I like to keep a clean desk. That’s helped enormously by being paperless, but another key is what I refer to as my OCDesk: a custom-built desk with a rear undershelf to hold all the power-strips, power bricks, external drives and so on. That keeps all the mess out of sight. (I’ve since had a new one created, but I’ll get to that in a future Smart Home Diary.)

But if your desire for tidiness doesn’t quite extend to having a custom desk created for you, a rear shelf for an iMac or Apple Thunderbolt Display can be a good way to keep things tidy …

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We first took a look at this idea way back in 2012, with a review of the Twelve South BackPack. This is an aluminum shelf which simply hooks onto an iMac or Apple Thunderbolt Display stand, and provides a really neat way to keep things like external drives out of sight but still within easy reach.

The Understands Butler is the exact same idea, but this time in wood.

I recently reviewed the company’s wooden Mac stands. These are not only beautiful, but a clever design feature is that the foot of the iMac or display slides into a slot in the rear of the shelf, keeping the shelf completely clean and free for whatever you’d like to store on it.

Butler is a matching accessory that works in the same way as the BackPack. There’s a slot in the shelf tailored to the iMac/monitor stand. Simply hook it on to the stand, and it’s then self-supporting.

Butler is available for both 21- and 27-inch iMacs, in three sizes: 7-inches, 15-inches and 20-inches. The one I tested was the 15-inch, which is big enough for a number of external drives without taking up the whole width of the monitor.

You could obviously stack drives if you have a lot of them.

As with the stands, there are a whole bunch of options to choose from. Butler is available in light ash, dark ash, cherry and walnut. Once you’ve selected your wood, you can choose between a straight edge and a ‘live edge’ – with a natural shape. And there are also one-of-a-kind models that allow you to choose the exact one you want from photos on the website.

Conclusions and pricing

Pricing starts at $49 for the 7-inch shelf (with live edge), with 15-inch models starting at $59 for finished edges and $69 for live edges. The 20-inch is $79 or $89, and there are one-off models for $99.

The base-model 15-inch Butler, then, is twice the price of Twelve South’s metal shelf. Both look good, but personally I’d be willing to pay the premium for wood.

If you don’t want to go to my lengths to keep accessories out of sight, Butler seems an excellent solution.

Butler is available from Understands, at pricing ranging from $49 to $99.


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