Creating a clean and organized desktop

by Bradley Nice, Content Manager at — software documentation tool

There are numerous (to say the least) articles written on how to be more effective at work, how to create a productive environment and so on. Even I’ve written one not so long ago, called How to Concentrate on What You’re Doing. As well as our own Amanda Johnson with her 5 Productivity Tips For Your Workspace post.

Okay, let’s assume you’ve de-cluttered your desk, found some music, finally set your mind in the right state… And then you see this:

by aida

I’ve seen my fair share of desktops that looked similar to the one above, and every time I do, something bugs me. I mean, how do you even work with that? Not only it’s counter-productive (yes, I know people tend to say that it’s their way of ‘organizing’ — creative chaos and whatnot, but that’s a white lie at best) and can lead to procrastination, but is very distracting. If not for you, then for your colleagues. Have mercy on them😄 For all those of you who struggle with their desktops and keeping them organized, I am writing this. Let’s get down to work and get your desktop in shape.


Choosing wallpapers may seem so old, but it still can be kind of important. After all, most of the times you start your day by looking (even if briefly) at your desktop with wallpaper on it, and you do so as well when launching new apps. Having an eye-catching wallpaper with vibrant colors or a kitten, you can be lost with admiration with may distract you just enough that you can forget what you wanted to do. So there are, really, only two solutions:

  • Don’t have any wallpaper. Some people love to keep it to the absolute minimum, not setting a wallpaper at all. So this might be your case as well. It has its pros — no distraction whatsoever, o̶n̶l̶y̶ ̶a̶ ̶c̶o̶s̶m̶i̶c̶ ̶e̶m̶p̶t̶i̶n̶e̶s̶s̶.
  • Put up a simple wallpaper. Try looking for minimalistic wallpapers on the internet — there are plenty of them out there. Or try one of these polygon backgrounds — they work perfectly: there are no details that stand out so they won’t distract you.

Organizing files, folders, and shortcuts

Now that you’ve found a wallpaper that suits you, you might wanna dig deep and get all of the files, folders, and shortcuts out of the way, so the wallpaper is actually visible. There are plenty of different approaches to organizing stuff on the desktop, so let’s go over some of them. But first of all, get all of your stuff from the desktop and put it into a single folder. Call if “Purgatory” for a dramatic effect.

Taskbar and start menu

It’s easy to overuse windows taskbar, putting every single file and shortcut on it. But this way it will become a mess very quickly. What I suggest is use it as a companion for your desktop. Put all of the shortcuts that you use the most often on the taskbar and pin them there. This way they won’t clutter your desktop, but still be easily accessible.

Same goes for the start menu tiles. I know a lot of people hated Windows 8 because of them, but in Win 10 they actually became helpful. I, personally, put there shortcuts for apps that I don’t use/launch very often (either 1–2 times a day or even not every day). They are still can be accessed in a matter of seconds, and they don’t clutter my desktop.

Categorization Folders

This one is pretty easy and requires almost no attention for its upkeep. Just think about categories you can sort your stuff into. For example temporary documents (any documents that you will need briefly and that can be deleted afterward), photo and video editing (Photoshop, Lightroom, After Effects, etc.), work with documents (Word, Excel, Notepad++), and so on. This entirely depends on your needs, so you’ll have to get a little creative here.

Or you can sort all of your stuff by file type: shortcuts in one folder, .txt, .docx and other documents in other, all of the images in the third and so on.

If your work is project-based, you might want to sort everything into the project folders.

Kanban Board

If you work with lots of documents that are downloaded continuously, uploaded, sent over and deleted, you might want to think about creating a simplified kanban board on your desktop. I’ve made an example, you can see it above.

In the first, downloaded section will be all of the files that get to your PC, and that should be further sorted. In work is pretty self-explanatory, you drag here all of the files you’re currently working with. Done section is for files you finished working with and no longer need and can delete. The last one is for files that should be on your PC at all times, and that won’t go into any of the categories.

Of course, you can just download this wallpaper, but I suggest you tailor it to your needs (can be done in Paint.NET or similar free software in a matter of minutes): change column size, their order, add new sections and so on. Or you can completely change the layout to whatever you feel is right.

3rd party software

Of course, if you need anything — there’s probably a software for that. In this case, it is certain — there is plenty of desktop organization software. They are not really popular, but if you’re into it — they can help you.

Fences is one of them. It lets you effortlessly group your shortcuts and files into neat, framed groups. There’s also Rainmeter, which is a powerful tool for desktop customization. It has a lot of so-called ‘skins’ (basically, plugins that add functionality), but can be hard to set up and configure.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to you and your preferences. Find the perfect method that suits your needs, and work with it. But for the love of all that’s sacred — declutter your desktop already, it’s a pain to look at 😄

Have a nice day!
Bradley Nice,
Content Manager at — best online documentation tool for SaaS vendors