Show Full File & 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
Here’s how this looks in modern versions of OS X, be sure you’re on the View Options for the Desktop of the Mac to find the appropriate grid spacing adjustment:
As you can see, increasing the grid spacing of icons will stop file name truncating on the Mac.
In prior versions of Mac OS X the setting is basically the same, you may want to change the display size of icons as well:
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. For larger text sizes, simply move the grid to a larger spacing to reveal the full file names. 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.
This trick will apply to folders viewed in Icon view as well, so if you have the Desktop icons hidden, opening it in a Finder folder (or any other folder for that matter) can be adjusted the same way.