Ask Different is a question and answer site for power users of Apple hardware and software. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Recently I found my estimated 100 desktop symbols re-ordered in 5 bunches: 4 bunches with one in each corner and one bunch in the middle (leaving more space for more crowd between the bunches :). Unfortunately I was not aware how my symbols have been arranged in that way, I cannot find any menu entry nor do I remember the short cut that I might have pressed accidentally. Do you know how to invoke this function? Since I tried out some Apple menu items I found, I now ended up with the desktop arranged by the grid. But I prefer the bunches.

Update: Ops, it happened again. I hardly assume this automatic arranging of my desktop happens when I connect an external display in mirror mode having a smaller resolution. Now it looks as follows:

desktop icons arranges in bunches

Notice the stacking of symbols in the top right that is the result of a formerly "Clean up" command in the desktop's context menu. But anyway, Mac OS created these 5 bunches again. As there is obviously a feature like that implemented, I am curious if I can run it also manually without connecting an external display to make it happen.

share|improve this question
By "symbols" I presume you mean desktop icons? I have never heard of a built-in way to automatically configure them in "bunches" like you described. It might be helpful if you could recreate the way they looked on your desktop and post a screenshot here. – Austin May 7 '11 at 18:06
Added a screenshot. – Lars Blumberg May 13 '11 at 13:10
I think someone like you could really get into BumpTop. Check out this YouTube vid. Unfortunately they were bought by Google a little while back so it's difficult to get hold of the application at the moment. :( – boehj May 13 '11 at 14:49

Once the desktop fills up, finder will tile and stack icons with a very small offset. I'd guess the algorithm had a bug or your .DS_Store file was corrupt and the system thought it had more icons to pile than it ended up with.

I dont know of a way to intentionally trigger the effect, but it would be nice to have four or five tidy stacks nice and deep rather than using the whole desktop.

share|improve this answer
Now I found out how it happens, please see my updated question. – Lars Blumberg May 13 '11 at 13:11
Wow - I haven't seen the algorithm break like that, but nonetheless - it's not a supported thing to alter the spacing (or it's a really hidden preference that isn't widely known). The picture makes this a much better question. – bmike May 16 '11 at 19:40
@Lars I don't think this is a feature, but rather a glitch that @bmike explained in his answer. Maybe you could try placing only 5 icons on your desktop, connecting the external display, and then see if anything happens. Does it happen every time you connect the display? – styfle May 17 '11 at 3:57
No, it happened only sporadically. Now, that I am using Mac OS Lion, it doesn't happen any more. – Lars Blumberg Apr 25 '13 at 13:49

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.