Organize Mac Desktop - MacBook

Just like a physical desk where you sit, your Mac desktop can get messy. You pile things on it like shortcuts, files, and folders and before you know it, it’s cluttered and out of hand. This defeats the purpose of a desktop which should be easy to use and let you find what you need quickly.

If you’re new to Mac, you might not know about the various ways you can make better use of your desktop by organizing it. You can do things like use Stacks and group your items, change the icon or font size, adjust the spacing, and more.

We’ll walk you through all of these options so that you can take control of your desktop before it takes control of you. Here’s how to organize your Mac desktop for maximum efficiency.

Decluttering your Mac desktop

Using Stacks and grouping

Before you make small changes to your desktop like changing the icon size or spacing, it’s a good idea to get it in order first. One way to do this is by using Stacks. In a nutshell, Stacks organize items on your desktop into piles and allow you to decide how those items are grouped.

So as you add more items to your desktop, they will be moved into the corresponding Stack for you automatically. This is a terrific way to keep your desktop clutter-free.

We have a full tutorial on how to use Stacks on your Mac that goes into great detail. But for the basics, you can use one of these methods to enable and group Stacks from your desktop.

  • Click View > Use Stacks from the menu bar. Then click View > Group Stacks By and pick an option.
  • Right-click your desktop and choose Use Stacks. Right-click your desktop again and for Group Stacks By and pick an option.
  • Right-click your desktop, choose Show View Options, and select a Stack By option in the drop-down menu.

Group Stacks By on Mac desktop

If you give Stacks a try and decide you don’t like them, just use one of the methods above to unmark Use Stacks or in the Show View Options shortcut pick None in the Stack By drop-down menu.

Stack By None on Mac desktop

Sorting desktop items

Even if you don’t use Stacks, you can still sort the items on your desktop a few different ways.

  • Click View > Sort By and pick an option.
  • Right-click your desktop and for Sort By, pick an option.
  • Right-click your desktop, choose Show View Options, and select a Sort By option in the drop-down menu.

You can choose from eight different sorting options including name, kind, date, size, and tags. So just pick the one that works best for you and you’ll see your desktop change to match.

Sort By on Mac desktop

Changing the sizes and spacing

Now that you’ve decided how you want to organize the items on your desktop, it’s time to make them fit how you would like them. This means changing the icon or font size and the grid spacing.

Click View > Show View Options from the menu bar or right-click your desktop and choose Show View Options.

You can then make these changes:

  • Icon size: Move the slider left or right to change the size of the icons on your desktop.
  • Grid spacing: Move the slider left or right to adjust the spacing in between the icons.
  • Text size: Pick a size for the label font that displays with your desktop icons.
  • Label position: Choose to display the labels on the bottom or right of the icons.

Change Sizes Spacing Mac desktop

These options give you an easy way to display your desktop how you want it. You might like larger icons with smaller text, like this:

Large Icons Small Text Mac desktop

Or maybe you want to fit more on your desktop, so you make the icons smaller and closer together, like this:

Small Icons Close Mac desktop

When you finish with your changes, just close the Show View Options window.

Showing more details

One more adjustment you might find useful for your desktop is seeing more details for your items. For example, you can see the size of a file, number of items in a folder, and dimensions for an image.

If this is something that you’d like to display, open the Show View Options window by clicking View > Show View Options from the menu bar or right-clicking your desktop and choosing Show View Options.

Then, mark the checkbox for Show item info.

Show Item Info Mac desktop

Right below that feature in the Show View Options window you’ll see another for Show icon preview.

With this box checked, you’ll see a preview of the item on your desktop rather than the type of item. For instance, if you have an image on your desktop, you’ll see a preview of the image as the actual icon.

Show Preview Mac desktop

If you prefer to show the type of item on your desktop rather than the preview, just uncheck that box.

No Icon Preview Mac desktop

Wrapping it up

Staying organized these days can be a struggle for anyone. So if there are small things you can do to make life that much easier, why not? Organizing your Mac desktop is just one of the little ways you can be more effective and productive on your computer.

Are you going to make some changes to your Mac desktop? Which one or more of the options we explained do you plan to use? Let us know in the comments below or ping us on Twitter!