Three apps for a cleaner Mac desktop

Desktoday, Clean, or Camouflage are free or cheap and can help move or hide the files and folders that are cluttering your desktop.

Matt Elliott Senior Editor
Matt Elliott is a senior editor at CNET with a focus on laptops and streaming services. Matt has more than 20 years of experience testing and reviewing laptops. He has worked for CNET in New York and San Francisco and now lives in New Hampshire. When he's not writing about laptops, Matt likes to play and watch sports. He loves to play tennis and hates the number of streaming services he has to subscribe to in order to watch the various sports he wants to watch.
Expertise Laptops, desktops, all-in-one PCs, streaming devices, streaming platforms
Matt Elliott
3 min read
Screenshot by Matt Elliott

Is your Mac's desktop horribly cluttered with various folders and files? If you can't be trusted to create a sensible folder hierarchy and then save files to appropriate folders, it's likely you default to saving file after file to your desktop. It's no way to live.

Thankfully, the Mac App Store has three apps that can help restore order to your desktop. Two are free and will sweep up files and folders on your desktop when you command or, in the case of one, as scheduled. The third simply hides them, presenting the illusion of a sparkling clean desktop but preserving your mess of files and folders.

Desktoday is accessed from your Mac's menu bar. Screenshot by Matt Elliott

Desktoday is a free app that sits in the menu bar at the top of your desktop. To clean your desktop, click the Desktoday icon (a black file folder) and select Clear Desktop. It will move all of the folders and files on your desktop to a folder in your Documents folder with the current date.

Screenshot by Matt Elliott

You can set exceptions in Desktoday Preferences to leave certain folders and files on your desktop. Also in preferences, you can select a different destination for the moved folders and files. Lastly, you can check a box in preferences to Show option to clean Downloads, which adds a Clear Downloads option to the main menu. This option doesn't seem all that helpful to me because all it does is move the files from your Downloads folder to another folder in your Documents folder (or the destination you specified). To find a moved file, from the Desktoday main menu you can also call up the Desktoday destination folder in Finder.

Clean has a clean interface. Screenshot by Matt Elliott

Clean is another free app, which sits in your Mac's dock. Launch it and a small window opens with two buttons: Start & Hide and Clean now. Clean now does just what it says it does, while Start & Hide starts an agent that runs in the background and cleans your desktop each day or week. You can set the frequency in preferences, along with choosing a destination folder for your cleaned items and whether you'd like your files grouped by day or by month or neither.

Screenshot by Matt Elliott

Like Desktoday, you can set exceptions to leave certain folders or files from getting cleaned, but here you must create a label for those items on your desktop and then check the box in preferences for Skip items with labels. Unlike Desktoday, Clean does not provide a link to the destination folder; you must navigate your way there yourself.

Camouflage hides your desktop icons. Screenshot by Matt Elliott

Camouflage is the third app in this mini-roundup, but it differs from the previous two. For starters, it's not free but costs $1.99. Secondly, instead of moving files, it just hides them. When you launch Camouflage, it resides in your Mac's menu bar. Click on its icon and choose Hide Icons to rid your desktop of all icons. Once hidden, click on the Camouflage icon again and choose Show Icons to return the clutter to your desktop. Easy as that.

Screenshot by Matt Elliott

In preferences, you can set a hot key to preform this action. Initially, I had trouble registering a hot key until I chose Function and an F key for my hot key combo. Also in preferences, you can choose to set up a single- or double-click on the desktop (when your icons are hidden) to open a specified folder. You can specify the folder in the middle of the preferences window under the Theater header. Try as I might, I could not figure out what the Custom Wallpaper field did.

Have a favorite desktop organizer? If so, hit the comments with your not-to-be-missed organizational tips.