OS X Finder: Customize Your Desktop

| TMO Quick Tip

If you’d like to customize the appearance and behavior of the icons on your Desktop, you’ll want to be familiar with the preferences available within the handy-dandy “Show View Options” feature. To access it, right- or Control-click on your Desktop and select “Show View Options” from the contextual menu.

Here’s the window full of choices that’ll appear: 

As you can see in the yellow area in my screenshot above, you have the option to make your Desktop icons a different size or change the space between them. Of course, going too large or too small can look quite odd!

Highlighted in purple on that “Show View Options” screenshot are the preferences for how the text describing your Desktop items will appear. You can even make that text sit next to its icon rather than below it.

Shown in the green section of my screenshot are some special preferences you can set. “Show item info” is something I’ve talked about before; that’ll give you information on the icons that appear on your Desktop, which is what I keep turned on to see the capacity and free space of my drive.

“Show icon preview” does just what it says—when that’s toggled on, your Desktop icons will show you a miniature version of the file’s contents instead of the default icon for that file type.

Finally, “Sort by” is my very favorite choice. Click that drop-down menu, and you’ll see all of the ways you can organize the files and folders on your Desktop.

If you pick “None” from that list, you’ll be able to drag around your icons to your heart’s content, but they won’t be lined up in any way.

There’s nothing, dear readers, that makes me as nutty as that does. NOTHING.

Similarly, “Snap to Grid” will let you move your icons wherever you want, but when you drag and drop them, they’ll conform to a predetermined invisible grid. If you like to be able to put files anywhere on your Desktop but don’t want icons to get piled up on top of each other, this is the way to go.

However, the final set of choices are the ones I use the most. Sorting by name or by modification date makes it darned easy to find whatever you’re looking for, even if you have a billion files on your Desktop. My preferred option there is “Kind,” as that lumps all items of similar types together, so my drives are all in a group, followed by folders and individual files. 

Keep in mind, though, that if you pick any of the “Sort by” options that are below “Snap to Grid,” you won’t be allowed to drag your files around; they’ll be forced to remain in their sorted order. If you’re a neat nut like me, that might make you really, really happy, but that may frustrate you so-called normal people. 

Psh. Normal people. There are probably even some of you who leave the house voluntarily and don’t get all sweaty from having to make small talk, aren’t there? Weirdos.

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Comments

Grover Saunders

I’m sort of baffled when someone turns on any of the auto-sort options for the desktop, because it means that if you drag a file somewhere, it doesn’t go where you put it and every file on the desktop is constantly moving around. Being able to move things to a place and have them stay there is kind of the whole point of a spatial desktop.

When you turn on these options, you’re basically just trying to make the Desktop behave like the Finder list and column views, so why not just use the Finder exclusively and skip the desktop entirely?

Melissa Holt

Hi Grover!

I’m sure the answer differs for each person, but for me, it’s because the Desktop is always there. I don’t have to have a window open to access it—it’s just a trackpad gesture away. It’s probably a matter of how you’re accustomed to working, but sorting files makes more sense in my brain.

—Melissa

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