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When we were discussing about Afloat Solve Your Mac Window Management Issues with Afloat Solve Your Mac Window Management Issues with Afloat Read More , we talked about how modern people love to open so many applications at once. Too many open windows will clutter the desktop and make our work flow less comfortable. The solution that Afloat provides for organizing your desktop is making the most used window transparent and keeping it above all other windows.

There are of course other ways to organize desktop clutter, such as buying a bigger screen, opening less windows, or grouping the windows into several virtual spaces. I accidentally found a rather old application – but working just fine under Snow Leopard – which takes a completely different approach to the problem: making the windows disappear.

To show or not to show

Whether it’s only to hide your games when your boss is around, or to instantly switch your cluttered desktop into a clean working environment (where only the chosen windows are visible), Show Desktop is your solution.

As the name suggests, this small application will hide all the opened windows and show the desktop. Maybe similar to Expose, but more powerful. And all it takes is just a click.

When you run this application for the first time, Show Desktop will appear in the “Icon mode“. You can activate its function through the app icon in the dock.

Clicking the dock icon will hide all the open windows. Everything is disappeared, only the desktop is visible. The windows are not minimized nor closed, they are just vanished. In this state, the dock icons of those applications will look transparent.

If you click the Show Desktop icon while all the windows are hidden, the minimized Finder icon will appear at the dock ready to be clicked back to the desktop. But to restore everything back to where they belong, you have to click the Show Desktop dock icon again while holding the Shift key. You could also use Alt + Tab to restore only one of those hidden applications.

Further enhancements

For those who prefer to have a menubar item of Show Desktop instead of a dock icon, you could do so by going to the Preferences, either using the menu or “Command + Comma” key combination, and then tick the “Show in menubar” box.

Changing between the Dock icon and the Menubar mode requires you to restart the application.

From these General Preferences, you could also pick the icon style and choose whether you want Finder to stay open after you hide other applications. If you want to have access to this “hide/show all” ability the whole time, be sure to tick “Open Show Desktop at login” box.

In the Menubar mode, the one that you could click to hide or show all the windows is the menubar item. To show the preferences, you have to use Control + Click (or right click) at the item. The pop-up menu will also show you a list of open applications.

But the coolest feature of this app is the ability to make a kind of ‘whitelist’ of applications that will not be hidden. Users can add their own choice to the list.

Using this ability, you could repeatedly hide all the other open applications and leave only one specific app that you want to work with. This allow you organize your desktop and focus more on the work at hand and discard all the distractions.

A little trick

This app would be perfect if it has a shortcut key combination to activate the show/hide applications function. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have one. To overcome this limitation, I tried to create the shortcut key using the Keyboard preference pane. It was an unsuccessful attempt.

However, I found a simple cheat. If you use a launcher Top 7 Unknown Free Launcher Applications for Windows Top 7 Unknown Free Launcher Applications for Windows Read More – something like Quicksilver or Google Quick Search Box – to “launch” Show Desktop while this app is already active, a similar effect (hide all windows) would be triggered.

The opposite is also true. If you use a launcher to open Show Desktop while holding the Shift key, all the hidden windows would appear.

Have you tried Show Desktop to organize your desktop? Do you think you will ever need the function to quickly hide applications? Share your thoughts and opinions using the comment below.

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  1. Daniel H
    November 24, 2009 at 11:32 am

    Up until now I've been using Expose to hide my open windows, but I needed tie it to a keyboard shortcut. It's nice to have an icon to click on - one of those features of Windows/Linux tends to have out of the box.