Clutter on the Desktop: 5 Solutions

Have you ever wondered how to unclutter your desktop when you have multiple applications running at the same time? John Carter to the rescue!

"Let's say you have Mail and Safari and Finder and iTunes and iChat and iPhoto all running at the same time. The iTunes application is on top and buried somewhere behind it is Mail. How to find the Mail app? Well, don't do it by closing down applications.

As you know, there are at least always three ways to accomplish the same thing on a Mac. (And John proceeds to give us FIVE ways!)

1. The simplest way to bring an open application to the front (from behind other apps) is to find the icon for that application in the Dock and click on it.

2. Another simple method is to press Function key 9. This spreads out all the applications in smaller images across the desktop. Select the one you want to be in front.

3. Using the mouse isn't always fun for me because I like to keep my hands on the keyboard, so holding down the Command key and tapping the Tab key brings up a row of icons across the middle of the screen. The first icon on the far left is the application that is currently on top. While holding down the Command key, continue tapping on the Tab key and each icon in the row will highlight in turn. When you get to the application you want to be on top, let go of the Command key. Pressing the Shift key with the Tab key selects the previous icon in the row (moving right to left instead of left to right). You can also simply select the desired icon with the mouse and when you release the Command key that application will pop to the front.

4. You can assign applications to always be displayed in its own separate desktop window using Spaces (for Leopard and Snow Leopard only). Spaces is also known as Virtual Desktop. This method gets a little more technical, but plenty of help is available using Mac Help (select Help in the Finder, then select Mac help, then enter 'spaces' in the search bar). With Spaces, you can assign iChat to Space 2, iTunes to Space 3, iPhoto to Space 4, and allow Mail, Safari and Finder to be in all spaces (Mail cannot be assigned to any one Space, it is always displayed in all Spaces). You can create as many Spaces as you like. Each Space can be activated (brought to the front, so to speak) by pressing the Control key and a number key that corresponds to the Space number, or by pressing the F8 key (you can assign this function to any function key) and selecting from the displayed miniature Spaces. This could be fun, and it's the preferred method I use for putting certain apps in their own Space.

5. Yet another way to keep your desktop uncluttered is to switch your Mac from the default Multi-application mode (where all applications are stacked on the screen) to Single-application mode (where you only see on the desktop the one application that you are working with). This requires using a Terminal and entering command lines. The complete instructions can be found here.

Do you know of another way to pop an application to the front? Send your suggestion to "