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Keep Your Vista Desktop Clean with the Magic Folder

Does your desktop get cluttered with a zillion downloaded files scattered all over the place? Sure, you can always make a shortcut to hide your desktop icons, but that’s basically sweeping the mess under the rug. Today we’ll show you how to use the Magic Folder to keep things clean.

The Magic Folder is actually just a Windows Sidebar gadget that you can drag files to, and it can automatically sort them into the proper folders, based on rules which you can configure easily.

Using the Magic Folder

Once you install the gadget, you’ll probably need to add it by right-clicking on the sidebar somewhere and choosing “Add Gadgets” and then dragging it to the desktop or the sidebar.

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The first time you add the gadget to your desktop you’ll be prompted with a quick start screen… I would leave the checkbox alone, and click on the green button at the bottom.

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Now you’ll want to open up the settings by clicking on the little wrench icon that floats next to the gadget.

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The first thing we’ll do is head over to the Visual tab and change the settings to whatever style you like. I prefer the Default style, but you might like the “Magic” one too.

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If you aren’t a fan of giant gadgets, you can make it smaller and stick it in the corner… it’s barely noticeable next to my Mario wallpaper.

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Without further configuring, we can start to use the gadget… just drag a file onto the magic folder…

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And you’ll be prompted for a folder location to move the files to, from a list of favorite folders (which we can configure).

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Once you’ve selected the folder and clicked the green check button, the file will be moved and you’ll get a confirmation (which we can also turn off).

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Back in the settings panel, you can take a look at the Folders tab to customize that list of folders from the drop-down above.

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The first thing I did was turn off the “file move confirmations”, which I found really annoying. You can also choose to move files based on their extensions by checking the top box, which will cause the Extensions tab to be enabled.

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Now you can use the Extensions tab to choose different file extensions and where they should be moved by default. Most of the common extensions are already configured for you… for instance Word documents will be moved to your Documents folder by default.

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Note that once you enable the option to move files automatically, you won’t be prompted at all… the files will simply be magically moved.

There’s another option that can be very interesting… the “Watched Folder”, which will create a new folder where the rules are automatically applied…

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If you turn this option on, you’ll see a new folder in your User directory called “The Magic Folder”. Anything moved to this folder will be processed and moved into the automatic folders without requiring any user intervention.

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Another note: If you click on the folder you’ll be prompted to open a folder from the drop-down, which is a rather easy way to access your favorite folders without making a bunch of extra icons.

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This is definitely one of the best Vista Sidebar gadgets I’ve come across. Think it’s enough to keep you from disabling the sidebar?

Download The Magic Folder Vista Sidebar Gadget

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 12/10/08

Comments (12)

  1. madmacs

    Looks great, I´m going to try this Geek. I am probably one of the few people that hates to have anything on my desktop, I like it to be clean and tidy!! (Probably comes from being a Virgo) LOL

  2. Your Friendly Neighborhood Computer Guy

    Very cool! The less clicks I need to make to get a file where I want it, the better. Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

  3. LH

    And if you don’t like their icons, you can use a .png of your own.

  4. Sean O'Hara

    Or you could just use the Download Sorter extension for Firefox, and have everything sort automatically.

    And why does anyone download stuff to the desktop to begin with? I’ve always configured my browser to use a folder called Downloads in my home directory, that way it’s easy to clean out all the detritus that accumulates.

  5. b

    I don’t get it: why do you need to add a gadget to do that? Just delete all the shotcuts off your desktop and then don’t save anything there. I have no icons on my Vista or XP desktops but there is no tool required to keep them that way.

    As Sean said: change your default download directory to something else (I use C:/downloads) in FireFox and/or IE and/or Chrome etc.

  6. E

    Great idea. To those who ask why download to desktop, it’s because then I don’t have to browse through my folders to get at it.

    Though it would be nice to have something like this for XP…

  7. beep54

    I would look at this if there was anyway to download it as a stand-alone. My machines are not connected to the net all the time (or even that often).

  8. The Geek

    @beep54

    You don’t need a network connection to use this, or most of the sidebar gadgets.

  9. DemoGeek

    Looks like a good tool to try…hate the interface though!

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    sir
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    i am staying in hyderabad india.on the following address
    PB MOREY,
    TYPE III, QTR # 2, CCMB STAFF QTRS, HMT NAGAR, NACHARAM ROAD HYDERABAD 76.

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  11. GBot

    Looks nice, but I’ve been really happy with Stardock’s Fences program to keep my desktop clean. Double clicking on the desktop hides and unhides all icons, and the fences themselves are a great solution to a common problem:
    http://www.stardock.com/products/fences/

  12. Dan

    Search “RoboBasket” in google you will find a software from Easy-to-Use Software which can automatically process your files based on user predefined rules. You can process your files based on name, size, date, mp3 tag, extension and more other attributes. and choose actions from move, copy, rename, delete and more. You can save a lot of time and effort keeping your Desktop clean and tidy.

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