Show Desktop on Mac

One of the very frustrating things in Mac OS X is that you cannot click a button and show Desktop. Well, you can … sort of. You have three options:

  • Press F11, this will engage expose and move all windows to the edge of your screen,
  • Click anywhere on your desktop while holding Cmnd-Option on your keyboard – this will hide all programs, except Finder if open, or
  • You can use ShowDesktop, a free application by Everyday Software that sits in your dock or your menu bar and shows desktop by simply clicking on it.

12 thoughts on “Show Desktop on Mac

  1. Marvin Tucker says:

    I’ve never had this frustration. My screen corner hotspot has been set to “Desktop” since I got my Mac.

    System Preferences -> Expose -> Active Screen Corners

  2. Kevin says:

    All of these methods work. The issue will all of them is you have to remember something. Which hot corner? Which set of keys to press?

  3. Nick says:

    This is a very handy app! Thanks so much!!

    About the comments above:
    I think they simply don’t realize what a real show desktop should look like – not just shaded pieces of the windows around, but a clean desktop instead!

  4. Brad says:

    Agreed with Nick.

    Show Desktop is a great utility. I’m surprised such basic functionality isn’t built into the OS. Especially useful for me is the ability to expose just one app plus desktop (for example, if you need to drag something from desktop to that app, or from app to desktop). Something I do all the time. Neither the 4-finger drag nor Expose nor F12 support this; ctrl-tab (which I otherwise like) pops up all apps, not just the one I want.

    Thanks for the tip!

  5. Eduardo says:

    An easier way:
    Download BetterTouchTool (free) and setup either a Keyboard or Mouse shortcut, or both, to perform the action: Hide All Windows.


  6. Andy M says:

    System Preferences —> Trackpad –> More Gestures —> Check “Show Desktop”
    Use your thumb and three fingers and spread.
    Of course, if you are not using a trackpad, this advice is not very useful to you.
    Anyway, thanks for the notes here. They at least got me investigating in the right places to find my own answer.

  7. AprilD says:

    I am using Mac OSX 10.5.8 — but cannot find that option in preferences. The most it will let me do is set the middle button to zoom in when pressing down one of three buttons (ctrl, option, or command)…

    I remember having this function on an older computer and it’s making me crazy not to have that now!


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