Hide and show all of your Mac Desktop icons with a keyboard shortcut

Dec 8, 2010 - 5 Comments

hide desktop icons

The dreaded desktop icon clutter, if you’re working like crazy, downloading and saving a lot of files, it’s pretty easy to flip to your Mac desktop to discover it just littered with icons. Taking the time to tidy up all the files on your desktop can distract you from your workflow and, well, it’s just not that fun.

What can you do to relieve the clutter? Wouldn’t it be nice to hit a keystroke that would hide and show all of the desktop icons and files?

Enter Camouflage, a totally free app that will relieve you of your desktop clutter. Here’s are some of the features that make Camouflage a great app:

  • Customizable hot keys allow for instantly hiding all desktop content and icons
  • Customize the alternative ‘clean’ desktop wallpaper making it immediately identifiable
  • Finder integration, double click the desktop to access ~/Desktop and your now hidden files
  • Set the Camouflaged desktop wallpaper to be clickable to access any folder
  • Finder menu item to enable hide/show of desktop icons from a pull-down menu
  • Light on system resources: Takes up just 22MB of RAM on my 3360×1050 dual screen desktop setup
  • Launches at Login
  • It’s a free download

This is definitely one of those great Mac utilities that’s not as widely known as it should be. Camouflage is free to download but it’s donation ware, so if you like it and use the app frequently, send the developer some cash and encourage its continued development.

You can download Camouflage from the developers site here.

Of course there are alternative solutions to keeping your Mac desktop tidy. If you’re not interested in downloading a third party tool that does this for you, you can also manually hide all icons from the Mac desktop by using the command line defaults tool. This will force the desktop to display no icons at all. You can also just adjust Finder Preferences to show and hide Macintosh HD and disk drives from appearing on your desktop, but then downloads and other files can still be seen.


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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS


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  1. Chris says:

    This affected my desktop wallpaper strangely in that the images piled atop one another 2 or 3 at a time while continuing to lap dissolve. I’ve since uninstalled the app.

  2. Valashtar says:

    I apologize for the typos in my previous post; an iPhone is not the larger screen in the world.

  3. Valashtar says:

    While it seems like a great idea, this is a wonderful example of treating the symptom and not the cause. The more there is on your desktop, the more your system can slow down – and this app not only keeps them there while merely hiding them, but also has it’s own resource penalty.

    If your deskto is cluttered, perhaps consider cleaning it up, and then using something like Hazel to keep it that way.

    • Will says:

      You make a good point, the more stuff you have on your desktop, the slower Mac OS X seems to run.

      I have heard this is because Mac OS X treats each desktop icon as a window, but I am not sure if that’s exactly why.

      It’s always best to treat the cause but in a bind an app like this is pretty handy.

  4. Parakeet says:

    This is awesome!

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