Desktop Tidy

Before the Desktop Tidy

This may be a familiar image, you computer desktop full of icons, folder, files and shortcuts.  How often have we searched through rows of icons looking for one file/folder/shortcut?  How many times have we sat at someone else’s desk while they searched through the same organised clutter?

Ideally, the desktop would only show what is needed.  We can be very good at adding the files we need, but are we as good at removing what we no longer need?

Normally I advise people to sort through what is on their desktop and only have what is needed there, very often it happens that a lot of icons are still needed on the desktop.  The next piece of advice I have for them is to organize what is left……  Enter my Desktop Tidy.

Desktop Tidy

What is the Desktop Tidy?

The Desktop Tidy allows you to group together the types of files by whatever category you choose.  This could be by project, job, task, person, whatever you want.  There are only 2 groups that I personally stick to

  1. I leave the top-leftmost group as “Temp” or equivalent.  When you save files to your desktop they will normally move to the top-leftmost free position.  In my Desktop Tidy above, I leave space for files to get saved/copied to here and then I move them out to another group when I can.  This avoids having files save in the middle of another group box.
  2. I keep one group box called “Usual”.  This contains the usual items on a desktop – recycle bin, certain shortcuts, etc.  In my case above they are in the bottom-right box out of the way, but still accessible.

After that, you can change the names of groups, number of groups and sizes as you see fit.  On average, I probably update my desktop tidy with new/deleted/changed groups at least twice every 3 months, depending on how projects change.


How to create a Desktop Tidy

I am running Windows 7 on my laptops and computers.  This comes with a snipping tool which is really convenient and easy to use.  I believe Windows 8 also comes with a Snipping Tool.  For older versions of Windows, you could crop screenprints of your page/slide.

  • Set up your page/slide in whatever program you use.  My personal preference is using PowerPoint and inserting boxes with no fills.  A lot of programs can do the same thing – go with your own preference.
  • Make the group-boxes bigger for certain groups if you think they will have more icons than the other group-boxes.
  • Use the snipping tool and highlight the area of your page/slide and save the image to somewhere easy to find.


  • Now, on a blank space on your desktop, right-click and left-click on “Personalize”
  • Near the bottom of the new window, click on “Desktop background”
  • Browse to the folder where you just saved your Snipping Tool image
  • Select your image
  • Change the “Picture Position” options to get a set up that suits your screen size
  • Click “Save Changes”


  • Now you can start moving your icons into the relevant group-boxes
  • As you do this, for each one you should review if you still need it, how often do you use it? Is the desktop the right place for it?  You may find that you actually end up deleting some of the icons, or saving them somewhere else where they can still be easily retrieved if needed, but still not cluttering your desktop.

The video below shows the process after setting up my page/slide.  It then shows using the Snipping Tool, saving the image and changing the desktop background to the new image.  If you are having problems viewing the video below, you can view it here on YouTube.


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