How to Organize Your Desktop on a Mac

We'll show you our favorite tips for how to organize files on a Mac to make your desktop tidier and more aesthetically pleasing.

If you prefer a tidy Mac home screen (aka desktop), you’re in the right place. We’ve made a list of the best tips on how to organize files on a Mac and arrange apps to make your life easier. You’ll learn how to make a folder, organize your Dock, and several other tips and tricks. Let’s get to it!

Jump to:

How to Make a Folder on a Mac Desktop

Fortunately it's pretty easy to clean up your MacBook or Mac desktop by creating customized folders to sort things into. You'll be able to label them as you choose, which will make finding your files much easier, and your desktop much more organized. Here's how to make a folder on a Mac:

  1. Right-click on your Mac desktop.
  2. Click on New Folder.

    Right click on mac desktop and click New Folder
     
  3. A folder will appear and the name will be ready to edit.
  4. Type the name of your new folder and press return on your keyboard.

    Type the name of your new folder and hit return on your mac keyboard
     
  5. To move an item from your desktop into your new folder, click and drag the item to the folder and release it.

    Click and drag a file you want to move into the new folder. Drag and release it over the new folder.

Pro tip: You can "cheat" and drag many items into the folder at the same time. Simply hold shift or command (cmd) while you click on each of the items you want to move, and they'll be highlighted blue once selected. Release the keyboard keys and click and drag on one of the selected items; all selected items will move at the same time. You'll see a red number that indicates the number of files you're moving at the same time. Your screen will look like it has duplicates of all of these files for a short time, but as soon as you release the items you've dragged over the new folder, all of the items will be moved into the new folder and no duplicates will remain on your screen!

You can hold shift and click on several items to move multiple items at once

Master your iPhone in one minute a day:

Sign up to iPhone Life's Tip of the Day Newsletter and we'll send you a tip each day to save time and get the most out of your iPhone or iPad.

How to Organize Files on a Mac with Stacks

Stacks are organized clusters or piles of similar files that auto-sort once you enable the stacks feature. It's fast, easy, and does all of the work for you! I highly recommend giving stacks a try. You'll end up with easy-to-navigate "piles" of related items that you can quickly expand to look through, and just as quickly collapse back down into the space-saving stack.

How to Customize Your Mac's Dock

Your Mac's Dock, much like the Dock on your iPhone or iPad, is a collection of readily available apps and utilities. The purpose of a Dock is to make your most commonly used apps easy to find without searching for them in Finder or Launchpad. You can customize this menu bar to show only the apps you want, to appear on a different part of your screen, and much more.

Related: How to Organize Your iPhone Dock

How to Remove an App from the Mac Dock

To remove an app that you don't use regularly from your Mac's Dock, follow these steps:

  1. Right-click on the app icon in the Dock.
  2. Click on Options.

    Right-click on an app icon in the Dock and click on Options
     
  3. Click on Remove from Dock.

    Click on Remove from Dock

The app icon will disappear, but the app will still be available on your computer.

How to Add an App to the Mac Dock

  1. Open the app so that it appears in your Dock.
  2. Right-click on the app icon in the Dock.
  3. Click on Options.

    Right-click on an app icon in the Dock and click on Options
     
  4. Click on Keep in Dock.

    Click on Keep in Dock
     
  5. The app icon will remain in your Dock even when the app is closed.

Check out this article for more tips on how to move apps in and out of the dock on your Mac.

How to Move the Mac Dock

You can move the dock to the side of the screen instead of across the bottom if you choose to do so. Some people find that this make their screen appear less cluttered. If you're interested, follow these steps:

  1. Right-click on the divider line in between apps in your Dock.

    Click on the line between apps in the Dock
     
  2. Click on Position on Screen.

    Click on Position on Screen
     
  3. Select Right, Left, or Bottom.

    Click on Left, Right, or Bottom depending on where you want your Dock to be placed

You can change the Dock position as frequently as you'd like, so feel free to give it a try and see if you like it!

How to Make the Mac Dock Smaller or Larger

Some Mac users prefer their Dock to be a little smaller so that it takes up less visual space on their desktop. Give this quick tip a try to see how your Dock would look if it was smaller or larger:

  1. Place your cursor on the divider line in between apps in your Dock.

    Click on the line between apps in the Dock
     
  2. The cursor will turn into a white double-ended arrow.
  3. Click and hold.
  4. Drag the cursor down to make the dock smaller, and back up to make it larger again.

    Drag the cursor down to make the Dock smaller, and back up to make it larger again

Now that you've seen a few key tips for aesthetic ways to organize your apps, files, and Dock on your Mac desktop, you'll be able to navigate much more efficiently. Enjoy!

Master your iPhone in one minute a day: Sign up here to get our FREE Tip of the Day delivered right to your inbox.

Author Details

Erin Smith's picture

Author Details

Erin Smith

Erin Smith is a Web Editor for iPhone Life and has been a writer, editor, and researcher for many years. She has a degree in communication with an emphasis on psychology and communication, and has spent many of her professional years as a coach in various business and specialty fields. Erin officially joined the ranks of iPhone and Apple users everywhere around nine years ago, and has since enjoyed the unique and customized feel of Apple technology and its many gadgets. When she’s not working, Erin and her son enjoy outdoor adventures, camping, and spending time with their eclectic collection of pets.