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A workaround to hide the desktop in 10.2 Desktop
My favorite TinkerTool feature back in the day (OS X 10.0, 10.1) was the ability to "turn off" the Desktop (which the more savvy amongst us could do by editing Apple, always knowing better than we mere mortals, saw fit to take this away from us with Jaguar (10.2).

If you enjoy a clean Desktop, check out my work around for keeping it clutter free using only OS X's built in features. If you don't understand why anyone would care about this, move on to the next hint, we don't need your kind here!

OK, you admit you are retentive. The basics to my solution are in the four steps below, modify to your tastes. You can do any or all of the steps, with "all" giving you a perfectly clean Desktop.

  1. In Finder preferences, turn off the showing of hard disks, servers and removable media.

  2. Create a new folder wherever you find convenient, called something like "Downloads," "Temp," "Saves," etc. For fast Finder access, it is a good idea to add this folder to your "Favorites" directory, and drop it in the Dock and in the Finder Toolbar.

  3. Update all of your applications that default to Desktop downloads (e.g. web browsers, FTP clients, email apps) to download to the new folder (note that you don't have to do this if you choose to use my AppleScript below).

  4. Choose a method of keeping your desktop clean:

    • Option A) Block saving to your Desktop.
      When finished moving all those files and folders off of your Desktop to their new location(s), select the Desktop folder in the Finder, choose "Get Info" and change your "Ownership and Permissions" to read only. This usually produces an error dialog when you try to save to the Desktop or, depending on the application, you may not even have the option to save to the Desktop.

    • Option B) Use Folder Actions to automatically redirect Desktop saves.
      Using AppleScript and Folder Actions is better than blocking write access, in my opinion (see "Analysis, comments and gotchas"). The script below will "keep you honest" by redirecting saves to the Desktop to your new folder (if you need to, learn about Folder Actions and come back here when you are ready). Cut and paste the following AppleScript into a new Script Editor window, make the appropriate changes, and save it as a compiled script in /Library -> Scripts -> Folder Action Scripts. Make sure you have Folder Actions turned on. From the Script Menu, choose "Attach Script to Folder" and choose the script you just saved, and then the Desktop, from the ensuing dialogs.
      on adding folder items to this_folder after receiving added_items
        repeat with each_item in added_items
          tell application "Finder"
            move each_item to "Path:to:new:folder:"
          end tell
        end repeat
      end adding folder items to
Analysis, comments and gotchas
What I like about the secod solution is it leaves Apple's design intact so future OS X modifications are not likely to break your "hidden Desktop" settings. It doesn't eat up extra CPU cycles or RAM, as running "cover-up" applications will (e.g. DeskShade Plus). And finally, by enabling the folder actions I provided, the Desktop becomes a large drag'n'drop sink-hole for whisking away files and folders that you drop there. Note the possibility of adding criteria to the Folder Actions; you could specify to which folder a file should go based on properties like file extensions as per a previous hint (e.g. everything ending in .jpg goes to the "Photos" folder).

This was my first AppleScript, ever, and it's been a "good enough" solution for me. I'm sure a seasoned scripter could do better and hope that someone will share improvements in the comments. Limitations I've found so far:

  1. If you move a bunch of files to the Desktop, and any of them has the same name as a file in your target folder, all of the files in that move will get marooned on your Desktop. You will have to manually moved them, or change their names, at which point they will then continue their journey.
  2. Some applications are smart enough to follow the redirected files after a save, but others will maroon a file on the Desktop on your second save (because of limitation number one). So you need to be careful to know which is the most recent file.
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A workaround to hide the desktop in 10.2 | 26 comments | Create New Account
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The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
"Don't need [our] kind!"???
Authored by: twehr on Jul 22, '03 04:26:54PM
I am sorry. I thought MacOS X Hints was for ALL Mac OS X users - those of us with 30+ years computing experience (you're probably not even that old - but I won't hold that against YOU) and those who are newer and still wanting to learn (as opposed to thinking they already know it all).

Maybe YOU should move on to the next forum site and leave this one alone!!!!!!!!

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"Don't need [our] kind!"???
Authored by: mrandre on Jul 22, '03 05:48:21PM

Lord. Some people need to just calm down. Anyone who took that comment as anything but a joke need to go out and buy themselves a sense of humor.

The tip worked for me. Happiness for those of use who like our desktop pictures unblemished. :-)

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Relax ... it's a joke
Authored by: jason mark on Jul 22, '03 06:06:28PM

strike that - rewind

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I registered just to defend sinjin's joke
Authored by: jmzrsky on Jul 25, '03 01:30:27PM

I got sinjin's joke right away - he's talking about people like me (and himself), who cheerfully indulge our anal-retentive tendencies by exerting fine-grained control over every aspect of a user interface. I, for one, happily waste hours fiddling with keystroke mappings, icon replacements, system font sizes etc. - to no necessary purpose, I admit. But it's my hobby. (therapy?) ;-)

I've been lurking on this great site since switching to OS X (from Linux and FreeBSD) six months ago. I felt I had to register to speak up for sinjin's sense of self-deprecating humor, which I share. So sinjin ended up recruiting a new member at macosxhints!

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A workaround to hide the desktop in 10.2
Authored by: insolution on Jul 22, '03 04:39:06PM
...move on to the next hint, we don't need your kind here!" What a jerk. That's where good editing comes into play.

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A workaround to hide the desktop in 10.2
Authored by: conundrum on Jul 22, '03 04:40:19PM

Yes, just a little arrogant.

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A workaround to hide the desktop in 10.2
Authored by: mschaff on Jul 22, '03 04:49:22PM

OMG...relax sounds like he meant it in a totally joking way...

This is the right situation to use some emoticons for clarification ;-) You can find other proper uses in Apple's Human Interface Guidelines...

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A workaround to hide the desktop in 10.2
Authored by: rv on Jul 23, '03 07:35:30AM

I think emoticons or smileys (whatever you call this small keyboards shits) are quite annoying. I prefer when one trusts in my ability to recognize a joke. It's like recorded laugh in soap operas...

Anyway, smileys or emoticons are still better than the systematic use of "lol"...

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A workaround to hide the desktop in 10.2
Authored by: Frederico on Jul 22, '03 04:52:30PM

Regarding problem 1:

move each_item to "Path:to:new:folder:" replacing no

... should resolve that issue.

You're also going to have problems if your target folder exists on another drive/volume/partition, as the 'move' command can behave with results you wouldn't always expect. For cleaner, more-predictable results, use 'copy' and then 'delete'. That, however, then leaves garbage in the Trash. Best now to use 'do shell script' to both copy and delete (rm, but be careful!) each file.

Lots and lots of ways to go about this, and this is an excellent object lesson in AppleScript. Even if you don't want auto-cleaning of the Desktop, using the basis of this hint to generate a cleanup tool for your Desktop, Downloads folder, Documents folder, etc., can be quite satisfying and a lot of fun.

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Problem 1 solved
Authored by: sinjin on Jul 22, '03 05:55:56PM
Thanks Frederico, worked like a charm! Now only the files with conflicting names remain on the Desktop.

Good heads-up regarding moving between drives, too.

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Very cool script!
Authored by: Dale Sorel on Jul 22, '03 11:48:59PM

Thanks for the great script. I was trying to write something like this a while back but with little success :(

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Jerk, arrogant, etc?!?
Authored by: sinjin on Jul 22, '03 05:28:06PM

Ha, I hope you guys are joking. I certainly was when I wrote that line. If you think I was serious, sheesh, lighten up :-) ! But I do apologize if I have somehow offended anyone here. My intention was to be "light", not to exclude anyone!

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Jerk, arrogant, etc?!?
Authored by: pmbuko on Jul 22, '03 06:07:27PM

I totally got your humor. If they didn't get it from the line in question:

"If you don't understand why anyone would care about this, move on to the next hint, we don't need your kind here!"

...then they certainly should have caught on you were joking when you said:

"OK, you admit you are retentive."

Please don't allow the under-humored to change your posting habits. The last thing we all need is to go *censored*-footing about and second-guessing ouselves at every turn.

Great hint, by the way.

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don't worry
Authored by: jason mark on Jul 22, '03 06:08:15PM

dont' worry sinjin, we still love you....

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Jerk, arrogant, etc?!?
Authored by: sinjin on Jul 22, '03 06:18:45PM

Aw, <sniff> I love you guys too! Thanks for the vote of confidence! (-:

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"...we dont need your kind..."
Authored by: amrc0308 on Jul 23, '03 01:27:00AM

You must be some kind of Windows guy because you are so arrogant. Only Windows people have insecurities, because their hints never work. Why dont you take your arrogance to Redmond. And I dont need your kind. So get the hint, eh?

rm -fa/microsoft/windows

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"...we dont need your kind..."
Authored by: davidcrickett on Jul 23, '03 05:25:50AM

I second that. ;-)


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A workaround to hide the desktop in 10.2
Authored by: Lord Brixton on Jul 23, '03 07:42:08AM

uuhhh…'finder preferences' ?

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A workaround to hide the desktop in 10.2
Authored by: Dale Sorel on Jul 23, '03 01:39:23PM

You can't hide all files and folders on the desktop with Finder Preferences, which is what this tip provides a way to do.

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Finder prefs
Authored by: sinjin on Jul 23, '03 09:02:12PM
Lord B, are you asking how to change the Finder preferences (in Step 1)?

If so, make the Finder the frontmost application, from the "Finder" menu select "Preferences..." and from the ensuing panel uncheck everything under the heading "Show these items on the Desktop:"

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You are all morons...
Authored by: caesurae on Jul 23, '03 01:08:42PM

...and your idiotic posts make this site increasingly useless.

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Desktop Alias No Go
Authored by: ryangreenberg on Jul 23, '03 01:57:03PM

I thought that you might be able to get a similar effect by deleting the Desktop folder in my home directory and creating a symbolic link. The immediate effect is that you cannot drag anything to the desktop. I don't know what other ramifications this has, but this is an interesting tidbit. I reversed the situation by deleting the alias, creating a folder named "Desktop," and logging out.

-- And for all the whiners in these comments, "your kind" was clearly a reference to nitpicky, compulsive organization people. Lay off the flaming.

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Desktop Alias No Go
Authored by: pmbuko on Jul 23, '03 02:21:51PM

as a matter of fact, the "your kind" comment was directed at people who are NOT compulsively organized, and anally-retentive.

To paraphrase:

Those of you who don't understand or care about why one would want to have an extremely clean desktop -- move along.

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A workaround to hide the desktop in 10.2
Authored by: Accura on Jul 24, '03 05:53:01AM

if you are like me and u have used tinker tool to show invisible files, if you use option 1 (read only) then you have to delete the .DS_Store file and the .localized file after you have locked the desktop, you can do that from the terminal if you have admin access using the following command

sudo rm ~/Desktop/.*

this will remove ALL files starting with .

most of you will know this already but you never know who is out there

"The time has come," the walrus said. "To talk of many things..."

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A workaround to hide the desktop in 10.2
Authored by: a1291762 on Jun 22, '04 08:19:02PM
sudo rm ~/Desktop/.*
You do realise don't you that .. is also matched by that expression? If you had used rm -r you would have also deleted the parent directory (ie. your home directory)!

It's a good idea not to use .* to mean "all dot files". Instead use something like .[a-zA-Z]*

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Removing "dot" files
Authored by: celsowebber on Jun 28, '06 08:57:16PM

First of all: GREAT HINT about avoid Desktop cluttering!

Under the UNIX world, I've once learned this tip to remove files starting with a dot, and not removing "." and "..":
rm .??*

Of course this would not catch "dot files" with just on character after the dot, but it will not catch ".." either, so it's safe to do a "rm -rf .??*".


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