Finders Keepers: Tips and Tricks to Make the Mac Finder Window Work for You

Have you ever found yourself scrolling and clicking around your computer, searching for a specific photo or document? Opening and closing folders can feel a bit like a game of hide and seek.

If you’re a Mac user, you’re probably familiar with the Finder window. It’s the Mac’s home base, and is often the first place we look for items on our computer. Finder holds the key to locating that elusive file.

Correctly setting up your Finder window will make finding items on your computer much simpler.

We’ve put together some tips, tricks, and tutorials to help your Finder window work more efficiently.

A Bird’s Eye View of the Finder Window

To open Finder, go to your Dock and double click the blue and white icon with the smiling face.

A keyboard shortcut to opening the first or any new Finder windows is to hold the Command key and press N.

Here’s a look at the key areas of the Finder window to help you get better acquainted.

Bird's Eye View of Finder Window

Setting Key Preferences

Almost every application on your Mac has Preferences you can set. Finder is no exception.

To get to the Preferences window, click on “Finder” on the top bar to get the dropdown, then click on Preferences.

Finder Preferences Location

Sidebar Preferences
In this post, we will focus on the Sidebar Preference tab.

The sidebar sits on the left side of the Finder window and acts as your computer’s Table of Contents. Even though you can hide it, we suggest you keep it there. 

The sidebar is a shortcut to the most frequently visited areas on your computer. That’s why the top section of the sidebar is called “Favorites.” If you don’t see the Favorites section, choose Finder > Preferences > Sidebar, then select at least one item in the Favorites section.

While in Finder > Preferences, click Sidebar, then select items you want, or deselect items you don’t. To rearrange items in the sidebar, click and drag an item to a new location.

Adding an app or folder to the sidebar creates a shortcut to the item (it doesn’t move it from its original location on your computer). Drag a folder to the Favorites section, or press and hold the Command key, then drag an app icon to the Favorites section.

To remove an item, click and drag the item’s icon out of the sidebar until you see the remove sign pop up, then release.

We recommend keeping a few key items in your Sidebar for quick access. “The 3 D’s,” also known as Desktop, Documents, and Downloads. We also recommend our clients add Pictures (and Movies if you have several movie files) to the sidebar as well. 

The Locations section will show any active drives (such as an external hard drive or CD/DVD player). Be sure to choose your local hard drive (or Hard discs) and any other items you want to appear. 

Finder Sidebar Must-haves

You can also change your Preferences for the General and Advanced tabs. These let you set locations that automatically show in a new Finder window, or activate a warning before you empty the Trash.

Changing Settings in the Dropdown View Menu

The View menu includes a few key items we suggest you “Show” rather than “Hide.”

Show the Path Bar to see the hierarchy of a file at the bottom of the Finder window. This helps you see where a file or folder lives, reading from left to right. 

Show the Status Bar to view the number of items and remaining space in that particular window.

Finder View Menu Dropdown

The Toolbar
The Toolbar sits just under the Finder’s top menu. It contains small icons that act as commands for changing views, or for quick access to other actions or apps.

You can customize what’s in your Toolbar by choosing View > Customize Toolbar. 

A Toolbar window will open. From here, you can drag items into and out of the toolbar, rearrange, or add a space between items. You can also choose whether to show text with the icons.

To rearrange the items in the toolbar, press and hold the Command key, then drag an item to a new location.

To add a file or an app, press and hold the Command key, then drag the item to the Finder toolbar until you see a green plus sign.

To remove an item, press and hold the Command key, then drag the item out of the toolbar.

Choosing a Point of View

The Finder window allows you to see your computer’s contents in one of four different Views.

Finder View Options

Icon view displays all folders and files in an overview of the file’s icon. We like to use this view when scanning photos.

List view displays each item on a line, and is handy when searching for a file by its name. Using this view helps if you’ve re-named files or if you need to find duplicate files. The duplicate will usually have a “-1” or “(1)” on the end of the file name.

Column view expands to show the hierarchy of a file, or how it’s nested in a folder. In this view, you can quickly move a file to a different folder.

Gallery view is another way to browse your photos, or documents visually using larger previews. Gallery View in macOS Mojave also lets you play videos and scroll through multipage documents. 

While in any view in your Finder window, you can click on a folder and group its contents to help your search.

For example, if you want to see the different kinds of files in a folder, click on the Group > Kind.

Finder Toolbar Group Icon

This example shows the different kinds of files nested in a folder including a subfolder of photos, Documents, Music, and Movie files.

Another quick way to locate certain kinds of files is to use the Search bar. For example, you may want to find all of the .jpg photo files in your downloads folder so you can move them to a new folder to organize later.

Find the Search bar in the upper right corner of the Finder window and type “.jpg.” From there you can choose the Downloads folder. You’ll see in this video that only the .jpg files appear in the list.

Finder Is The Key to Quick Access of Your Computer Files

Apple created Finder to make quick work of file searching. When you make these suggested setting changes, and you’re comfortable navigating around the Finder window, you’ll be able to quickly access the files that are most important to you.

If you’re still having problems finding lost photos, we can organize them for you. Let us know if photo organization needs to be the first step in making Finder work for you.

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