How to Setup a Downloads Folder on Any Mac

When Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs at the June Worldwide Developers Conference showed off the key features of the new Mac operating system, OS X Leopard, due on shelves later this year, one addition he focused on was a new folder for downloaded files that sits in the dock, providing easy access to those files.

“One of the biggest reasons our desktops are cluttered is because we download stuff over the Internet through our browsers and through e-mail, and it ends up on our desktop,” said Jobs over a roar of applause from audience members. “We’re redirecting those things to a simple ‘downloads’ folder.”

The idea is even simpler than Jobs seems to suggest. In fact, with less than five minutes of tweaking, it can be replicated right now on any Mac on the market — minus the flashy fan effect.

Here’s how:

Step 1. Go to your Home (user) folder in Finder, and add a new folder titled “Downloads” by going to File > New Folder.

Step 2. Drag that folder to the dock, beside the trash can.

Step 3. Set up your browser: The directions are for users of Safari, but the steps vary only slightly for browsers like Firefox and Camino. Navigate the menu bar to Safari > Preferences, click on “General,” and under “Save downloaded files to:,” select “Other…” and find your folder.

Step 4. Set up Mail: The menu item is in the same preferences area as Safari, labeled “Downloads Folder.” You’ll need to do a similar setup process for any other download apps you have on your system, like a Bittorrent client. (I use Transmission, which I know has a preference for it, but most should do the same.)

Now all your downloads will show up in that folder instead of on the desktop. With the dock shortcut, you can access a list of its contents by clicking and holding or by right-clicking on the dock icon, much like Leopard’s Stacks.

I’ve found the folder keeps my desktop much cleaner, but it lessens my motivation to tidy up my downloaded files as regularly as when they were piling up, staring me in the face.

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