Show Full File & Folder Names on the Mac Desktop

Nov 9, 2011 - 16 Comments

Show full file and folder names on the Mac desktop

Have you ever noticed that some files and folders display truncated names when they’re placed on the Mac OS X Desktop? A file or folder named anything over a certain character limit will be shortened with a series of three periods, something like “Mobile Documents Sync” will display as “Mobile Do…ync” and so on. One of our readers ran into this when setting up file syncing between Macs with iCloud and wrote in suggesting it was a bug, but it’s not.

The reason for the shortened file and folder names is actually due to the current icon grid alignment settings, and in order to show the full file or folder name, all we need to do is adjust the size of the icons grid spacing.

How to Display Full File Names on the Mac OS X Desktop

This works the same in all versions of Mac OS X:

  • Close out all Finder windows and be on the Mac desktop
  • Click on the “View” menu and choose “Show View Options” or just hit Command+J
  • Under “Grid spacing:” click and drag the slider to the right to increase the width of the desktop grid, slide right until the full file name is displayed – changes take effect live
  • Close out View Options for the Desktop

Show full file names on the Mac desktop

Assuming the text size is 12-14, moving the grid spacing to about 3/4 is enough to display most full name of most files and folders, but for some extremely long file names you’d have to move it even further over. Because the changes are taking effect live, you can test the settings and see what works best for your needs, although you’ll quickly notice that the grid spacing also directly impacts how cluttered the icons feel.

There is a limit, and with extremely long file names there isn’t a way to have the full name displayed on the desktop, although you could show them with a wide enough Finder window and the “Name” sorting expanded all the way.

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Posted by: William Pearson in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks

16 Comments

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  1. sdwra says:

    I always wondered. thanks for this

  2. macfoxpro says:

    Hmmm I never made the connection! HaHaHa

  3. Brah says:

    ya well u can thank me later. but there is another option…

    even if u set grid spacing to max… OS X default is to show no more than 20 characters…

    with this terminal command, u can set it much higher, 100 if u want but then it just looks weird. i set mine to 50 and it is perfect.

    They called steve jobs a perfectionist but he still had a long way to go, but we have no new savior insight, not under tim cook anyway.

    we are all forsaken.

    defaults write com.apple.finder FXDesktopLayoutGridCharCount 50; killall Finder

    Restore: defaults write com.apple.finder FXDesktopLayoutGridCharCount 20; killall Finder

  4. Thank you so much for this!

  5. criagr says:

    That works for files on the desktop but how about file names in Finder windows? I have a lot of truncated file names that your fix did not work on.

    • Brah says:

      u try this in terminal and increase the grid spacing as well shown in this original post?

      “defaults write com.apple.finder FXDesktopLayoutGridCharCount 50; killall Finder”

      that works inside finder for me and also on desktop.

  6. George Semel says:

    I wondered about that too, already took care of it, looks better now. Took longer to close out every thing on my desk top, that to actually do it. Learn something new every day. I had upgraded to lion about a week ago. Its great.

  7. [...] we covered how to show full file names on the Mac OS X desktop, avoiding the abbreviated labels that occur when a file or folders name is too large to fit in the [...]

  8. Parker says:

    This has been maddening for six months and you fixed it for me. THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. monocle says:

    Thanks. Very helpful for taking care of desktop transition from Snow Leopard to Mountain Lion.

  10. zepto17 says:

    Thank you!

  11. johnres says:

    You can use Long Path Tool for such problems as well, it works fine….

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