or vice versa
  • Easily scrub through all of the files in a stack

The best thing about Stacks: they sort themselves automatically.

How to organize desktop files with Stacks

To organize the files on your desktop in Stacks mode, do the following:

1) Click the desktop on your Mac to select it.

2) Click the Finder’s View menu, then choose the option Use Stacks.

macOS Mojave desktop with lots of disorganized files

Just like that, your desktop goes from this…

A tidied-up macOS Mojave desktop after the Stacks function has been used

…to this.

3) To revert to the previous desktop organization, deselect Use Stacks in the View menu.

With Stacks for the desktop, Mac customers have various sorting and grouping options to adjust how the feature works for them and organize their files precisely to their liking.

Grouping and sorting stacks

To adjust grouping and sorting options for stacks and the files within them, Control (⌃)-click or right-click on the desktop and choose either the option Group Stacks By or Sort Stacks By from the popup menu, then select an appropriate option from the sub-menu:

Sorting stacks

Select Sort Stacks By from the menu to define how files are arranged within stacks.

  • None—Do not group any items within stacks
  • Name—Group files within stacks by name
  • Kind—Group items within stacks by file type
  • Date Last Opened—Group files within stacks by the date you last opened them
  • Date Added—Group files within stacks by the date they were added
  • Date Modified—Group files within stacks based on the date they were last modified
  • Date Created—Group files within stacks according to their creation date

Grouping stacks

Select Group Stacks By to adjust how stacks themselves are arranged on your desktop.

  • None—Do not sort any stacks on the desktop
  • Kind—Sort stacks on the desktop by file type
  • Date Last Opened—Sort stacks on the desktop by the date you last opened them
  • Date Added—Sort stacks on the desktop based on the date they were added
  • Date Modified—Sort stacks on the desktop based on the date they were modified
  • Date Created—Sort stacks on the desktop based on the date they were created
  • Size—Sort stacks on the desktop according to file size
  • Tags—Sort stacks on the desktop according to their tags

But that’s not all.

Other Stacks actions

Stacks for the desktop support other actions, too:

  • See the contents of a stack—Click a stack to expand it and see what’s inside
  • Browse a stack—Swipe with the mouse/trackpad over a stack to see something within
  • Drag and drop—Click a stack to unfurl it, then drag a file and drop it another app
  • Quickly import files—Scrub over a stack to select a file, then drag it into another app

Apple’s attention to detail is going to delight you all over again, that’s for sure.

For instance, anything you put on the desktop gets automatically sucked into the right stack. Save a screenshot on the desktop and watch the file go to your Images stack, automagically.

macOS Mojave desktop with stacks

Or maybe you’ve opened an email message in Mail and decided to drag the attached image onto the desktop. As soon as you’ve done that, you’ll witness the icon fly right into the right stack. Trust me seeing your files auto-organize themselves with Stacks is magical.

And now, let’s put all we’ve learned about Stacks and bring it all together.

Making the most out of Stacks

The sorting and grouping options open up some creative possibilities for Stacks:

  • Group work based on time periods—Arrange stacks of project-related assets by date to immediately group your work files from specific time periods.
  • Manage multiple projects—Developing a habit of tagging your documents with project-specific metadata when saving them, such as client or project names, goes a long way toward leveraging stacks to manage multiple jobs—just arrange your stack by tag.
  • Organize project assets—If you tend to save your project files on the desktop, you can import them in other apps faster by arranging your stack by kind. This will automatically group all the image files on your desktop into an Image stack, your PDFs and other documents into a Documents stack and so forth.

If you happen to be working on a complex project with a bunch of assets scattered all over the desktop, organize the files with the Stacks features for easy importing in project. But the real productivity booster here is the awesome ability to pair drag and drop with Stacks.

Say I’m working on a complex Keynote presentation. Me being me, I’ve already saved a bunch of related files I’ll be using in my presentation, such as images, videos, PDFs, text files, web links and so forth. As a result, my desktop has become too cluttered so I’m going to Stacks mode to have the files organized and grouped by kind.

Pretty neat, no?

MacBook Pro showing desktop files organized into stacks

Happy with my freshly cleaned-up desktop, now I wanna add an image to the Keynote project I’m working on.

I could choose the Import command in Keynote or even click my Images stack to pull the right file, then drag it and drop it onto the Keynote window, but that’s too old school for me. What I really want to do is drag this file without even opening a stack. To do that, I visually identify the right photo buried in my Images stack by scrubbing over it with the cursors.

TUTORIAL: How to synchronize the contents of your desktop across Macs

As I do that, I notice that the currently selected file name temporarily replaces the stack name. When I’ve identified the image I want to use by its file name or visually (use your Mac’s desktop view options to increase the size of stack previews on the desktop), I just drop it onto the Keynote window, right in place.

And that’s Stacks for the desktop in macOS Mojave.

Your two cents?

While yours truly is not the kind of person who saves all their files on the desktop, I do so frequently when working on a project. And with that in mind, I couldn’t be happier with Stacks because anything that helps me clean up and organize my desktop files deserves a shoutout in my book.

Is Stacks something that you envision using on a daily basis? And if so, is this feature going to make your Mac much better in daily use, do you think?

Let us know by leaving your comment below.