Clean up your desktop…

There are some things that just make sense, even if they are not easy! Keeping bedrooms and the playroom picked up when my children were young was a constant battle. Today, I battle my desk, my sewing table and my computer desktop.


Flat spaces draw stuff. Although my computer desktop is vertical, it makes a great place to store the things I am working on. There are always pictures for the next blog post, URLS that I want to reference when working with a client or writing and several folders generated by software to keep saved calls and audio notes nearby.

Storing things on the desktop can seriously slow a computer down. While a dozen files won’t have much of an impact, a hundred or even thousands can lead to spinning beach balls!

Just before the holidays I received a message from Pat. He was having all sorts of computer issues and beach balls. Although Pat lives in Ireland, we can use our software to take a look at a client’s computer screen. Imagine my amazement when I saw not tens, not hundreds but almost 4 thousand items piled on Pat’s desktop!

I opened a Finder window, pointed it to the desktop and got to work. The first thing I needed was a new folder. I named it Pat’s Stuff. I put a space before “Pat” so that the folder would be first if I sorted the files by name. I arranged the two windows so that I could easily move files to the new folder.


I began dragging the files and folders to the empty folder. When I dragged the files over, we got a spinning beach ball and it took several minutes before we could see the folders moved to their new location. With each set of files that were moved, the process shortened. When we had only the new Pat’s Stuff folder and the Hard Drive icon on the desktop, the computer was very speedy. The spinning beach ball disappeared!

Unfortunately, cleaning the desktop by shoving everything into a new folder is only a temporary solution. In fact the clutter is still there, but the computer is not having to deal with all of those icons.

Think of each file on the desktop as a separate window because, in fact, the Macintosh OS treats each one that way. It’s no different in Windows. Files stored on the desktop need to be redrawn and kept track of, just as if there were that many open windows.

So how do you deal with all those files? I give frequent presentations and so I often need to clean up the clutter. My solution has been to make that new folder and begin it with a date. Then I drag all the files from my desktop into that folder. If I am not careful, I end up with this, folders inside of folders, but the files still need to be put away!


I was at the Macworld | iWorld Expo last week. I attended a session given by Chris Breen of Macworld Magazine. He suggested an Automator workflow that aids in desktop cleanup, but that is a little complicated for this blog entry. Perhaps I will tackle that later.

Today, while surfing the web, I ran into an interesting application called Unclutter. When it is installed, it adds a tiny jeans pocket to the menu bar at the top of the screen. Click it and you see this menu:


If you pull down to “Open Panel, you see this:


Drag files up to the icon in the menu bar and this happens. Notice the panel opened and you can see the files being placed there:


It’s very easy to drag files in and out of the window--and they are not being stored on the desktop. If you need a file, just click on the icon, drag down to “Open Panel” and then drag the files to a new location--even back to the desktop.

There are a few more features. The black panel is the last thing you copied to the clipboard and the yellow panel is a place to write quick notes. You can also get the window to open by using the scroll gesture. Take the cursor to the icon in the menu bar. Place two fingers on the trackpad or mouse and pull down. Unclutter will open.

I have not used Unclutter long enough to know if it will solve my cluttered desktop, but I am willing to give it a try!

Unclutter is available in the App Store. It is on sale for $1.99 through February 7. After that it will cost $2.99.

App Store

I keep talking about helping people. That’s because I am a consultant. I work with Bob “Dr. Mac” LeVitus. We offer trouble-shooting, technical support and training over at Bob LeVitus Consulting. Tutoring costs only $60.00 per hour. We have special software that allows us to see your computer and we can work on the things you want to learn. Give us a call at 408 627-7577. Or send an email to

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