How to Hide Virtually Anything on Your Mac: A Productivity Guide
As awesome as your Mac is , not all of its features play well with your personal workflow. Some prove distracting, while some might not work as you want them to. Then there are those that you don’t want, need, or use.
Sure, you can go to the extreme of disabling or uninstalling every last feature you want to get rid of, but that’s time consuming. Till you can get around to it, why not hide all evidence of those features?
Let’s go through every corner of your Mac and see how you can hide all of the stuff you don’t need.
Your Mac’s Dashboard need not be a complete write-off, but if it isn’t working for you, hide it from System Preferences > Mission Control. You’ll have to click on the Dashboard drop-down menu and select the Off option within it. If you want to hide macOS’s Dashboard, but wish it were less obtrusive, pick the As Overlay option instead.
Set the dock to stay invisible until you move the cursor to the bottom edge of the screen. Selecting Automatically hide and show the Dock under System Preferences > Dock does the trick. Also check the box for Minimize windows into application icon to prevent individual app windows from cluttering up the dock.
You can control your Mac’s Dock hiding with a shortcut (Option + Cmd + D). Activate it from System Preferences > Keyboard > Shortcuts > Launchpad & Dock by selecting Turn Dock Hiding On/Off.
The Menu Bar
What works for the dock can work for the menu bar also. With a slight twist, of course. Check the Automatically hide and show the menu bar option under System Preferences > General to keep the menu bar out of your way. Move the cursor to the top edge of the screen when you want to access the menu bar.
Menu Bar (or Status Bar) Icons
If your Mac’s menu bar is messy and draws your eye once too often, it’s time for a cleanup.
To hide system icons such as battery status and Bluetooth, you’ll have to visit the relevant System Preferences pane and uncheck the Show… in menu bar option.
Want a quicker solution? Hold down the Cmd key and drag unneeded system icons off the menu bar and release them when you see an “x” mark next to the cursor. Whoosh! They’re gone. This method also works on the Date and Time display as well as the fast user switching menu item in the status bar.
You can also hide the latter from System Preferences > Users & Groups > Login Options. You have to uncheck the Show fast user switching menu as checkbox.
It’s a pity you can’t budge the Spotlight icon, the Notification Center one, or third-party app icons by dragging with Cmd. You’ll need an app to make them disappear. Vanilla (Free) is the simplest choice. Try Bartender ($15) for more control over the hiding options.
Hit Cmd + H to make the active application disappear. It won’t even show up in Mission Control.
You can also hide a Mac app from the app-specific menu that’s sandwiched between the Apple menu and the File menu. You know the one: it’s hidden behind the name of the application you’re viewing. Look for the Hide App_Name option in that menu. Select Hide Others if you want all apps except for the current one to do a disappearing act.
Are you wondering how hiding applications is different from minimizing them? Well, minimizing an app works one window at a time while hiding the app works on all its windows at once.
Also, you can bring up hidden apps via the app switcher (i.e. by hitting Cmd + Tab). You can’t revive minimized apps this way. You’ll have to click on the relevant app icon in the dock to restore the app. It’s always the oldest app window that shows up, regardless of the order in which you minimized the windows. Restore the rest with App Exposé.
In all macOS applications including Finder, one menu holds the key to hide (and display) various toolbars: the View menu. By toolbars, we mean the tab bar, sidebars, the title bar, and so on.
Of course, certain toolbars are application specific. For example, Path Bar in Finder, Reading List Sidebar and Favorites Bar in Safari, the Folders sidebar in Notes. As you switch between apps, the View menu gets updated to match the active app.
Look for the keyboard shortcut listed next to various options in the View menu and memorize the ones for the toolbars you toggle often. Feel free to create custom shortcuts if you can never remember the default ones.
Third-party apps also use the View menu to give you control over toolbars. Some apps scatter the toolbar controls across multiple menus. In most cases they’re easy enough to find.
You can (usually) hide individual sidebar elements via their right-click menu. The items in the iTunes Library section, for example.
If you know how to hide menu bar icons, you know how to get rid of toolbar icons — the process is similar. You can hold Cmd and drag the icons off the toolbar one by one.
Sidebar Contents in Finder
To hide a sidebar item in Finder, all you have to do is click on the Remove from Sidebar option from its right-click menu. This works for the sidebar items under all the four sections: Favorites, Shared, Devices, and Tags.
You can also do away with sidebar elements by Command-dragging them one by one out of the sidebar. Release the item only after you see an “x” mark next to it.
When you want to get rid of a bunch of sidebar items at once, try this faster method instead. Under Finder > Preferences… > Sidebar, uncheck the box corresponding to each item you would like to hide. This works only for the system-specified sidebar items (except for tags). That is, you’ll have to use one of the two methods above if you want to hide custom sidebar folders.
For sidebar tags, you’ll have to visit Finder > Preferences… > Tags and go through the whole “unchecking” process there.
Right-Click Menu Options
You can’t hide some of the basic options that appear in various right-click menus on Mac. For example, Get Info in Finder or Reload Page in Safari. Here’s what you can hide: services, favorite tags, and Share menu extensions.
The services you see listed in any right-click menu depend on what you have clicked or selected. You’ll see these same services under File > Services for the active app.
You can remove services from your Mac’s right-click menu in System Preferences > Keyboard > Shortcuts > Services. Services that you have created using Automator and the ones that come bundled with third-party apps also show up in this list, and you can hide those too.
Let’s tackle the tags marked as “favorites” now. These show up as colorful bubbles in the right-click menu for Finder folders and files. Yes, it’s handy to have the ones you use most often in this list, but the rest are distractions.
Hide all but the most used tags from the right-click menu via Finder > Preferences… > Tags. Drag the ones you don’t need out of the Favorite Tags section.
A Finder setting controls the visibility of desktop items like hard disks and external drives. If you want to hide desktop shortcuts, you’ll need to uncheck the relevant box under Finder > Preferences… > General.
As for the other desktop icons (such as file, folder, or app shortcuts) you can hide them from the desktop by moving them to another folder on your Mac. Since they’re shortcuts and not the actual files, deleting them is also harmless. You can access the original files either from Finder or Spotlight.
What about hiding all desktop icons in one shot? Yes, it’s possible! The standard way to do it is with a couple of Terminal commands. Open the Terminal application and execute the following command:
defaults write com.apple.finder CreateDesktop false
Next, relaunch Finder with this command:
To restore the icons to the desktop, repeat the commands above, replacing “false” with “true” in the first command.
Now for the easy way out! Get an app like HiddenMe to banish icons from the desktop with a single click or hot key. Also, be sure to read this guide on cleaning up your Mac desktop to increase productivity .
Share Menu Extensions
The Share menu pops up in three places within various apps on your Mac: the File menu, the toolbar, and the right-click menu.
Want to hide some of the options in your Mac’s Share menu? Head to System Preferences > Extensions > Share Menu and deselect their checkboxes. A few of the options are uneditable though and will appear grayed out.
You can also jump to Share menu settings by clicking on the More… option in the menu itself.
Any changes you make to the Share menu get reflected across your Mac, but not if they’re irrelevant to the app you’re viewing. For example, social media share options don’t show up in the Finder Share menu. Likewise, the Notes option is missing from the Share menu when you’re using the Notes app.
Notification Center Widgets
Click on the Edit button in the Today tab of the Notification Center to hide any of the widgets on display (or to add some). Next, click on the “minus” sign next to each of the widgets you want to get rid of and hit the Done button at the end to wrap up.
If you want to hide widgets in bulk, it’s easier to do it from System Preferences > Extensions > Today. There you’ll see a list of all available widgets and can hide them by deselecting the appropriate checkbox.
Spotlight splits up your search results into categories like Applications and Documents. You probably don’t need all the categories it displays. Hiding the unnecessary ones is painless. Disable them from System Preferences > Spotlight > Search Results and you’re good to go.
The Developer category is a tricky one if you don’t have the Xcode application installed. You won’t see this category listed in the settings, but you can force it to appear with a quick workaround. Open the Terminal app and execute this command:
Run this command next:
With these commands, you’re fooling the your Mac into thinking that you have Xcode installed. (If you open the Applications folder, you’ll see an app named Xcode, which is an empty file.)
Now you should be able to see the Developer category listed under System Preferences > Spotlight > Search Results. If it doesn’t show up, restart your Mac. Deselect the category to stop it from showing up in Spotlight search.
Switch to the Privacy tab in the Spotlight settings pane to add folders that you would like to keep out of search results.
Files and Folders
It doesn’t matter if you’re hiding Finder data because it’s getting in the way or because it’s sensitive. You need a go-to workflow for it.
The default method for hiding files and folders on a Mac involves Terminal commands. Since we have already dedicated an entire article to it , we’ll jump straight to a couple of alternative and easier methods to hide Finder data.
Hit Cmd + Shift + . (period) in Finder if all you want to do is make hidden files visible . Hit the shortcut again and the files go back to being invisible .
For the odd file you want to keep hidden, create a new folder in your user library (~/Library) and stash the file there. Since Spotlight doesn’t index the user library, your “hidden” files are safe. That is until someone who knows how to access the user library stumbles upon them or goes in search of them. Not a foolproof solution, as you can see.
If you deal with hidden data often, consider installing a point-and-click app like Hide Folders (Free) or DesktopUtility (Free). It will speed up the process of creating hidden files and toggling their visibility.
Mac App Store Purchases
Any app you install from the Mac App Store shows up under Store > Purchased. This section can fill up fast if you experiment with apps on a regular basis. If you want to hide some of the apps you’ve purchased or downloaded, that’s easy to do, if a little time consuming to do in bulk. Right-click on any app you want to hide from the Purchased list and select the Hide Purchase… option that appears.
In these times, notifications are public enemy number one. You can silence them all with the flick of a switch from the Notification Center! Scroll up in the Notifications tab to find and activate the Do Not Disturb (DND) mode. You can also Option-click the Notification Center menu bar icon to trigger the DND mode.
Even when DND is inactive, it’s best to hide notifications that are annoying and/or worthless. You can do this from System Preferences > Notifications. Go through each app listed in the sidebar and customize how and where its notifications show up.
To hide the notifications for an app completely, set the Calendar alert style to None, and uncheck all the boxes listed below it. This will:
- Silence the audio cue notifications (Play sound for notifications).
- Hide the icon badges that show up in the dock to say “you’ve got an update!” (Badge app icon).
- Prevent notifications from showing up in the Notification Center (Show in Notification Center).
- Hide notifications from prying eyes by banning them from the lock screen (Show notifications on lock screen).
Visit the Do Not Disturb section from the sidebar if you want to hide all alerts on a schedule.
If you want Finder to hide extensions from filenames, disable Show all filename extensions from Finder > Preferences… > Advanced. Now you’ll see only the filenames, unless you have explicitly added extensions while naming or renaming specific files.
Finder Item Info
Finder displays extra information or “item info” for files and folders right below their name. For example, the file size for iWork documents, the image size for photos, and the number of items within for folders.
That information is pretty useful, but if you would rather hide it, open View > Show View Options and uncheck the box for Show item info. This setting works on individual folders and not across Finder, much like Finder views.
App Windows for Login Items
Yes, you need certain apps to launch at login, but do you need to see their windows pop up every time you restart your Mac? Probably not. Hide those windows from System Preferences > Users & Groups. Select the current user from the sidebar and switch to its Login Items tab. Now, for any item whose windows you don’t want to see after logging in, select the checkbox in the Hide column. Your Mac will still launch these apps at login, but in the background.
System Preferences Panes
If you peek into the View menu when you have System Preferences running, you’ll notice a Customize… option there. Click on it and you’ll be able to declutter the preference panes you don’t use often. Hit the Done button once you have finished deselecting the checkboxes for the panes you want to hide.
The Launchpad feature on your Mac is as good as extinct and already out of the way. If you would like to “hide” it further, disable its trackpad shortcut from System Preferences > Trackpad > More Gestures. Next, unlink its hot key from System Preferences > Keyboard > Shortcuts. Launchpad will continue to stay accessible via Spotlight though.
Each application usually comes with a few elements that are unique to it. For example, Safari has a Develop menu, the Mail app comes with list previews , and iTunes has its Apple Music features. To hide such elements, you’ll have to dig around a bit in the Preferences section or the View menu of the app in question.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
We all know the benefits of clearing out clutter in all its forms, but we often dismiss visual clutter as inconsequential. It’s not, which is something we discover after we deal with it.
Now it’s time to shunt those visual distractions from your Mac and experience the life-changing magic of (digitally) tidying up .
What else can you hide on your Mac or wish that you could? Share those pet peeves with us, and if you have managed to fix them, tell us how!
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