From macOS Sonoma: Show desktop by clicking (and how to disable it)

If you have many apps open under macOS and your Mac desktop is therefore not visible, there are now a number of ways to quickly regain access to this area. Away macOS 13 Adventure For example, the Stage Manager can be used for tidier work. With macOS 14 Sonoma there is an option that can be used both with and without the Stage Manager: show the desktop by clicking on the background image, for example next to the dock. This ensures that the app windows move to the side and the desktop becomes visible. Here's why this new feature is (probably) there and how to disable it.

If you click on the desktop background image in macOS Sonoma, the app windows move to the side and you can interact with the desktop objects. This can be useful, but it can also be annoying in the event of accidental clicks. The function can be deactivated in the system settings.
If you click on the desktop background image in macOS Sonoma, the app windows move to the side and you can interact with the desktop objects. This can be useful, but it can also be annoying in the event of accidental clicks. The function can be deactivated in the system settings.

Click wallpaper to view desktop objects

If you find a small scrap of your desktop background between all your app windows or next to the dock, then simply click on it from macOS 14 - and the desktop will be displayed to you. But it's not just the background image that becomes visible, the stored files and folders, the drives (if displayed) and the desktop widgets that can also be placed with this Mac operating system also become visible.

For example, if you click on the wallpaper next to the dock (indicated by the icon in the lower right corner), the Pages window moves aside and the desktop appears.
For example, if you click on the wallpaper next to the dock (indicated by the icon in the lower right corner), the Pages window moves aside and the desktop appears.
The desk gets a dark edge. It's even darker on the right because that's where the Pages window was placed. But now you can use all desktop objects.
The desk gets a dark edge. It's even darker on the right because that's where the Pages window was placed. But now you can use all desktop objects.
Just single clicks on the wallpaper bring the app windows back. As you can see on the right, you can hold down the left mouse button to select desktop objects. The view is retained.
Just single clicks on the wallpaper bring the app windows back. As you can see on the right, you can hold down the left mouse button to select desktop objects. The view is retained.

In the desktop display triggered in this way, you can even interact with the desktop objects, open files and folders, click on widgets, use their functions, etc. If you then click on the background image again, the app windows move back into the foreground. This all sounds more complicated than it is; it is very intuitive to use. Once you've tried it once or twice, you'll get the hang of it.

It takes some getting used to: Clicking on the wallpaper again brings apps back

While this is all very intuitive to use, it can get annoying if you accidentally misclick. If you didn't want to click on the background image at all, but on a widget, a drive or a folder, then the view is suddenly blocked again by the open apps. That can certainly break the workflow. 

Although you can mark desktop objects in this view with the mouse button pressed, you can also make a mistake there. If you don't hold the mouse button properly or accidentally trigger a single click for motor reasons, then the desktop display is gone again. So: a good idea, but annoying with accidental clicks.

Show (de)activate the desk by clicking: Here's how!

I only noticed this feature by accident. Because I clicked on the desktop or its wallpaper in order to be able to use the menus for the Finder in the menu bar. I noticed that the app windows move to the side and the desks (I use two screens) each get a dark border - as in the screenshots shown above. In the long run I found this annoying and wanted to disable the function. 

If you feel the same way, then you no longer need to look for a solution. Because here you will find the step-by-step instructions with which you can switch off the display of the desktop by clicking on the background image from macOS 14 Sonoma:

  1. Click on the top left of the menu bar Apple logo ()
  2. In its drop-down menu, select the System settings ... from
  3. Now click in the list on the left Desk & dock an
  4. Look for the “Desk” area on the right
  5. Next to "Click wallpaper to show desktop objects," select "Only in Stage Manager."
  6. Possibly restart the Mac (this was a tip from a reader where it only worked after a restart)
Click on wallpaper to view desktop objects - useful for some, annoying for me. So I disabled the feature in Sonoma System Preferences.
Click on wallpaper to view desktop objects - useful for some, annoying for me. So I disabled the feature in Sonoma System Preferences.

Feature usefulness vs. accidental clicks

As noted above, this new feature isn't a bad idea. Especially with the possibility of placing widgets on the desktop as of macOS 14 Sonoma, this quick access is quite useful. Of course, one could argue that you can also just click on the clock in the upper-right corner to see the notification center's widget overview, but some might prefer the desktop tiles.

It will certainly take a while before you stop letting yourself be ripped out of the workflow by accidental wallpaper clicks or until you get used to clicking carelessly. If you don't need such desktop shortcuts to interact with widgets or use drives, files, and folders in that location, you can turn off the feature as shown above. Feel free to leave a comment if you find this useful or not!

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9 comments on “Mac OS Sonoma and higher: Click to show desktop (and how to disable it)”

    1. Hello Beatrix,

      I'm glad the post helped you!

      I also found the function annoying and at first I didn't even know what was happening and why. Luckily you can turn it off :D

      Best regards
      John

  1. This didn't work for me with an Apple M1, 2020 with Mac OS 14.0 - but then I restarted and it worked. Maybe it depends on the device. But if not, it must be in the instructions.

  2. Hi all,
    Unfortunately it didn't solve the problem for me. I want to turn this off, but I use the Stage Manager, so limiting the annoying function to the Stage Manager doesn't help.
    The function itself is good, but I work with 2 additional monitors. The problem since this function was introduced is that windows often cannot be moved to another monitor with the mouse and jump back, then I have to go to the relevant one first Click the monitor in the background, often twice. Then I can move the window onto the monitor.
    Extremely annoying.

  3. The tip was helpful.
    But I have another directly related problem: Since the update to Sonoma, the menus in the Finder no longer open completely, but are only about 1.5 lines high and have scroll arrows up and down. Any slight movement of the mouse causes these menus to scroll through at lightning speed. It takes a lot of fumbling to get to a desired menu item. For all other applications the menus continue to be displayed normally (=full).

    1. Hello, tobias! That sounds like a bug. The Finder menus should always be fully expanded and not accessible by scrolling. So I don't have a solution here, except maybe restart or try with a new user and see if the problem occurs there too. Then you would know whether there might be a problem in the user folder.

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