Using the Finder on Your Mac

Make the Best Use of the Finder

The Finder is the heart of your Mac. It provides access to files and folders, displays windows, and generally controls how you interact with your Mac.

If you're switching to the Mac from Windows, you'll discover that the Finder is similar to Windows Explorer, a way to browse the file system. The Mac Finder is more than just a file browser, though. It's a road map to your Mac's file system. Taking a few minutes to learn more about how to use and customize the Finder is time well spent.

Finder sidebar showing app being added
Besides files and folder, apps can be added to the Finder's sidebar. Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

The Finder Sidebar, which is the pane on the left side of every Finder window, provides quick access to common locations, but it's capable of much more.

The sidebar offers shortcuts to areas of your Mac that you likely use the most. It's such a helpful tool that I can't imagine ever turning the sidebar off, which by the way is an option.

Learn how to use and configure the Finder Sidebar. More »

Finder with Tags displayed in sidebar
The Tag area of the Finder's sidebar allows you to quickly find those files you have marked. Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Long-time users of Finder labels may be a bit put off by their disappearance with the introduction of OS X Mavericks, but their replacement, Finder tags, is a lot more versatile and should prove a great addition to managing files and folders in the Finder.

Finder tags allow you to organize similar files by applying a tag. Once tagged, you can quickly view and work with all files that use the same tag. More »

Finder Tabs
Finder tabs are a nice addition to the Mac OS, and you can choose to use them or not; it's up to you. But if you do decide to give them a try, here are a few tricks that will help you make the most of them. Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Finder tabs, ushered in with OS X Mavericks are very similar to tabs you see in most browsers, including Safari. Their purpose is to minimize screen clutter by gathering what used to be displayed in separate windows into a single Finder window with multiple tabs. Each tab acts like a separate Finder window, but without the clutter of having multiple windows open and scattered around your desktop. More »

Finder Preferences for Spring-Loaded folders
Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Spring-loaded folders make it easy to drag and drop files by automatically opening a folder when your cursor hovers above it. That makes dragging files to a new location within nested folders a breeze.

Learn how to configure your folders so they spring open when you want them to. More »

Curves Ahead Road Sign
The Finder can help you by showing you the path to your files. Donovan Reese / Getty Images

The Finder Path Bar is a small pane located at the bottom of a Finder window. It displays the current path to the file or folder shown in the Finder window.

Unfortunately, this nifty feature is turned off by default. Learn how to enable your Finder Path Bar. More »

Customize the Finder Toolbar
Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

The Finder Toolbar, a collection of buttons located at the top of every Finder window, is easy to customize. In addition to the Back, View, and Action buttons already present in the Toolbar, you can add functions such as Eject, Burn, and Delete. You can also choose how the toolbar looks overall by choosing between displaying icons, text, or icons and text.

Learn how to quickly customize your Finder Toolbar. More »

Finder views are selected by four buttons in the toolbar
The Finder view buttons are located in the toolbar. Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Finder views offer four different ways of looking at the files and folders stored on your Mac. Most new Mac users tend to work with only one of the four Finder views: Icon, List, Column, or Cover Flow. Working in one Finder view may not seem like a bad idea. After all, you will become very adept at the ins and outs of using that view. But it’s probably much more productive in the long run to learn how to use each Finder view, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of each view. More »

Set Finder Sub-Folders Using Automator
Automator can be use to set Finder preferences in sub-folders. Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

In this guide, we're going to look at how to use the Finder to set specific Finder view attributes, including:

How to set a system-wide default for which Finder View to use when a folder window is opened.

How to set a Finder view preference for a specific folder, so that it always opens in your preferred view, even if it is different from the system-wide default.

We will also learn how to automate the process of setting the Finder view in sub-folders. Without this little trick, you would have to manually set the view preference for each and every folder within a folder.

Finally, we will create some plug-ins for the Finder so you can set views more easily in the future. More »

Spotlight Comments as Keywords
Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Keeping track of all of the documents on your Mac can be a difficult task. Remembering file names or file contents is even more difficult. And if you haven't accessed the document it's in recently, you may not remember where you stored a particular piece of valuable data.

Luckily, Apple provides Spotlight, a pretty fast search system for the Mac. Spotlight can search on file names, as well as the contents of files. It can also search on keywords associated with a file. How do you create keywords for files? I'm glad you asked. More »

Restore Smart Searches to the Finders Sidebar

Adding Smart Folders to the Finders Sidebar
Smart Folders and Saved Searches can still populate the Finder's Sidebar. Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Over time, Apple has refined the features and capabilities of the Finder. It seems as if with each new version of OS X, the Finder gains a few new features, but also loses a few. 

One such lost feature is the Smart Searches that used to reside in the Finder's sidebar. With just a click, you could see the file you worked on yesterday, during the past week, display all images, all movies, etc.

Smart searches were very handy, and they can be restored to your Mac's Finder using this guide.

Zoom Into a Finder Preview Image

Column view preview zoom
Zoom in on an image preview to see more details. Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc. Image from Death to Stock Photo

When you have the Finder view set to column display, the last column in a Finder window displays a preview of a selected file. When that file is an image file, you will see a thumbnail of the image.

It's nice to be able to quickly see what an image looks like, but if you want to see any details in the image, you'll have to open the file in an image editing application. Or will you?

One nifty Finder feature that is often overlooked is the ability to zoom in, zoom out, and pan around an image when in column view.