How to organize your Mac desktop with Stacks

desktop stacks

If you’re one of those folks who keep lots of data (or file shortcuts) on your Mac desktop, the desktop Stacks tool in macOS is for you. Here’s how to use it. 

Desktop Stacks

Stacks isn’t a new feature, at least on the surface. Even in macOS High Sierra, you could add documents or shortcuts to desktop folders. However, in macOS Mojave, Apple takes this to a whole new level.

With Stacks, you can:

  • Organize the messiest of desktops by arranging files into relevant piles
  • Group by kind to stacks of images, documents, spreadsheets, PDFs and more
  • Stack files according to crucial attributes, such as 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 data in a stack

Best of all: Stacks are organized automatically.

How to use Stacks

To get started with macOS Stacks, you’ll need to activate the tool.

1) From the Mac desktop, select View > Use Stacks from the Finder menu.

Activate Stacks

2) Instantly, your desktop files are organized into Stacks.

Before …

Before Stacks

… After

After Stocks

3) Click on a Stack to see the contents inside.

In this example, you can see the files in an Images Stack:

Stacks Images

4) Don’t like Stacks? You can unselect Use Stacks from the Finder View menu.


To see grouping options for each Stack:

1) Right-click on the desktop and select Group Stacks By from the popup menu. You can also find this under your the toolbar under View > Group Stacks By.

Choices include:

  • None—Do not group any items within stacks
  • Kind—Group items within stacks by file type
  • Date Last Opened—Group files within stacks by the time 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
  • Tags—Group files within stacks based on the tags you’ve assigned

In the example below, the Images folder above went from being organized by Date Added to Date Created.

Date Created

Stacks support other actions, including:

  • 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 ap

Real-life uses and benefits

Why should you use Stacks in macOS? To make you more organized, of course.

For example, thanks to Stacks, you can now organize your files based on specific time periods. This could prove useful when trying to organize projects for billing purposes.

Adding Tags to your documents, conversely, allows you to organize files by job or purpose. In the example below, images have been arranged by quality, either Excellent, Good, or Bad:


With desktop Stacks, you can organize your desktop in fun and useful ways. Best of all, because Apple includes so many customization tools with Stacks, you can find the way that’s ideally suited for you. In other words, there’s no wrong way to organize your files on Mac.