Weekly Poll: How Cluttered Is Your Desktop?

I have something of a clutter-free desktop compulsion, and can never bear to have more than a couple of icons on my desktop at any time. There’s something about having icons, folders and files stored away – rather than on display – that offers a simpler and more enjoyable working environment.

But not everyone thinks this way. Every time I log on to my parents’ Mac, I’m greeted to countless swathes of icons cluttering the desktop – from old application volumes, to family photos.

Although this occasionally gives me a nervous OCD twitch, it’s a helpful reminder that what works for me doesn’t necessarily work for everyone.

I’d be interested to hear what you think about desktop clutter. Is it something that you’ll go to great lengths to avoid, or are you perfectly happy with using the desktop as a place to store current files and projects?

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!


  • http://www.diskchocolate.com/blog Cindy Dalfovo

    Nothing! Sometimes I save something on my desktop, but only things that I will delete later – and saving them on my desktop I am sure to delete it later xD

  • http://www.greasypigstudios.com/xcardsthespot Arvin Bautista

    I have show view options showing icons at 24×24 and label position at right; that way the 17 items on my desktop (usually it’s only about 10) take up just one half column, which gives me room to have my adium buddy list on the bottom right of the screen and nothing overlaps.

  • AJ

    Interestingly enough it actually depends on whether I’m using MAC or windows. My personal Mac generally has nothing on the desktop except for an occasional temp file. My windows 7 machine at work however has about a dozen different Icons, I think it comes down to the UI differences, Mac has stuff like Alfred and the dick to make application access easy, Windows I have to mull through Menus.

    • http://andrewgoodrickwerner.ca Andrew Goodrick–Werner

      I’d hate to point this out, but I think you meant “Dock”.

      • http://thekillingtime.com Vinicius Lima

        You don´t know the things the guy has in his Mac to “make application access easy”.

    • http://davidappleyard.net David Appleyard

      Made my day :-)

  • http://www.caiobianchi.com Caio Bianchi

    Hey David,

    Man, we share the same obsession! I just can’t curb my hate when I see someone’s desktop cluttered up. It kinda itches my brain.. hahahaha
    However I do keep my mounted drives on my desktop just for a matter of handiness; other stuff there’s completely no need (Spotlight, alfred, quicksilver.. address this issue).

    • http://davidappleyard.net David Appleyard

      Sounds like we’re on the same page. I have a “To Be Organised” folder on my desktop as well, into which I throw everything that I’ll want to file away later.

      I say “on my desktop”, it’s actually an alias to a folder in Dropbox (of course!)

  • Francisco

    On my iMac, only the mounted drives (Macintosh HD, Bootcamp, iDisk and sometimes Time Machine when my backup external drive is connected). On my MacBook Pro, absolutely nothing.

  • Oscar Alaniz

    I have nothing on my desktop. I feel icons on the desktop slow me and my machine down. I don’t even have mounted drives. I also have the dock at the minimum. I use Alfred for everything.

    I have always found interesting/confusing how people on PCs have a lot of things on their desktops. When I have to work on someone else computer (Mac or PC) and they have a lot of icons, I create a temporary archive with all of those files!

  • http://www.perezfox.com Prescott Perez-Fox

    I have over 10, but only temporarily. Once I get through all the videos and visit the links, they’ll be gone. You can see how behind in media consumption I get based on my desktop. But since I’m OCD, it’ll be clean in no time.

  • Iaian7

    Really surprised at how evenly the responses are spread between what I assumed was a far-too-low range of numbers! I easily have 60+ items on my desktops at any given time, and my computers are a lot cleaner than some of the other designers at work.

  • http://suratlozowick.com Surat Lozowick

    I usually try to keep it empty, but right now I have some temporary files there. An empty (or almost empty) desktop is so elegant.

  • http://vault7.com Bruno Daniel

    The “desktop” analogy fits perfectly: unless you leave a lot of stuff (that you`re not using RIGHT NOW) on your real desk, you shouldn`t leave them in your computer`s desktop either.

    Visual noise is a Bad Idea™.

  • http://onethingwell.org Jack Mottram

    I don’t have anything on mine, not because I’m a neat freak, but because I don’t see the point of the Desktop – downloads go in Downloads, temporary files go in a Temp folder, &c. It’s just a background image, as far as I’m concerned. (On my netbook running Linux, it’s literally that – I don’t bother with a Desktop Environment and just run a window manager.)

    I think the Desktop metaphor, and even the concept of the file system as it’s exposed to users is going the way of the Dodo – Apple have done away with both on iOS, and with OS X going down the same app-centric (as opposed to file-centric) road, I suspect this discussion will look rather quaint in 5-10 years time.

    • http://davidappleyard.net David Appleyard

      Interesting idea, Jack. I think you might be absolutely correct long-term.

      That said, I don’t have downloads going into a “Downloads” folder. I much prefer to have them land on my desktop so I can immediately deal with them and file/delete it afterwards, rather than having to navigate to a folder.

  • Thomas Nadin

    On my Mac it’s empty except for drives, however, my windows desktop looks like a file and folder bomb went off in down town C:\

  • http://nataliav.me Natalia Ventre

    Sometimes I have mounted drives or screenshots taken by Grab, but usually I have nothing.

    There are so many fast ways to access a files or folder that I don’t see the point to use the desktop.

  • Jenn

    I will usually only display mounted media – disk drives and usb/ipods. although right now I have a few files and folders: to be sorted (files that i copied from my usb key for sorting), taxes (self explanatory – will move to a different location now that they are filed), kabam (I am slightly addicting to their facebook games – this usually holds game tips and other helpful info), Trip (information for my next vacation), and sometimes random emails I dragged from mail to sort or read quickly.

    The only drives I have connected are time machine and and my itunes library so they are not displayed on desktop, only in finder. There are probably about 5-10 items CURRENTLY on my desktop.

  • http://thefreelancepinoy.com/ Stephanie

    I am definitely part of the Desktop OCD team! I can’t stand seeing so many files on my desktop. Like Caio, it itches my brain and my eyes whenever I see a desktop filled with icons and files that should be in their own dock positions and folders.

  • Guido

    I just have my Dopbox folder. Also the Dock has only the Finder, Google Chrome, Documents, Downloads and the Trash.
    I access everything via Alfred or QuickPick :)

  • http://www.pcweenies.com Krishna

    I’m a bit of a neat freak when it comes to managing my desktop. I only keep mounted hard drives on my desktop. Files and folders get swiftly categorized into their respective places.

    Though by the responses I’ve read here, I may give thought to hiding my HD icons to see what that’s like.

  • I. Cooper

    My desktop used to be very cluttered until I started using Berokyo (http://www.berokyo.com/mac/en/index.html) for organizing my stuff.

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  • Taylor

    I have 3-4 things on at all times. All text

    1) GeekTool (date, time, battery)

    2) List of Running apps (DragThing)

    3) Favorite Folders (DragThing)

    4) An Ecoutelet when I am listening to music

    You can see my desktop here –> http://cl.ly/6YbN

  • Rico

    Almost out of beta: http://desktopshelves.net Lets you organize your files into shelves on the desktop.

  • Stefan

    When I switched from Windows to Mac about 6 years ago, I found that I NEVER used the desktop on my Mac. I’m not sure why. Maybe the interface was just so perfectly designed that I never was required to use my desktop for files.

    • Al

      Note that around 6 years ago, the newest OS released by Apple was Mac OS X v10.4 ‘Tiger’ which *was* designed to use the desktop for files; there was no Downloads folder yet, and Safari saved files to the Desktop folder by default.

  • Al

    Wow… I’m well… extremely bad when it comes to this… :(

    Right now, I’ve got 85 items on my Desktop, and that’s after dumping everything on the Desktop into a ‘Junk’ folder… which I’ve done more than 10 times already (and still haven’t gotten the chance to sort through them all yet…)

    My junk folders starting from Desktop and going in:
    Desktop/Layers Upon More Layers of Junk: 24 items

    Desktop/Layers Upon More Layers of Junk/Layers Upon Layers of Junk: 242 items

    Desktop/Layers Upon More Layers of Junk/Layers Upon Layers of Junk/Wow I’ve gotta do something about all this junk: 211 items

    Desktop/Layers Upon More Layers of Junk/Layers Upon Layers of Junk/Wow I’ve gotta do something about all this junk/EVERYTHING2: 16 items

    Desktop/Layers Upon More Layers of Junk/Layers Upon Layers of Junk/Wow I’ve gotta do something about all this junk/Take All Out Later: 37 items

    Desktop/Layers Upon More Layers of Junk/Layers Upon Layers of Junk/Wow I’ve gotta do something about all this junk/EVERYTHING2/EVERYTHING: 25 items

    Desktop/Layers Upon More Layers of Junk/Layers Upon Layers of Junk/Wow I’ve gotta do something about all this junk/EVERYTHING2/EVERYTHING/NOTHING: 30 items

    Desktop/Layers Upon More Layers of Junk/Layers Upon Layers of Junk/Wow I’ve gotta do something about all this junk/EVERYTHING2/EVERYTHING/NOTHING2: 6 items

    Desktop/Layers Upon More Layers of Junk/Layers Upon Layers of Junk/Wow I’ve gotta do something about all this junk/EVERYTHING2/EVERYTHING/NOTHING3: 10 items

    Desktop/Layers Upon More Layers of Junk/Layers Upon Layers of Junk/Wow I’ve gotta do something about all this junk/EVERYTHING2/EVERYTHING/NOTHING4: 10 items

    Desktop/Layers Upon More Layers of Junk/Layers Upon Layers of Junk/Wow I’ve gotta do something about all this junk/EVERYTHING2/EVERYTHING/NOTHING5: 8 items

    Notice how I went from calling them just little ‘nothings’ with around 10 items, to then ‘everything’ with 25 items, to ‘everything #2′ with 16 items, to then just ‘I need some space on my desktop for a second, I’ll take these all out later’ with 37 items, then finally realizing that ‘I really need to do something about all this junk’ with 211 items (WTF ?!), and then musing about ‘how many layers of junk I’ve got’ with 242 items (…), until finally dumping all that and 23 other items in ‘yet another layer of junk’ with 24 items.

    …And before you mention the Downloads folder… it’s cluttered quite enough already with 965 items…

    When I get around 2 – 3 consecutive days of free time and don’t feel too intimated, I’m actually planning on organizing all of this stuff properly. I look *quite* forward to that time…

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