I have just upgraded from Snow Leopard to Mountain Lion. Despite my initial concerns relating to the new gestures, I am actually getting on pretty well and many of the new features are welcome.

I do however have one real gripe. Back in Snow Leopard I used to use a nifty trick with the touchpad show desktop gesture...

Say for example I had a window open and wanted to drag an item onto it from the desktop, but that item was obscured by the window. What you would normally have to do of course would be to move or resize the window out of the way and then drag and drop the icon, and then put the window back where you had it. Highly tedious.

What I had worked out was that if you used the four-finger swipe up to show the desktop, you could then click down on an icon and if you didn't begin to move it, you could then perform a four-finger swipe down to restore the window to its original place, and then with one finger still held down I would drag the icon onto the window where I wanted it.

It sound pretty complex when you describe it, but it's actually really intuitive and I used that pretty much all of the time. In fact it is only since I have upgraded that I realise how much I depend on that little trick in my day-to-day use.

The problem is that this does not appear to work anymore in mountain lion, using the pinch outward gesture to display the desktop - fine. But if you try and grab an icon it is impossible to restore your windows with the gesture, only allowing you to move the icon.

Is there anybody out there who has this same experience. Can the trick I know and use so much be replicated on Mountain Lion? If not suppose I will be going back to Snow Leopard, because this is a deal-breaker for me!

4 Answers 4


That is quite a trick. Here is a workaround:

  1. Pinch four fingers and thumb out to show desktop.
  2. Click the file with your thumb
  3. Use the four fingers down gesture. This is the equivalent to pinch together, when coming back from desktop view, only you don't move your thumb.
  4. Swipe up with four fingers. The window state before you used the show desktop gesture will be resumed, and you will have the file in hand.

Unfortunately, it does take that extra step, however, as much as you use that, hopefully it won't take you long to adjust. You will want to make sure whatever window you are dropping it into is on top before you start the "trick".

  • Thank you very much! That works just fine. It is not quite as intuitive as the original way of doing it in snow leopard, but I guess with a little bit of practice it will become second nature, just as the original trick did!
    – tom1990
    Commented Dec 4, 2012 at 22:04
  • What if I only have 4 fingers on my hand?
    – Yes Barry
    Commented Dec 13, 2012 at 9:04
  • It is possible to do 3 fingers and thumb instead of 4. With that in mind, with a little practice, I could show the desktop using my index finger like a thumb, grouping my other 3 fingers and pinching out. After figuring it out, it really isn't that hard to do. Commented Dec 13, 2012 at 12:42
  • 1
    @mmmshuddup that's fine, most people have 4 fingers and 1 thumb on their hands too. You're not missing out.
    – fatuhoku
    Commented Sep 29, 2013 at 9:40
  • @fatuhoku lol touche.
    – Yes Barry
    Commented Sep 29, 2013 at 19:58

Another way to do this is to map "show desktop" to a hot corner (System Preferences > Mission Control > Hot Corners).

  1. Show the desktop using the four-finger gesture or by using the hot corner
  2. Drag the file from the desktop to the hot corner, which will restore the windows AND keep the file in hand
  3. Drop the file onto whichever window you like.

This is how I do it, and it doesn't require any finger acrobatics.

  • I find myself insanely frustrated when using a Mac without a hot corner for "Show Desktop".
    – Daniel
    Commented Dec 4, 2012 at 22:24
  • Thats a really good point! I have never really used hot corners, because I found my way using the trackpad on my MacBook I never found the need for them.. Hence I always found myself getting frustrated when I used somebodies iMac or other with no trackpad because of this! I didn't realise the hot corner could be used in that way - thank you for mentioning this!
    – tom1990
    Commented Dec 4, 2012 at 23:57

This is still so annoying but I just discovered the the perfect way to do this. It reminiscent me of the good old days of the 4 finger up-swipe.
It may sound awkward at first but it feels almost as nice as the old way when you get used to it.

  1. Position your index and middle fingers on each hand to form a loose V in the center of the trackpad
  2. Slide your fingers on your left hand toward the bottom left corner as you slide the fingers on your right hand toward the top right corner.
  • But before gestures and swiping, holding an icon over a hidden window where you wanted to drop,revealed that window. No more?
    – Zo219
    Commented Oct 18, 2013 at 19:40

Simply assign 'fn' in Mission Control to 'show desktop' and you are all set.

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