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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

OR

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:

Thanks!

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.

https://i.imgur.com/8mYPw8w.jpg

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    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 Aug 2 at 15:36
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    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 Aug 2 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 Aug 2 at 16:14
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    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 Aug 2 at 21:57
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    @Luca Would using tags to categorise your files work as a way of sorting them when using Finder to access the Desktop folder? – Monomeeth Aug 3 at 3:56
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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 Aug 4 at 11:50
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    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 Aug 4 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 Aug 12 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 Aug 13 at 2:24
  • 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 Aug 13 at 3:47
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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.

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    Wouldn't it be better to make one answer by editing? – bmike Aug 2 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 Aug 4 at 11:48
  • Understood. It seems like a very tricky task, I think that’s why people are trying to run around it. – Theologin Aug 4 at 15:13
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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)
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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.

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    The issue is that by doing this they will disappear from the Desktop as well, thus getting us back to square 1. – Luca Aug 2 at 19:31
  • @Luca hmmm... What if you take tiny little screen shots of every file and replace it with its icon lol. – Theologin Aug 2 at 20:50
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    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 Aug 2 at 21:35

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