I have a 49" 5120x1440 ultrawide monitor with some windows always open on the sides and I don't want any kind of item hidden behind them (for example, mounted external drive, downloaded/copied file, etc...)

The worst case is when I save or move something to the Desktop and I waste a lot of time trying to understand why I can't see the file – because it's hidden, say, behind my music player window.

Right now I've badly solved the issue with a very inelegant solution, which is filling those areas with empty files so that nothing goes over there, the problem is that those then show up on Finder and it gets kind of annoying when I have to work with files on the Desktop

So, right now, there are two acceptable solutions for this:

Find a way to tell macOS not to put icons on a certain area of the screen


Find a way to tell Finder to not show, say, files with zero byte dimension or with a file name starting with "empty" or whatever filter we can apply.

EDIT: this would not work as there is no way to tell Finder to show a certain type of file on the Desktop but not in a Finder window. Disregard this option.

Here's a picture to better show you the problem and how I've partially (ie: badly) solved it for now:


EDIT: I believe that I need to make a point about the answers given so far (which are ALL very appreciated, by the way): All the answers have been addressing my own bad solution instead of addressing the original problem which is clearly explained in the title: "How to prevent macOS from putting icons on some areas of the desktop?"

This is the ultimate goal: I want to tell macOS "whenever I put something on the Desktop, DO NOT PUT IT INTO THOSE AREAS.

My solution was to fill those areas with empty documents, but it's ugly, not on the desktop, because those icons are hidden by the windows, but on a Finder window because it's filled with trash.

Hopefully this clears it up a bit!

EDIT 2: this is how it looks normally, those windows are ALWAYS there, so it doesn't matter that there are all those files behind them, but when I open a Finder window, they'll all be there. Hoping this helps it up more.


  • 3
    Two approaches you can take here: 1. Keep a Finder window open with Desktop folder showing, so that you can easily get to the desired file. 2. Use Hot corner or a keyboard shortcut to show Desktop contents to easily access it.
    – Nimesh Neema
    Commented Aug 2, 2019 at 15:36
  • 3
    Ugh! This is Mac, not Windows. Please resist the temptation to strew your desktop with 'shortcuts'. there are so many better ways to organise your workflow.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Aug 2, 2019 at 15:36
  • @NimeshNeema the Finder window always open is a good alternative I haven't thought of! it would take some space but I can reorganize thing around, although it doesn't really excite me. I have gestures to do most mission control things on the fly, I just 4 finger swipe up to show all windows and 4 finger swipe down to show desktop, but that's not a good solution.
    – Luca
    Commented Aug 2, 2019 at 16:14
  • 1
    Wow! Let's hope some python library exists to read / write to the .DS_Store file since that would be a great way to generalize this. Dramatic image that would make me long for stacks, but why not indulge the way you want to work - this is pretty awesome.
    – bmike
    Commented Aug 2, 2019 at 21:57
  • 1
    @Luca Would using tags to categorise your files work as a way of sorting them when using Finder to access the Desktop folder?
    – Monomeeth
    Commented Aug 3, 2019 at 3:56

6 Answers 6


I'm sure you've found a solution by now Luca but Sonoma makes this really easy now with Desktop widgets. Just place widgets wherever you don't want Desktop icons to appear and your problem is (semi-)elegantly solved!

To "up the elegance factor" here, there are even widgets whose sole purpose are to be transparent "spacer" widgets you can look into ("Widgy" is a good, free one).

Hope this helps!

  • I'm still using the old trick of having lots of empty files to fill the Desktop, your solution is a much butter one, although I'm still on Ventura. When I upgrade to Sonoma I'll surely follow your suggestion as is the best one so far and the cleanest, so I've marked your solution as accepted. Thank you!
    – Luca
    Commented May 29 at 10:21

@Luca: the same thing was driving me crazy, too (plus, my light O.C.D. doesn't help)! I have a 5K 49" ultra-wide screen (exact same resolution as you) with my macOS Calendar app on the left 1/4 and my macOS Mail app on the right 1/4, with my main window (be it a browser, Word, Photoshop, etc.) in the middle 2/4. Default download/save folder for everything I do is my Desktop. So to get to new files, I always had to open Finder or minimize the Mail app. Just too many clicks!

What I did was to get an app called "Moom". It's free and free of spyware/malware. In Moom, I then set up three screen zones on a 12x12 grid which I can easily switch in between using keyboard shortcuts. For the right 1/4 screen zone (where my Mail app is), I basically trimmed off just the upper-most three tiles which leaves just enough space for one row of desktop icons, including whatever last file I downloaded/saved.

This allows me to use 141 out of 144 tiles of my screen and only use 3 tiles (~2 % of my screen real estate) to show Desktop items at all times.

Hope this helps!

Update: it's no longer free apparently, but costs $10. Still, worth the money for me.

Moom Screenshot

  • This is the first and only real answer, thank you, this is exactly what I was looking for!
    – Luca
    Commented Jan 31, 2021 at 17:04
  • You are welcome! Glad I was able to help. I know it's not exactly what you are looking for (and what I was looking for, too!), but it comes close enough.
    – mauwth
    Commented Feb 1, 2021 at 18:24

What about creating a smart folder “Desktop” and put it onto your sidebar. Try omitting parameters like show only files larger than 1kb. If you go to more options/show more from the query menu in finder... you can add a ton of parameters including “raw” query. Raw can be used to make some really complicated and effective searches. I think you can even extract the raw query from a saved smart folder.

  • 1
    Wouldn't it be better to make one answer by editing?
    – bmike
    Commented Aug 2, 2019 at 21:58
  • The issue here is that the files MUST be visible on the Desktop otherwise macOS will put stuff there where I have windows and will be hidden. I just don't want to see them in a Finder window which is not possible. I think people are straying away from the real question which is clearly posted in the title: "How to prevent macOS from putting icons on some areas of the desktop?" What everyone is focusing on is a very bad solution I've come to myself and trying to fix it instead of replying to the main question posed in the title.
    – Luca
    Commented Aug 4, 2019 at 11:48
  • Understood. It seems like a very tricky task, I think that’s why people are trying to run around it.
    – Theologin
    Commented Aug 4, 2019 at 15:13

Not sure I really understand the goal here, so this solution may not work for you (this may still work for someone else). Not sure why you want to see all those icons but ... don't want to see all those icons. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Yeah. I prolly got that part wrong.

Save them in a folder. It doesn't matter much what you call this folder or where you place it. Drag it into both the dock on the right side and into the side-bar.

When saving/moving/pasting, use the sidebar to quickly change the location to the special folder. When accessing the files use the dock. Use the folder view 'List' in the dock if shorter than the height of you screen or grid if list is too long; but I would avoid stacks in the Dock.

To avoid using the Dock, use a service script that opens the folder in Finder and attach a keyboard shortcut to it. One keystroke and you have easy access but no windows throwing shade on your icons. You can also have the service change the Finder-window view on open.

Look at stacks (not Dock stacks, but the new Desktop stacks). I have not explored this (all Desktop functions disabled on my rig) but it basically does some of the organizing for you. One click to access and one click to open ... I think. Worth a quick look and a try anyway. Only one place to go look for the files, if the rules for stacking meet your needs.

Oh, and finally ('bout time, right?), explore Smart Folders since specifying rules like file type, file size, name includes, and actual location (and so much more) are what Smart Folders are for. I think you can add one to your Desktop that finds all the files that meet your criteria; but save the files somewhere else, including maybe where they will ultimately be saved when the current project is closing. Then nothing to move off the Desktop when done with the files. Next project: change the criteria.

enter image description here

[Whew] SSL

Edit: One of the answers to a similar question contains a script that might meet your needs. There are variables in the script called theGuttersX and theGuttersXFactor that might allow you to add extra space on either side of the screen. Not sure what those two were intended to do, but 'gutter' sounds like the right kind of intention ... But even if that's not the case, the script is a good starting point for getting the desired effect.

  • The goal I'm trying to achieve is clearly explained in the title: "How to prevent macOS from putting icons on some areas of the desktop?" People have been focusing on trying to fix my very bad solution instead of trying to come up with a solution to the main issue. Yours, honestly, is the one which comes the closest to solving the problem. I need a place (which is the Desktop right now) where I can clearly see items I need to work on or access in a single click. So using stacks or folders is not a solution. But yours is definitely the answer which comes closest to a possible solution.
    – Luca
    Commented Aug 4, 2019 at 11:50
  • 1
    Thanks, Luca. Based on that feedback, I think you'll struggle to reach your goal, but it also may yield unexpected results. We don't know why it's worth all the effort/time to organize them, but mission critical to access the files quickly. Generally, we can often save more time by sacrificing some of one end of the process and putting more effort into the other. By reducing the effort to organize, but add an extra click on opening might pay greater dividends. But only from a general productivity perspective, which may not apply to your scenario. Good luck!
    – D. Geren
    Commented Aug 4, 2019 at 18:28
  • As of today, I still haven't found a proper way to tell macOS where to not put icons on the Desktop. This means that this solution is the closest it comes to a proper one and will, for now, put as such. Thanks for putting so much thought into it, really appreciated.
    – Luca
    Commented Aug 12, 2019 at 21:22
  • YW. This is still rattling around the back of my brain. After re-reading your original question and some other content here (especially your comments) I have a better understanding of you needs. If I come across something else. I'll comment here.
    – D. Geren
    Commented Aug 13, 2019 at 2:24
  • 1
    I added a bit to the end of my 'answer.' Closest thing I've seen so far. Though I don't have the scripting skills to get it there all the way. GL!
    – D. Geren
    Commented Aug 13, 2019 at 3:47

Well we know that the icon placement is based on at least:

  1. Desktop size (system preferences)
  2. Grid Size (finder preferences)
  3. Icon Size (finder preferences)
  4. Current desktop configuration (user cache)

If you add a period the beginning of the empty file names, they will become a hidden file. Then can be viewed again by pressing cmd+alt+opt+period. However if you work often while showing “hidden files” there is a step further you can hide them by flagging the items as hidden. You can do so in terminal...

chflags hidden /path/to/file

In your case you may do something like this~

chflags hidden ~/Desktop/empty*

You can use chflags nohidden to return the file.

  • 1
    The issue is that by doing this they will disappear from the Desktop as well, thus getting us back to square 1.
    – Luca
    Commented Aug 2, 2019 at 19:31
  • @Luca hmmm... What if you take tiny little screen shots of every file and replace it with its icon lol.
    – Theologin
    Commented Aug 2, 2019 at 20:50
  • 1
    LOL, I mean, that would look... interesting, to say the least. Unfortunately that's completely missing the point, as I'm ok with all that garbage on the Desktop because there are windows covering them. What irks me is that if I have to do something in Finder in the Desktop folder they'll all show up. Right now I've changed the names to "z" so that if I sort by name they'll all still at the bottom and won't be bothering me too much. Still, I'd prefer a neater solution.
    – Luca
    Commented Aug 2, 2019 at 21:35

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