Rediscover your desktop
Far too often, the OS X desktop becomes an all-purpose dumping ground for random downloads, files, and anything else we don’t know what to do with. But when you have dozens or even hundreds of icons there, locating just what you’re looking for becomes a challenge. To make matters worse, OS X allocates memory for each desktop icon as though it were a window, so having a lot of stuff on your desktop increases your Mac’s RAM usage.
If you keep your desktop relatively free of clutter, you can use it to keep track of files that need to be dealt with or to hold shortcuts to important files or folders. (If you seldom actually see your desktop behind all your open documents and other windows, take advantage of Exposé: pressing the F11 key moves all open windows out of the way and reveals the desktop.)
Use these strategies to combat the common causes of desktop clutter:
Create a folder for downloads
If your Web browser downloads files directly to your desktop, change your default download destination to a folder. First create a new folder named Downloads on your desktop. If you use Safari, choose Safari: Preferences, click on General, and choose Other from the Save Downloaded Files To pop-up menu; then select your new Downloads folder and click on Select. If you use Firefox 2, choose Firefox: Preferences and click on Main; then click on the Choose button next to the Save Files To heading, and select your Downloads folder.
Designate a place for junk
The desktop can also end up as the storage place for files we don’t know what to do with. Instead of storing these miscellaneous files on the desktop itself, create a special folder for these items and put that folder (or an alias to the folder) on the desktop. Once a week, move unclassifiable stuff off the desktop and into this folder. Your files will still be handy, but you’ll have less visual clutter.
To keep track of files that have been hanging around for a while, consider keeping files on your desktop arranged by date. Click on the desktop, and then choose View: Show View Options. Select the Keep Arranged By option, and choose Date Modified from the pop-up menu.
Wipe it clean
You can also turn off the display of icons for your hard disks, iDisk, and network volumes by opening your Finder’s General preference pane and deselecting the first three items. Don’t worry—you can still access these items from the sidebar of any Finder window or through the Finder’s Go menu.
Tip: Tame your Trash
Tame Your Trash
One of the best ways to reduce clutter is to drag unneeded files to the Trash. However, once you empty the Trash, you won’t be able to recover those files if you later discover that you need them (at least not without considerable effort). For this reason, some Mac experts recommend emptying your Trash only when you’re running low on disk space. But if the sight of an overflowing Trash makes you cringe, try this compromise: create a Pre-Trash folder in which you can store files that you
(but are not completely sure) you no longer need. This helps protect you from imprudent erasures, so you can drag files off your desktop more freely. Every so often, sort the files by date and dump older items into the Trash.