On my MacBook, I frequently end up with lots of overlapping windows on the screen, obscuring the desktop. I recently discovered the five finger 'swipe outwards' gesture that displays the desktop. Unfortunately this doesn't do exactly what I want; as soon as I select an application (typically a Finder window) from the dock, all the windows swipe back into place. Normally I am wanting to copy a file to/from a Finder window that's already open, via drag-and-drop, to the desktop - but I can't do this as the desktop is once again obscured.

Are there any other shortcuts which could help me? For example, minimize/hide all windows to show the desktop?

I should add I'm using OS X 10.8, if it's relevant.

  • So, let me better understand. You would like to copy a file, see the desktop, and paste I there, is that right? Do you want to use only the trackpad or also the keyboard is ok?
    – Maverik
    Oct 11 '12 at 12:05
  • I want to copy a file to/from the desktop from an existing Finder window which is already open, when my desktop is obscured by windows. I don't really mind too much if it's trackpad/keyboard or a combination. Oct 11 '12 at 12:15

I would suggest you set up a hot corner to show the desktop (this is what I do):

  1. Open System Preferences
  2. Click Mission Control
  3. Click the "Hot Corners..." button at the bottom
  4. Set the corner you want to use for "Desktop" (I use the top right)
  5. Click OK

Now you can move a file from a Finder window to the desktop with just the mouse:

  1. Click and drag the file you want to move to the hot corner you set up, which will show the desktop
  2. Drop the file on the desktop
  • Perfect! This is exactly the kind of thing I was looking for; a single drag-and-drop action. Thanks. Oct 11 '12 at 13:19
  • 1
    Yeah, hot corners are great. I have mine set up to invoke Mission Control too, so I can drag files between windows of different apps in the same way.
    – daGUY
    Oct 11 '12 at 13:23

You can do this with copy 'n' paste:

From Finder to Desktop

  1. Select the file in the finder
  2. Press +c
  3. Press F11 (show the desktop)
  4. Right click on the desktop
  5. Paste the item

From Desktop to Finder

  1. Open the folder in the finder
  2. Press F11
  3. Select the file in the finder
  4. Press +c
  5. Press F11 (it goes back to the finder)
  6. Paste the file in your folder

Alternatively you can use drag-n-drop:

From Finder to Desktop:

  1. Select the file in the Finder
  2. Click on the file and hold the finger
  3. Press F11 (show the desktop)
  4. Press
  5. Release the file

From Desktop to Finder

  1. Open the folder in the Finder
  2. Press F11
  3. Click on the file and hold the finger
  4. Press F11
  5. Press
  6. Release the file in your folder

If you don't care about the position of the object you are copying on the desktop you can also:

  1. Click on your file and hold the finger
  2. Press
  3. Release the file on the Desktop icon, which is in the left column of each Finder window.

Unfortunately this work only in one direction (finder > Desktop)

N.B. F11 should be replaced by fn+F11 if the voice Use all F1, F2, etc keys as standard function keys is not selected in System Preferences > Keyboard

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  • OK, thanks. It looks like F11 (which is actually Fn-F11, of course) is the equivalent of the five-finger swipe out. This method works, but it seems quite cumbersome; I guess I was hoping for a drag-and-drop way. But thanks, this is closer than what I had. Oct 11 '12 at 12:23
  • @AndrewFerrier I see, I've updated the answer
    – Maverik
    Oct 11 '12 at 12:24
  • Your answer now doesn't make any sense to me. How can I drag it when the window is obscured? That was my question in the first instance. Oct 11 '12 at 12:30
  • @AndrewFerrier I tried it. Are you referring to form finder to desktop or the opposite?
    – Maverik
    Oct 11 '12 at 12:31
  • Either. F11 hides all the windows. How can you drag to/from a window that's hidden? Oct 11 '12 at 12:31

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