Not sure if something like this exists in OSX. I would like to display a cheatsheet on my desktop as a wallpaper and to make it visible at all times I would like to hide all the icons/files/folders scattered on my desktop as I'm accessing them only from within the Finder anyway. So my question is if it is possible to hide everything on the desktop and show the wallpaper only but use the Desktop folder as normal and see all the files and folders when in Finder view? Using OSX Mountain Lion.

  • 1
    What kind of cheat sheet?
    – Alexander
    Commented May 13, 2013 at 3:16
  • I just had a small drag incident that caused just what you wanted, but i have no idea how to swich back to show on the desktop.
    – user68588
    Commented Jan 25, 2014 at 21:03

8 Answers 8


In the terminal, do this:

defaults write com.apple.finder CreateDesktop -bool false && killall Finder

After this, there'll be nothing on your Desktop (but still in ~/Desktop, i.e. your Desktop Folder). It'll look like this:

Clean Desktop

Beautiful, isn't it? If you want to change it back:

defaults write com.apple.finder CreateDesktop -bool true && killall Finder

enter image description here

  • Thanks Sheharyar- works great. Turned it into an Alfred workflow so I can just hide and show when I want.
    – VLostBoy
    Commented Jul 19, 2014 at 10:33
  • @VLostBoy Nice!
    – Sheharyar
    Commented Jul 20, 2014 at 21:52
  • Great! But... what if I just want to get rid of files n hidden files but still would like to see Disks and External Drives and optical Media? Is there a way to allow the connected drives while hiding files? Commented Jun 15, 2017 at 23:54
  • I do this occasionally, and it does have some problems. Mainly, clicking on the desktop just does nothing instead of going to Finder.
    – SilverWolf
    Commented Jan 19, 2018 at 18:45
  • I have created an Automator app for the same. You can download it from here geekdashboard.com/show-hide-desktop-icons-on-mac/#download Commented Jun 25, 2019 at 5:24

There's another little free program that does exactly this, and nothing more:


It sits in the menu bar and lets you toggle icons on or off.

  • Yes, this does exactly what the OP requested. Great resource. Commented Sep 23, 2013 at 16:11
  • 1
    Great, works with Mavericks! Commented Jan 26, 2014 at 17:14
  • As of 1/2021, the web page linked works, but the link to the downloadable .dmg file is dead. What appears to be the same thing (attributed to the same developer) is available at macdownload.informer.com/hidedesktop
    – August
    Commented Jan 11, 2021 at 9:03
  • The Internet Archive has a snaphot of the disk image from the original URL. It still works on macOS Catalina (it looks like it simply runs the Terminal commands mentionend in the other answer). Commented Nov 25, 2022 at 22:15

I don't believe you can hide files from the desktop while leaving them viewable from within the Finder, since the desktop is just a folder (~/Desktop).

However, here's an alternative that could work:

  1. Open your cheatsheet image in Safari (drag and drop the image onto the Safari icon in the dock)
  2. In Safari, go to File > Open in Dashboard...
  3. Your image should be selected/highlighted, or if not, then click it to select it. Click Add in the purple toolbar.

This will create a Dashboard widget that displays your image. Now to view the image, simply toggle Dashboard (F4 on a newer Mac or F12 on an older one).

Another alternative: if you're not accessing your files from the desktop, why keep them in the ~/Desktop folder at all? Just move them to another folder.

  • 1
    This is great! Haven't realized I could do that. Thx of sharing.
    – Kris
    Commented Jan 23, 2013 at 8:04

You could try using a program called camouflage. It hides all the icons on your desktop. There are older versions available online that may or may not work with Mountain Lion, but it is also available on the Mac App Store, which will work with Mountain Lion

Version 1.25 (free - softonic.com) Free, but it may or may not work on Mountain Lion

Version 2.2.1 ($5.99 - Mac App Store) Will definitely work on Mountain Lion

Edit: if you wanted this quick switch functionality, you could write 2 little bash scripts from the top answer and put them in an Automator action and set it to sit in the top bar


Another great piece and free piece of software for doing this is XtraFinder.


It can also add to Finder very interesting options like:

  • CMD-X for Cut & Paste
  • Create new file (with your favorite templates)
  • Arrange folders on top
  • Quickly show/hide hidden files with a shortcut
  • Tabs

All can be individually enabled.

In the various shortcuts you'll find Hide Desktop that is what you need.

I currently use XtraFinder on ML without issues. It's really light for the OS.

  • I took a look at XtraFinder and it seems well developed, but I have not installed it yet because it requires disabling System Integrity Protection (SIP) to install it, and that requires rebooting, which I'm not willing to do right now. @Teejay, how fast does it hide and restore the Desktop icons?
    – August
    Commented Jan 11, 2021 at 9:30
  • I don't remember because I just suggested that feature, but never actively used it on my own. I also have to say that I never installed it on my new Mac, but only on the old one.
    – Teejay
    Commented Jan 12, 2021 at 12:50

You can run the following Terminal command:

defaults write com.apple.finder CreateDesktop -bool false && killall -HUP Finder

To undo, replace false with true.

Source: OS X Daily: Hide All Desktop Icons — No idea if it is Mavericks only.


I'm not sure if this exactly meets your criteria, but Desktop Curtain from Many Tricks is a neat app that hides your messy desktop. $5 in the Mac App Store.


Here's another FREE app that almost does what is requested. Instead of toggling the internal Finder default value and then killing and restarting Finder, it moves everything on the desktop into another folder and moves it all back again. Unfortunately that does not meet the original requirement of preserving access to the contents of the system Desktop folder while the icons are hidden.


If that access is not a hard requirement, Clarity has much to recommend it. First, it does not require killing and restarting Finder, which can take a disturbingly large number of seconds. Second, it can be used to save multiple alternative desktop icon sets.

It allows you to save the current desktop arrangement of files, folders, shortcuts, etc by number and name, clear it, and then restore it, or swap to any of the saved arrangements. The saved desktops can be saved to Dropbox to make them available on other machines.

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