Going back to a Mac LC, I’ve been using Apple computers for about 20 years, from Mac OS Classic to all the cat flavored versions of OS X.
As it is with many Mac users I’ve picked up a few tricks and tips along the way. When I get a new Mac I tend to set it up a certain way, including the love-it-or-hate-it Finder. Here is a simple trick designed to make using the Finder easier and more productive.
For all the headaches that the Mac’s Finder and Dock seem to present to digital media pundits, Apple has managed to make both quite useful to the masses, and sufficiently customizable that experienced Mac users are happy.
For example, I create aliases of a few folders—Applications, Utilities, Documents, Desktop, and Downloads—and drag them to the right side of the Dock. Then I’m merely a click and hold away from navigating what ever is in those folders.
The Mac’s Finder is loved by many and hated by quite a few, seemingly a relic from the Mac’s ancient past. Maybe yes, maybe no, but the Finder, for all its foibles, is where most of go to, uh, well, find things.
Mac OS X’s Finder has the shelf—that sidebar—to left of a Finder window where we can drag files, folders, applications—think of it as a mini-launcher of sorts. I use that part of the Finder for frequently used folders.
I use the sidebar mostly for folders and stack a couple of dozen so the contents of each is just a click away. For most folder looking I also use column view. That way I don’t have to open a dozen different windows to find something.
The top of the Finder is the toolbar and it’s pretty much plain vanilla on new Macs. In the Finder, click on the View menu, then select Customize Toolbar.
This feature allows you to rearrange, add to, take away various icons in the Finder’s toolbar. There’s nothing magical about that feature, until you start to think about what else the toolbar can do, and it can do plenty.
Remember, the Finder not only lets you find files, and navigate various folders on your Mac, it’s also a place to stack frequently used options, folders, applications, and utilities.
Rearranging icons on the Finder’s toolbar is a breeze. Click, drag left or right. Click and drag off to get rid of an icon. The Customize Toolbar feature gives you a bunch of options—Burn a CD, Delete a File, some navigation buttons, and so on.
Just drag them from the Customize pop down pane to the toolbar. Easy, right? But there’s more. You can drag nearly anything in the way of an icon, folder, utility, or volume to the Finder’s toolbar.
For example, I always set up a new Mac this way. I open the Customize Toolbar menu, rearrange the icons the way I like, then I add a few that don’t show up as icons on the menu.
What else should go in the Finder’s toolbar? Whatever helps you organize better or become more productive. I add the Applications folder, the Desktop, a folder with all my OS X update files for apps and utilities, Documents, the Home folder, and Downloads.
Yes, they’re already sitting in the Sidebar, but my aim—when dragging and dropping—is better using the Finder’s toolbar.
So, I know you’re asking this, how do you get the Desktop icon and the Applications icon, or any other folder or utility to the Finder’s toolbar? It’s drag and drop simple.
In some cases you may need to open two Finder windows. One to activate movement on the Finder’s toolbar, the other to navigate to the Desktop, Applications folder and whatever else you want to place up there.
Find the Desktop in a Finder window, drag and drop it to the Finder toolbar. Now, when you drag a file to the toolbar Desktop icon, it drops right on to the Desktop.
Conversely, when you click on the Finder’s toolbar Desktop icon, the Finder opens to the Desktop. See? Simple. Elegant. Customizable.
What else can you put into the Finder’s toolbar? Almost anything, and, again, it’s drop dead simple. Open your Applications folder. Find an app or utility you use frequently. Even Mail or Safari. Drag the apps icon to the Finder’s toolbar, anywhere in the center is fine, but don’t drop—just click, drag, and hold.
What happens is this—the other Finder toolbar icons move to the left or right which gives you room to drop the new icon onto the toolbar. Similarly, if you press the Command key and click and hold the icon, you can move it left or right.
Love it or hate it, with the use of folders, applications, utilities, that boring old Finder toolbar now has a new life, new beauty. In typical Apple fashion, the Finder’s toolbar is easy to customize to your particular usage habits.
What happens after months and years? Eventually, you forget to think about where and how to drag and drop files, or to click an app’s icon to launch it—it just happens, no thinking required.
I’ve included a quick graphic so you can see the center of my Mac’s Finder toolbar.
Drag and drop is your friend. Give it a try. Let us know what you think and how you’ve customized your toolbar and what it does for you by using the Comments section below.