Desktility 2.3, by No-U-Turn
Posted: 19-Mar-2007

3 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: No-U-Turn Type: SHAREWARE

Reviewer: Gene Strand Class: UTILITY
     
$12.95   Download

Overview
The Mac OS X Finder will occasionally change the locations of your desktop icons on its own. This may occur when changing screen resolutions, when plugging in another monitor, when running certain applications (especially those that temporarily change screen resolution), and after a reboot when your desktop icon sizes are less than 128x128. There is one program that provides relief to this frustrating situation, and that is No-U-Turn's Desktility. The Mac version of this simple utility provides two basic functions: to save and restore desktop icon locations, and to save and restore application window locations on the desktop. Desktility may appear to be the OS X version of the OS 9 "Desktop Resetter" application; however, the OS 9 Finder did not have the horrible spacial bugs of the OS X Finder, so there is a greater need for Desktility just to maintain desktop sanity.

Requirements

  • Mac OS X version 10.4 or later


Price

$12.95


Installation
Installing Desktility is simple and straight forward. Go to the
Desktility web site, and click on the "download" button for the trial version (or the "buy now" button if you are ready to buy). Choose the "Download Desktility 2.3 for Mac" button, and the Desktility download begins (a 620K .dmg file). Once completed, the Desktility image mounts, and from the Desktility folder, you drag the application to your Applications folder.

In Use
The first time Desktility is started, the main window will briefly appear, but the window will be immediately covered by another window asking if you want to purchase now, enter a serial number, or try the demo. This is typical of shareware software.


Desktility demo splash screen


You can try the demo for free, or if you want to purchase it, you can click on Purchase Now, and that takes you to a page where you can buy a serial number. Once you have a serial number, then you click on the Enter Serial button, enter in the serial, and this splash screen goes away.

The Desktility main window is where the heart of Desktility can be found. On this window, you have two primary tabs: Desktop Icons and Application Windows.


Desktility Main Window

The first tab, "Desktop Icons", allows you to specify whether to save or restore the positions of desktop icon locations. The Mac OS X Finder has an annoying bug where it can over-reserve pixel space for icons regardless of the view size of your desktop icons. For instance, if you are using 36x36 size icons, you'll find that the Finder will never place newly created files or folders anywhere near existing files and folders. This is because it doesn't recognize that the current icon view size is 36x36, and instead ensures that there is enough space around each file and folder as if it were 128x128 in size (this has been a known bug in OS X since 10.0). You can manually move files on the desktop, but when the Finder creates new files, or re-orders the existing files, they get tossed in places far away from where you would expect them to be (and more importantly, where you want them to be). If you have a number of volumes mounted (I have 9 volumes mounted on my desktop, 7 for partitioned internal drives, and 2 for external drives), you'll also find that if you place any files within that 128x128 area around the volumes, then after a reboot, the Finder thinks that there's no room to put the volume icons in those locations, so it tosses them in the first free 128x128 area on the desktop (which is usually somewhere you least expect it to be, making it a real pain to chase down). If you play games that change screen resolutions, you may notice from time to time how the Finder gets really confused and dumps most or all of your desktop icons into the top right corner of your screen. Good luck manually trying to put all those files and folders back where you want! With Desktility, you can automatically get them reset to their desired positions.

The first thing you want to do is move your desktop icons into the positions that you would like them to stay. Move your files, folders, and your volumes as desired, and then click on the "Save Positions" button in Desktility. Now, if something screwy happens, like you inadvertently re-order your desktop icons via the Finder, or you play a game that messes with your resolution and confuses the Finder, you can then use the "Restore Positions" under Desktility, and voila! They are all back to where they should be. If you have an issue with Volume icons being displaced after restarts, then you want Desktility to automatically run each time your Mac boots up (either by manually adding it to your startup items using Systems Preferences, or specifying "Add to Login Items" under Desktility preferences). It isn't obvious in the application or the Desktility help documentation, but Desktility will automatically perform a restore when the application starts up if it recognizes that you've already done a "save positions".


Example of Desktility Keeping Desktop Volumes Orderly

In the figure above, the left side shows where the Finder places all of the volume icons after a restart by default. As illustrated by the yellow square, because there are folders that intersect that 128x128 pixel space, the Finder thinks there is no room for the icons (even though they are 36x36). With Desktility in place, the volume icons are restored exactly where they should be, regardless of the location of any other icons on the desktop. This is also a nice feature because it ensures that the volumes are always in the same order after each reboot. I have found that with this many volumes, that even when there is ample space to place them along the right side, the Finder arbitrarily orders the non-system volumes. It's nice to have the volumes always in the same order (always knowing where everything is goes a long ways in desktop management).

It should be noted that, after a "save positions" is performed, any new icons that appear on the desktop will be ignored during a restore and left where they are. A new icon placed at the same location of a saved icon that was subsequently moved will result in two icons at the same location when the restore button is pushed. When adding new files to your desktop that you would like to be fixed in location, it's good to go back to Desktility and click on "save positions" again. Also, a save must be made for each screen resolution in order to preserve the icon locations for that particular resolution.

Under the "Application Windows" tab, you can specify whether to save or restore application window locations as well. This feature saves the position of all the open windows of all running applications. I found this useful for various Finder windows that I like to keep open when I'm working on a particular project. It will move the windows into position, but if you close the windows, it will not re-open the windows when you perform a restore. That would be undesirable in most applications, but with Finder windows, when you want to re-establish the windows you work in for a project, it would be nice to have the windows open upon a restore. I also found a bug with the Applications Windows restore conflicting with DragThing. After a save positions, followed by a restore positions, my main DragThing dock moved from the top of my desktop to the middle of my desktop. This, of course, is a very undesirable effect.

The first time the "Save Positions" button is pushed for the application window option, Desktility will display a box indicating that it requires "Accessibility API" be enabled (unless already enabled), and ask if System Preferences should be launched so that access can be turned on. Clicking OK will open the appropriate preference window. Click the box in the lower-left corner to enable access for assistive devices, close System Preferences, and then click on the "Save Positions" button again. Once this initial setup is complete, the application windows save and restore functions can be used. If a new application has been started since the save, it's window position will be left untouched by a restore. Any application that has been exited following a save will not be restarted. Only applications that were active at the time of the save will be moved (and only if the windows are still open).


If "Enable access" is not checked, Desktility will not work properly


There are a set of three buttons at the top of the Desktility window: About, Prefs, and Help. Clicking on the "About" button in the Desktility window will display the version of Desktility you are running. From the About window, you can also click on a link that takes you directly to the Desktility website.

Clicking on "Prefs" will open the Desktility Settings window.


Desktility Settings Window

Besides specifying to add Desktility to your login items, you can also set other various flags, such as automatically restoring icons after a resolution change (great if you play games), not showing the Desktility window when it runs (makes it less obtrusive if you have Desktility set as a login item), and playing sound effects. The "Accessibility" warning is good to have on if you use the Applications Windows feature, giving you a warning if you forget and disable access for assistive devices.

The last button is the "Help" button, and it launches TextEdit and opens the Desktility help file. This is a 2-page document that provides some information on the program, including a blurb about how to use Applescript to access the save and restore functions of Desktility. It was nice to learn that Desktility is Applescriptable, but the documentation could definitely be expanded to provide a little more insight on the different functions and features of Desktility.

Summary
Desktility provides a simple and elegant solution for saving and restoring desktop icons. It includes an added feature for saving and restoring application windows, although this latter feature I didn't find nearly as exciting or useful as the desktop icons feature. Plus, the restore windows button messed up the position of my Dragthing dock. Although Desktility is not perfect, it does eliminate Desktop icon aggravation that has plagued many Mac OS X users for many years. If you have multiple volumes, it is an indispensable tool for keeping your volumes ordered exactly where you want them to be. If you play games that change screen resolutions and mess up your Desktop, leaving nearly all your desktop icons layered on top of each other in the top right corner, you'll love Desktility for quickly restoring them right back to where they should be. Once having Desktility in my Mac toolbox, it has become one of those simple but useful utilities that I wouldn't want to be without.

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Save and restore functions performed quickly
  • Restores desktop icons automatically after screen resolution changes
  • Keeps volume icons ordered and exactly where you want them

Cons

  • Limited usefulness
  • Will overlay restored icons on top of new icons if new icon is at the same location
  • Restoring windows seemed to mess up my Dragthing dock location
  • Weak documentation


Overall Rating

3 1/2 out of 5 Mice