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Want to hide all desktop icons on a Mac? Desktop icon clutter can really impact workflow by overwhelming you with files and just too much stuff to look at. Inevitably, it can be hard to avoid since a lot of apps download things to the Desktop by default, we save things there, screenshots go there, it quickly becomes the generic catch-all location for documents and stuff that we’re working with.

If you decide you have too many icons on the desktop and maintaining the desktop is just too much to deal with, you can actually toggle a secret setting in Mac OS X to turn off the Mac desktop icons completely, thereby preventing them from being displayed at all. This effectively hides all the icons from showing up on the Mac desktop only, but all of your files and stuff will still be accessible from elsewhere through the file system and Finder. You can think of this kind of like disabling the desktop, because you can still actually save files and folders to the desktop, it’s just that the icons will not show up. Instead, you’ll just see your desktop wallpaper.

How to Hide Desktop Icons on Mac OS X from Appearing Completely

If you’re ready to hide all desktop icons on a Mac, you’ll be using the command line to accomplish this task. Here is how you can hide all Mac desktop icons by basically disabling the desktop from appearing:

Launch Terminal, found within /Applications/Utilities

Type the following defaults command string exactly:

defaults write com.apple.finder CreateDesktop -bool false

Hit enter / return

Next you will then need to kill the Finder so that it relaunches and the changes take effect, do that with the following command in the Terminal prompt:

killall Finder

Again hit Return, this refreshes the Finder and the Desktop

Once the command is executed correctly, the Finder will refresh and all desktop icons will instantly disappear – the files will still exist, they are just no longer visible on the desktop.

This trick works to disable the desktop and hide all the desktop icons exactly the same in all versions of MacOS and Mac OS X, from Mac OS X Snow Leopard to OS X Yosemite to MacOS Mojave and everything in between, and presumably later too.

You can expedite the hiding of the desktop icons on the Mac by turning the command string into a single line to be copied and pasted into the Terminal window, like this:

defaults write com.apple.finder CreateDesktop -bool false;killall Finder;say icons hidden

The desktop will no longer display icons, effectively hiding them from appearing. All of the files still exist, but they’re now discretely hidden in your home folder’s “Desktop” directory rather than cluttering up the visible desktop.

If you’re wondering what this looks like when it’s in effect, it’s basically a super-clean desktop like this:

Notice how there is literally nothing on the desktop? Just a clean image of the background wallpaper? That’s what this trick does.

Note that this process is different than simply hiding things like Mac hard drive icons and network shares from showing up on desktop, because this trick is all inclusive and hides every single icon regardless of what it is, completely preventing them from appearing on the Mac OS X Desktop whatsoever, despite still technically being stored in the users ~/Desktop directory. It’s obviously easy to implement, and it’s also easy to reverse if you decide the feature isn’t for you and you want to see everything visible as usual again.

So to be perfectly clear, this will hide your icons from showing on the Desktop by disabling that feature, but your desktop data, files, folders, and everything else is still available by manually going to the “~/Desktop” folder of the user account. None of your files are missing, they’re just tucked into your user Desktop folder on the Macintosh HD.

How to Show Desktop Icons Again in Mac OS X

To show the Desktop icons again, return to open the Mac Terminal and type the following defaults command – notice the only difference between the disabling of desktop and enabling of desktop is ‘false’ has been turned into ‘true’, thereby re-enabling desktop icon display on the Mac:

defaults write com.apple.finder CreateDesktop -bool true

Again, kill the Finder and your icons will show on the desktop as usual:

killall Finder

Finder will relaunch, and the desktop will be revealed again with all of it’s icons shown. The image below shows an exaggerated example, with tons and tons of icons sitting on the wallpaper:

Similar to the hiding trick, you can condense those commands into a single command string to reveal the desktop icons again.

defaults write com.apple.finder CreateDesktop -bool true;killall Finder;say icons visible

This even gives you a nice auditory clue announcing the state of the icons (icons hidden, or icons visible).

Other than being a nuisance to look at, desktop clutter can actually slow down a Mac (or any computer, for that matter), since each individual icon and thumbnail must be drawn by the operating system anytime the desktop is accessed or shown. As a result, every single file sitting on the desktop takes up a little slice of memory, and redrawing the thumbnail icons uses a tiny bit of CPU, but with hundreds of files laying about those will accumulate to a significant burden on the computers resources, thereby slowing down the computer. This is particularly true with old Macs, but it applies to newer models as well.

So when in doubt, keep that Mac desktop tidy and free of too many icons, or just hide the icons and files display like we described here so that you can gain a nice little speed boost until you sort through your files.

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How To Hide The Menu Bar On External Secondary Displays In Mac Os X

For Mac users who use external screens, multi-display support has been greatly improved in new versions of OS X, but one feature that is either loved or hated is the addition of the secondary menu bar that is visible on the external display(s). The secondary menu bar serves the obvious purpose of providing easy access to menu items, but it also functions as an active focus indicator, letting you know which of the multiple displays has the currently active focus for windows and the mouse cursor. When one screen is active, the menu bar on that display will be shown at normal brightness, whereas the display that does not have focus will show a dimly faded translucent menu bar, as shown in this screen shot:

OS X provides a setting to hide the external display menu bar (or show it, if it’s hidden for some reason) if you don’t like it and the whole dimming indicator thing, though the wording of the setting doesn’t offer much hint that it has anything to do with menu bars or secondary screens.

Disable the Menu Bar on External Displays in OS X Mavericks, Yosemite, El Capitan

This will remove the menu bar from the external display completely, including the translucent display focus indicator:

Open System Preferences from the  Apple menu and choose the “Mission Control” preference panel

Uncheck the box next to “Displays have separate Spaces”

Log out and log back in to the user account for the change to take effect (or reboot, but logging out and back in is usually much faster)

Note: if you toggle this off you may wish to set the primary display again to indicate which screen you want the Mac menu bar and Dock to appear on. The primary display also becomes where new windows and alert dialogs appear by default.

Toggling “Displays have separate spaces” to OFF does not play well with full-screen app mode, thus if you like how Mavericks handles full screen apps on multiple displays, you will not want to turn this feature off. That’s a fairly significant side effect and it’s important to understand that this basically causes OS X El Capitan, OS X Yosemite, and OS X Mavericks multi-display behavior to be like that of OS X Mountain Lion and other prior versions of Mac OS X. Yes, the secondary display is still entirely usable, so long as full screen apps are not used, since full screen apps become the “Spaces” this setting adjusts. Ideally, an update to OS X will separate the menu bar setting from the Spaces setting, into an optional and unrelated adjustment somewhere in Display preferences, similar to how you can indicate which display the menu bar shows up on.

There may be a defaults setting that can toggle the brightness and/or menu bar options separately, similar to how you can make terminal windows focus follow the mouse cursor, but we have not yet found it or been made aware of such a trick. If you know of one, send us an email, tweet, or post it on our Facebook or Google+ pages.

How Do I Show the External Displays Menu Bar?

By the way, the same setting for showing the secondary display menu bar in OS X also will allow you to see the Dock on an external display in OS X, something to keep in mind.

Thanks to @scottperezfox for the tip inspiration, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter if you haven’t done so yet.

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Add Weather & Other Dashboard Widgets To The Desktop In Mac Os X

A fun way to customize the Mac desktop is to add floating widgets for things like weather, ski conditions, stocks, and time. These widgets are actually from Dashboard, a largely forgotten feature of Mac OS X that can be made useful again by bringing them more to the forefront of your desktop experience. This is different from making Dashboard hover over everything again, because this actually liberates the widgets out of Dashboard turning them into movable objects on the desktop itself.

Longtime Mac users may be familiar with this trick, but it still works in the most recent versions of Mac OS X and in many ways is more useful now that Dashboard has been deemphasized in Lion and Mountain Lion and later versions.

How to Get Dashboard Widgets on the Mac Desktop

This is a multi step sequence, first you must enable developer mode for Dashboard then you must get the widgets onto the desktop. Here’s how it works:

Enabling Dashboard Developer Mode on Mac OS

To get individual Dashboard widgets onto the desktop, you will need to first enable Dashboard developer mode:

Open Terminal and enter the following defaults command, placing Dashboard into Developer Mode:

defaults write com.apple.dashboard devmode YES

Next, pull down the  Apple menu and choose System Preferences, then choose the “Mission Control” panel

Uncheck “Show Dashboard as a space” to make widgets float over the desktop again

Go to the Apple menu again and choose “Log Out”, then log back in again for changes to take effect

Once developer mode has been turned on and dashboard as a space has been turned off, you’re ready to move widgets to the desktop.

Bringing Widgets to the Desktop

Now to get any widget out of dashboard and instead to stick on the desktop, you will want to use the Dashboard keyboard shortcut. Typically that is the F4 key, but if it was changed use the new keyboard shortcut instead:

Open Dashboard by hitting F4

Repeat as necessary to add more widgets to the OS X desktop

Because the widgets float over other documents, it is best to not overdo it and perhaps stick to one or two that are particularly useful or interesting.

Removing a Widget from the Desktop

To remove the widget from the desktop again, reverse the process which added them to begin with:

Release F4 while Dashboard is open again to return it there and remove from the desktop

Repeat that process for multiple widgets.

Disabling Dashboard Developer Mode

There is no harm in leaving devmode enabled, but to turn it off again by flipping the NO flag to YES. Note that disabling devmode alone is not sufficient to remove the widgets from the Mac desktop, you need to manually do that using the method above.

Launch Terminal and enter the following defaults command:

defaults write com.apple.dashboard devmode NO

Log out and log in again by way of the  Apple menu

Again, if widgets are still persisting on the desktop after devmode is disabled it is because you did not move them back into Dashboard beforehand.

The video below demonstrates adding widgets to the desktop and removing them, and how they float over all system apps in addition to other windows.

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How To Switch The Control And Command Keys In Mac Os X

If you have just switched to using Mac OS X from the regular Windows OS that you have been using all your life, you might have difficulty adjusting to the keyboard, particularly the Control and Command keys.

In Windows most of the keyboard shortcuts are done with the Control key. You press “Ctrl + A” to select all, “Ctrl + C” to copy and “Ctrl + V” to paste. When it comes to Mac OS X, the configuration is totally opposite. Even though the keyboard comes with a Control button, the “Command” button is used for most keyboard shortcuts. You have to press “Cmd + A” to select all, “Cmd + C” to copy and “Cmd + V” to paste.

If you are not used to the keyboard configuration, Mac OS X comes with a setting that allows you to remap the modifier key. This way you can switch the functionality of “Control” and “Command” and make it work like Windows.

1. In Mac OS X open “System Preferences” from the Launchpad.

If you are planning to switch to Mac OS X permanently, it might be better for you to continue using Command as the modifier key and get used to it. It will only take a while for you to become accustomed to the new system. If, however, you are often switching between different OS, like Windows on an office PC and Mac OS X on a home laptop, then switching the Control and Command buttons might just save your sanity.

Image credit: a swedish campground

Damien

Damien Oh started writing tech articles since 2007 and has over 10 years of experience in the tech industry. He is proficient in Windows, Linux, Mac, Android and iOS, and worked as a part time WordPress Developer. He is currently the owner and Editor-in-Chief of Make Tech Easier.

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How To See & Control What Apps Use Location Data In Mac Os X

Do you want to control which apps can use your location on Mac? Want to see exactly what apps are using your location data on the Mac? Mac OS X now has the ability to easily view and manage which applications can access a users location data.

This article will review first how to determine what apps are using location data, and second how to change and control what apps are allowed to use location data on Mac OS.

Mac users who also have iOS devices should find the initial indicator to be a familiar arrow icon that resides alongside other status bar icons and symbols. The location indicator arrow appears in the menubar of Mac OS X when an app is attempting to use location services, this provides the first clue and is found along with the other menu bar items on a Mac. With some applications it may be obvious why they are using or trying to use location data and seeing that indicator icon may be of no surprise, but other apps may be more curious, and the arrow icon may appear when using a seemingly unrelated app.

Remember, Mac OS X will provide the user with a dialog box to approve or deny the usage of location data. Only the apps that have been previously approved will appear in the menu bar, as apps that have been denied will not find them accessible. Even so, let’s cover how to determine exactly what apps are using location data, and also how to change and control what apps can use location on the Mac.

How to Determine What App is Using Location Services in Mac OS X

The menu bar items are informational, but not directly actionable without going into the privacy control panel. You can jump to that immediately by choosing “Open Privacy Settings” through this menu bar, or by accessing it from System Preferences as outlined below, which provides granular control over application-specific location usage.

How to Control What Apps Can Use Location Data on the Mac

Again like the iOS world, Mac OS X provides fine tuned controls for location data usage, allowing for various levels of location sharing depending on what fits the user and their app preferences.

You can access the Location Services Privacy menu through the method outlined above in the menubar, or through the Mac System Preferences which we’ll outline below:

Open System Preferences from the  Apple menu

Go to “Security & Privacy”, and then choose the “Privacy” tab

Select “Location Services” from the left side of the panel

Adjust location service allocations as desired here:

Check / Uncheck “Enable Location Services” to completely turn the feature on or off

Uncheck the box next to a specific app to deny that application Location Service data

Apps that have requested location data within the past 24 hours will be shown with the familiar arrow icon alongside their name in this preference panel. This is another way of seeing what apps are trying to use location data, and also a way of determining recent attempts if you briefly noticed the menu bar icon flash and disappear to signify location usage.

Even apps that have been rejected for using location services will appear in this list, which can be helpful in reversing location settings changes should you wish to allow or deny the app again in the future.

Completely disabling location services is a possibility here (handled slightly different in prior versions of Mac OS X), though for most users it’s best to leave the feature turned on and only selectively allowed on a per-app basis. This allows for convenient features like maps, directions, traffic and road incidents, and location reminders, while still providing a layer of privacy and control that many users appreciate.

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How To Automatically Back Up Contacts In Os X

Nearly all of us have experienced a situation in which we have faced a corrupt hard drive, and due to not having any backups, have lost all our data. Good backups are always necessary. In this article we will show how you can use Automator to automate backing up your contacts in OS X.

1. Open up Automator on your Mac. You can do this by searching for it from Spotlight Search or by navigating to your Applications folder and opening Automator.

2. Select a new document if Automator prompts you to do so, and select “Calendar Alarm” in the type of document. This is a type of document that can be triggered by events in your calendar, meaning you can set it to run at specific intervals automatically.

3. From the left-hand “Actions” panel, choose Contacts, and drag “Find Contacts items” into the right-hand pane.

The option that comes up lets us filter which contacts we want to back up. As we’ll be backing up all of our contacts, simply leave the first two options to “people” and “All” as they are. Select “Name” and “is not” for the last two options and enter in “aaa.”

5. Now, from the second list, drag “Export vCards” to the right hand pane, making sure it sits underneath “Find Contacts People” in your workflow. Leave the Export option as it is (also seen in the screenshot below); just choose a custom location where you would like your Contacts to be backed up.

The following window should open up.

Here, in the Repeat section, you can set a regular interval for a regular backup of your contacts.

That’s it! It’s that simple to create an automatic task (workflow) to back up your contacts in OS X at a regular schedule. Although it is a bit lengthy, it’s a one-time setup that can prove to be life-saving in the occasion you have a hard drive failure. For that we recommend selecting a network drive location in the Automator workflow, but it’s entirely upto you.

Similarly, you can also mess around with other Automator options to create other backups. Let us know what you thought of this guide down in the Comments section.

Shujaa Imran

Shujaa Imran is MakeTechEasier’s resident Mac tutorial writer. He’s currently training to follow his other passion become a commercial pilot. You can check his content out on Youtube

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