Desktop Tips

There are several ways to give your desktop—the background area of your screen—a custom look.

Change your desktop picture

In Desktop & Screen Saver preferences, you can change the picture that’s displayed on your desktop. Your Mac comes with dozens of desktop pictures to choose from, but you can also use your own pictures, or choose a solid color.

Desktop pane of System Preferences
  1. Choose Apple menu > System Preferences, click Desktop & Screen Saver, then click Desktop.

    Open the Desktop pane for me

  2. Find the picture you want to use:

    • Use a picture that comes with your Mac: Select Desktop Pictures below Apple.

    • Use a solid color: Select Solid Colors below Apple.

    • Use your own picture: Select a location below iPhoto. You can also select Pictures below Folders, if the image you want is in your Pictures folder.

      If your image is in another folder, click Add , navigate to and select the folder, then click Choose.

  3. Click the picture you want on the right.

Use a screen saver

You can choose to have a screen saver start when you aren’t using your Mac. You might want to use a screen saver to hide the items on your desktop while you’re away.

Screen Saver pane of System Preferences
  1. Choose Apple menu > System Preferences, click Desktop & Screen Saver, then click Screen Saver.

    Open the Screen Saver pane for me

  2. Click the screen saver you want on the left.

    Previews are shown on the right.

  3. Set any screen saver settings below the screen saver preview on the right. If necessary, click Screen Saver Options.

    For example, click the Source pop-up menu to choose the location with the pictures you want to see in the screen saver.

  4. Click the “Start after” pop-up menu, then select an amount of time. The screen saver starts automatically after your Mac has been inactive for that amount of time.

  5. Select “Show with clock” to show the time when your screen saver is on.

  6. Click Hot Corners to set a shortcut for starting your screen saver.

To stop the screen saver and return to the desktop, press any key, move the mouse, or touch the trackpad.

If you want more security when you stop the screen saver, see Require a password after waking your Mac.

Make your menu bar and Dock dark

You can give your desktop a darker look by setting your menu bar and Dock to be dark.

  1. Choose Apple menu > System Preferences, then click General.

    Open General preferences for me

  2. Select “Use dark menu bar and Dock.”

Change button, menu, window, and highlight colors

Use the General pane of System Preferences to choose new colors for buttons, menus, windows, and highlighted text.

  1. Choose Apple menu > System Preferences, then click General.

    Open General preferences for me

  2. Click the Appearance pop-up menu, then choose the color you want.

  3. Click the “Highlight color” pop-up menu, then choose the color you want.


Get to know the desktop

At the top of your screen is the menu bar. At the bottom of your screen is the Dock. In between is the desktop.
Example of a desktop

Menu bar

The menu bar contains the Apple menu, app menus, status menus, Spotlight, and Notification Center. For more information, see What’s in the menu bar?

Menu bar


Your computer’s desktop takes up most of your screen, and it’s where you do most of your work. To customize the desktop, see Give your desktop a custom look. When you open apps, the app’s windows appear over the desktop. For information about working with app windows, see Window basics.

If you have files on your desktop, you can organize them at any time.


Use the Dock to quickly access apps, documents, and folders. To open items from the Dock, just click them. For example, to open the Finder—the home base for your Mac—just click the Finder icon (the icon with the smiling face). For more information about the Finder, see See your files in the Finder.

Finder icon in Dock

To easily open apps that aren’t in the Dock, use Launchpad.