Software > DesktopSweeper



freeware for Mac OS X
by Philippe Martin
version 1.4b1

What is DesktopSweeper?

DesktopSweeper is a freeware—but donations are welcome—APE Module (the equivalent of Unsanity's haxies) that allows you to hide—and show again—the Finder's Desktop icons. I wrote it because CodeTek dropped that feature from VirtualDesktop 3.0 after they got me addicted to it in previous versions. I use to have lots of icons on my Desktop, but I don't want to see them until I need it. My Desktop looks much better when they're hidden.

DesktopSweeper doesn't work by covering the Desktop so your desktop background is not affected at all, even if you use an application that displays animated or screensaver'ed backgrounds. It's also very useful to Cocoatech Path Finder users who keep the Finder running in the background.

Note that if you log out or quit the Finder while icons are hidden, the next time you'll log-in (or launch the Finder) the icons will be displayed where you expect them.


DestkopSweeper can be installed in Mac OS X 10.4.x (Tiger) up to 10.5.x (Leopard), both on PPC and Intel based Macs. It doesn't work on more recent versions of the system and probably never will.

If you're still running Jaguar, use DesktopSweeper 1.1.
If you're still running Panther, use DesktopSweeper 1.3


DesktopSweeper1.4b1 (1.8 MB)

Installing DesktopSweeper

Run the installer, follow its instructions, then log-out and back in (or, if APE 2.0 was already installed, quit and re-launch the Finder). That's it.

Note that the installer will also install the latest version (2.5b1) of Unsanity's Application Enhancer if it's not already present. Application Enhancer is required. Get more info about it from:

If it's not installed already, the installer will also allow you to install the latest version (1.5b2) of SmartCrashReports, a freeware enhancement for Apple's CrashReporter application. SmartCrashReports isn't required, but installing it would allow you to send me the crash log with one click if DesktopSweeper happened to crash the Finder. See more info about it at:

Using DesktopSweeper

DesktopSweeper is very easy to use: just press Cmd-Return to hide Desktop icons, and press it again to show them back (this is the default HotKey, but it can be changed from DesktopSweeper's preferences pane).

You can also set DesktopSweeper to do it automatically for you, displaying Desktop icons when the Finder is frontmost, and/or hiding them when it's not.

You can set it to hide the Finder too (like if you pressed Cmd-H) at the same time it hides Desktop icons (to hide Finder windows too), and finally you can set it to disable taking the Finder to the front by clicking on the Desktop when icons are hidden.

There are two different ways to hide the Desktop icons, with slightly different behaviors:

  • Not hiding new items: When Desktop icons are hidden, any item dropped or created onto the Destkop is visible and can be manipulated (moved, opened, etc). As a side effect you can also make hidden icons visible by selecting them (if you know where they are or by accident).
  • Hiding new items: When Desktop icons are hidden, you cannot drop items onto the Desktop and any item created onto the Desktop is immediately hidden too, until you make the icons visible. Note that when using this method you can create a folder on the desktop from the save dialog of any application, but you cannot do it by pressing Cmd-Shift-N in the Finder (until icons are visible again).

You can choose which of these methods to use from DesktopSweeper's preferences.


To access DesktopSweeper's preferences, launch System Preferences, click on APE Manager and click on DesktopSweeper.


The preferences pane allows you to change the HotKey. To do so, click on the "Change..." button, then press your replacement HotKey. Finally click on "Accept" to validate the new HotKey and restart the Finder (which is necessary to enable the new HotKey). Make sure to choose a HotKey not already used by another application, as DesktopSweeper would take precedence over that application.

Automatic Mode

In automatic mode, DesktopSweeper can display Desktop icons automatically when the Finder is the frontmost application, and/or hide them when it isn't. Use the sliders to define the delay after which DesktopSweeper will toggle icons visibility if you didn't change the frontmost application in the meantime.

Hiding also the Finder

When this box is checked, DesktopSweeper will send a hide command to the Finder each time it hides Desktop icons. Use that option if you want Finder's windows to be hidden too.

Hiding new items

This checkbox allows to choose if new items will be hidden or not, but the behavior is not exactly the same in Panther and Tiger. For more information see Using DesktopSweeper above.

Ignore clicks on Desktop

This checkbox allows to prevent the Finder to come to the front when you click on the Desktop while icons are hidden, which may be particularly useful to Path Finder users. This checkbox is enabled only when Hiding new items is checked.

Known issues and frequent questions:

  • Does it modify the Finder permanently?
    No, it doesn't modify the Finder in any way. When the Finder launches, DesktopSweeper just adds a couple of functions to what the Finder loads into memory. Nothing is ever written to disk (except DesktopSweeper's prefs file, at ~/Library/Preferences/net.macrobyte.flip.DesktopSweeper.plist).

  • I read that Unsanity's Application Enhancer causes instabilities or affects performances. Why does DesktopSweeper require it?
    The only application that can hide desktop icons is the Finder itself, but unfortunately it's a feature it doesn't provide. Therefore, DesktopSweeper must load itself into the Finder in order to add the necessary functions from the inside. There are several methods to do that, but I've chosen Unsanity's framework because I believe it was much safer that way. Application Enhancer has been tested and used for years (including by myself) and I know that when it's used reasonably (that is if you don't keep loading every APE module out there into every application you use) it won't cause any problem. If you want to learn more on how Application Enhancer works, see:

  • Sometimes, when I click on the Desktop while icons are hidden, the name of an item on the Desktop appears out of nowhere in edition mode. What's going on?
    In Panther, DesktopSweeper hides the icons but it doesn't affect the invisible layer that allows you to edit file or folder names and drop items on the Desktop. So it's possible to enter accidentally in "rename" mode (like when you click on a file name). In this case just press the Return key to exit editing mode without changing the name. This problem doesn't occur in Tiger..


Please Feel free to contact me with comments and/or bug reports.


If you find DesktopSweeper useful and want to show your appreciation, please consider making a donation by clicking on the PayPal button at the bottom right of the page. It will help to make DesktopSweeper even better.


I would like especially to thank the following people:

Slava Karpenko and Rosyna Keller from Unsanity (, the former for his invaluable infos about low level API's in Mac OS X, and the latter for answering my numerous questions about Carbon and Application Enhancer. And thanks to Unsanity as a whole for Application Enhancer, SmartCrashReports, and their Haxies.

Matthew Klahn from CodeTek ( for his infos about Finder's internals. Also DesktopSweeper was inspired by a similar feature present in versions 2.x of CodeTek's indispensable VIrtualDesktop.

Many thanks also to the following people for beta testing DesktopSweeper: Corentin Cras-Méneur, Slava Karpenko, Rosyna Keller, Matthew Klahn, Jake Kornegay, Ronald Leroux, Dave Nanian, Mike Piakek-Jimenez, Marcus Vorwaller.

And finally, thanks to those who wrote reviews about DesktopSweeper, reported bugs, or sent enhancement requests.

Versions history

1.4b1 - 28/02/2008

  • Compatible with Leopard and Tiger (Panther is no longer supported).
  • Installs Application Enhancer 2.5b1.
  • Installs (optionally) SmartCrashReports 1.5b2.

1.3 - 18/06/2006

  • Universal Binary (runs on both PPC and Intel based Macs).
  • Added ways to enable separately Display and Hide automatically.
  • Added an option to prevent the Finder to come to the front when clicking on the Desktop while icons are hidden.
  • Reworded most tooltips in the prefs pane.
  • Fixed a bug where the hidden state could get reversed for icons that were partially offscreen.
  • Changed the bundle identifier. Therefore, the name of the preferences file changed too and users of previous versions can delete the old prefs file ~/Library/Preferences/com.flip.desktopSweeper.plist.
  • Added support and optional installation of SmartCrashReports.
  • Now comes with Unsanity's Application Enhancer 2.0 and Installer 3.6.1.

1.2 - 28/05/2005

  • Improved support of Tiger (where it was no longer possible to take the Finder to the front by clicking on the Desktop when icons were hidden).
  • Jaguar is no longer supported. I wouldn't be surprised if this version still worked in Jaguar too, but please don't ask me to fix it if it's not the case. Use the 1.1 instead.
  • Fixed a bug where Desktop icons were no longer clickable if the "Hide new items" pref was unchecked while icons were hidden.
  • Tweaked the prefs a bit to make the slider values more readable.
  • Now comes with Application Enhancer 1.5 and Unsanity Installer 3.5.

1.1 - 24/08/2004

  • Improved support of multiple monitors.
  • Added the automatic mode, in which icons are displayed when the Finder is frontmost and hidden when it's not.
  • Added an option to also hide the Finder along with Desktop icons (just like by using cmd-H).
  • Icons are now displayed/hidden all at once instead of one by one (thanks to Slava!).
  • Reworked the prefs window, replacing help texts with contextual tooltips.
  • Now comes with (and installs if necessary) APE 1.4.2 (more info at:

1.0 - 6/03/2004

  • First Release.

1.0b1 - 20/02/2004

  • First beta.

Legal Stuff

DesktopSweeper is free software: you can redistribute as you want as long as you don't make any profit of it, and as long the original readme file is joined.

This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY. If you use it, you do it at your own risks.


© 2004-2008 Philippe Martin
Icon and parts of the code © 2002-2006 Unsanity LCC