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Use the Desktop as your Home folder Desktop
I recently sent in a suggestion to Apple's OS X Feedback page that they should provide the option for users to use the Desktop as their Home. That is, rather than having to view the items in their Home folder through a Finder window, these items (Documents, Pictures, etc.) would appear on the Desktop along with mounted volumes. The beauty of this is that it would allow the Desktop to be reborn as the center of user activity, rather than being restricted to the confines of a window.

Then I realized there is a way to make this a reality now! Read the rest of this article if you'd like to know how to make your "Home" directory contents live on your desktop.

The Desktop is really just a special folder, named 'Desktop', inside your Home folder. So the solution is to make an alias of your Home folder, place it inside your Home folder, and rename it "Desktop". It's pretty simple, but you can't do this entirely using the Finder. Here are the steps you will need to take in order to make this happen. If you're at all interested in how this might work, give these steps a try. It's easy to fall back to the current way of doing things. (See bottom for fallback procedure.)
  1. Make an alias of your Home folder by dragging it to the Desktop while holding down the Command and Option keys. Then move this alias into your Home folder. (For some reason you can't drag the alias straight into your Home folder.) You now have an alias of your Home folder inside your Home folder. This alias currently bears your username as its name.

  2. Move any personal items currently on your Desktop that you want to keep into your Home folder. When we're done, they will reappear on your Desktop, since it will soon be your Home. [Editor's note: This is VERY important, as anything you leave on the desktop will be deleted in a following step. Make sure you move anything you need to keep!]

  3. Open the Terminal and type the following at the prompt:
      sudo rm -rf Desktop
    and then enter your login password. This will delete your Desktop folder and any files you have in it. Don't worry, it won't delete any mounted volumes, just any files you didn't move off the Desktop in Step 2. And if you decide to fall back to the default setup, the Finder will recreate this folder for you (see fallback procedure below). If you prefer not to delete this folder, you can simply rename it for safe-keeping by typing
      sudo mv Desktop Desktop.bak
    and then enter your login password.

  4. Still in the terminal, type the following:
      sudo mv yourusername Desktop
    where 'yourusername' is your username. This will rename the alias of your Home folder which you created earlier to 'Desktop'. You may be asked to enter your password again after typing this.

  5. Log out and log in again.
The Finder will now treat your Home folder as if it were the Desktop, and vice versa. All items in your Home folder will now be displayed on the Desktop, along side any disks, removable media, and mounted servers. Very very cool.

There are a couple things you'll want to do to finish up and make this look as clean as possible.

First, the alias 'Desktop' which we have created now appears on the Desktop and is kind of redundant. Fortunately we can make this file invisible and this little trick will still work. Use a third party file utility (Snax is a good one, search for it on to make this file invisible.

Second, you'll want to check the download location of your web browser and any other Internet utilities you use and make sure they are set to download files to your Home folder.

Third, you may want to remove the Home button from your Finder toolbar, as it's now pretty needless.

Enjoy! (Takes a bow, blows kisses to adoring fans, exits stage right. Kisses Cindy Crawford waiting in the wings. Wakes up. Removes keyboard from forehead.)

Fallback Procedure

If you decide you don't like having the Desktop as your Home, here are the steps to return things to 'normal'.
  1. Open the Terminal. Type the following at the prompt:
      sudo rm Desktop
    and enter your login password if requested. This will delete the alias we have created.

  2. Log out and log in again. During the login procedure, the Finder will notice the desktop folder is missing and recreate it. Now everything is back to normal. BORING!
[Editor's note: I have not tried this myself (since I like my empty boring desktop ;-), but it certainly appears that it would work as described. Just make sure you back up anything important on your desktop before you start! Cool hack for those that want fast access to everything.]
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Use the Desktop as your Home folder | 4 comments | Create New Account
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Technically interesting, but
Authored by: sjonke on Oct 09, '01 04:47:24PM

... after having used OS X for some time I concluded that OS X moving away from the desktop concept is for the better. It is a pain in the behind to have to move/hide/minimize windows in order to get at things on your desktop.

Note that in 10.1 the Finder has a preference to make new Finder windows default to the home folder. You might wish to set that. Alternatively (or in addition) you can put your home folder in the dock and open it from there when needed.

It would even be better if we had spring-loaded-folders ala OS 9. Pretty please Apple!

[ Reply to This | # ]
Alias vs Symlink
Authored by: a1291762 on Oct 09, '01 06:11:30PM

I did this myself a while ago, but I used a symlink. (/Users/link/Desktop -> /Users/link)

Symlinks are "part of" the filesystem whereas Aliases are not. This should only ever be a problem for Unix apps.

to make a symlink to your home directory type
cd $HOME
ln -s $HOME Desktop

This creates a circular reference, so don't keep opening the "Desktop" item or the Finder will go funny. I think this also means you can't hide the "Desktop" item as it's not a real file.


[ Reply to This | # ]
Authored by: efoivx on Oct 13, '01 01:05:12PM

No - No- Noooooo Please please Apple don't do this! I have worked so hard for years in the old OS to keep items off my desktop. This idea is SOOOOO MS Windows it's freaky. Windows has all those damn messy icons all over the desktop that you CAN'T get rid of no matter how hard you try..

As of now my X desktop is the best Mac desktop ever... for the most part it stays completely uncluttered... only current items I am working on are on the desktop everyting else has a nice clean home in a reliable KNOWN place *my user folder*

[ Reply to This | # ]
Authored by: oem on Nov 04, '01 01:18:20PM

I agree… NO NO NO DON'T DO THIS !!
Since I working with Mac Os I've never used the desktop. Always had the minimum and if possible zero items (excepts disk…) on my desktop. this is the best way to keep a machine clean. the desktop is a folder anyway so why put so much things on it ? I over-used the launcher and now the dock and dragthing.
And the solution is definitely too windoze as well. ARRRg please. I'm ok to use IE or office cause they are quite good softwares. but windoze is a pain. and windoze desktop is worst.

[ Reply to This | # ]