How to Enable Stacks in MacOS to Clean Up Messy Desktops

How to Enable Stacks in MacOS to Clean Up Messy Desktops

How to use Stacks on Mac Desktop to tidy up messy files and clutter

If your Mac desktop is a mess of files and folders, you’re not alone. A messy desktop must be common enough that a feature called Stacks has been included in MacOS specifically to ease that burden.

Basically Stacks cleans up a mess of files on your desktop automatically by arranging them into organized groups of files that can be easily expanded with a click. It works great, especially if

You’ll need MacOS Mojave 10.14 or later to have access to the Stacks feature, and you’ll also want a somewhat messy desktop of files to really appreciate how this feature works. If you have a clean desktop without anything on it then you probably won’t have much use for the automatic desktop cleanup feature.

How to Enable Stacks on MacOS Desktop

Got a messy desktop with tons of files? Here’s how you can quickly arrange those into organized Stacks!

  1. Go to the Desktop of Mac OS
  2. A messy desktop before Stacks enabled on Mac

  3. Pull down the “View” menu and choose “Use Stacks”
  4. How to enable Stacks in MacOS Desktop

  5. All desktop files will now be placed into neatly categorized “Stacks” for things like “Images”, “Screenshots”, “PDF Documents”, “Documents”, etc
  6. Stacks enabled on the Mac desktop

The effect is immediately and notable, as any desktop clutter is instantly arranged into the Stacks.

You can click on any of the “Stacks” to expand out the files contained within that stack.

The files within the expanded Stacks can be interacted with just like any other item in the Finder or desktop, that means renaming, batch renaming, moving, copying, cut and paste, dragging and dropping, changing icons, etc are all doable within the expanded stack.

The animated image shows the effect of Stacks on a messy Mac desktop, taking the scattered files and images and placing them into neatly organized stacks.

Mac Stacks cleaning up a messy desktop

You can also adjust how Stacks arranges files on the Desktop of a Mac. The default is ‘Kind’ (which sorts by file type), but you can also group Stacks by various date options and file tags.

(Note that if you have multiple Macs with busy desktops and use the iCloud Desktop & Documents feature, the Stacks feature can be a little busy since it spreads your desktop across multiple machines via iCloud. You can always disable iCloud Desktop & Documents on the Mac though that will require downloading all of those files to the local Macs again)

If you’ve totally thrown in the towel on maintaining a tidy desktop and Stacks isn’t enough to wrangle it for you, you can also go the old fashioned route and hide all desktop icons on the Mac completely, which will effectively disable the desktop as a place to store anything (but the user Desktop folder continues to be accessible from Finder and elsewhere that can browse the file system).

If the Stacks feature sounds somewhat familiar to you, it may be because a same-named feature has long existed on the Mac, but specifically for the Dock. The Dock Stacks feature allows for expanded stacks in the Dock, allowing you to place things like a Recent Items stack in the Mac Dock and with some customizations available for how Dock Stacks display and are interacted with. The Dock Stacks feature still exists in modern MacOS too, it’s just obviously for the Dock whereas the Desktop Stacks feature discussed here cleans up the Desktop.

You can always disable Stacks on the Mac desktop at any time as well, simply by going back to the “View” menu and choosing to uncheck the “Use Stacks” option.

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