Life is full of love hate relationships. To love or hate something often requires familiarity. But then, familiarity often breeds contempt.
That brings me to the Finder in Mac OS X. It’s the built-in utility that lets Mac users navigate their Macs. It’s not the Desktop, which can be accessed through the Finder. Love it or hate it, the Mac’s Finder can do better for you without additional cost and little effort.
Remember familiarity? That may explain why we have the same Finder icon from the last century; that strange little sideways and forward facing smiley face that adorned Mac Classic and Macs of yesteryear. It’s familiar. Maybe even innocuous. Somewhat like the Finder itself.
Surprisingly, many Mac users don’t really know what the Finder is or what it does. Those windows on your Mac that let you find files and navigate through folders—that’s the Finder.
Through the years—or through the centuries, depending on your perspective and history with Macs—the Finder has slowly undergone a series of changes. I love the customizable toolbar at the top of the Finder.
The Finder’s sidebar was a nice touch, with more options for shortcuts to often used folders on your Mac. The most important and useful (your mileage may vary) was the addition of Column View, which makes navigating deep folders a little easier (until they get too deep).
Besides Path Finder, what can make your Mac’s Finder work better for you and not cost anything extra? Read on. My Five Ways To Make Your Mac’s Finder Work Better.
Hello? This one is so obvious and so seldom used that it still surprises me when I see a Mac user—new or experienced—clicking away and opening window after window to get to a file that’s buried four or five levels (folders) down.
The Finder has four basic views. Icon view; which means lots of clicking, but is easy to understand. List view; which is easy to understand but often requires scrolling. Cover Flow which is eye candy and not practical for all files.
Column View gives you a hierarchical structure to view your files, especially effective if you have files buried in a few layers of folders.
That left hand column in the Finder is the Sidebar. It’s customizable. Usually, the Sidebar shows you shared Macs, devices (such as your Mac and extra hard drives), the Desktop, Documents, Movies, etc.
Handy, right? Sure. But there’s much more. You can drag frequently used folders from nearly anywhere on your Mac right to the Sidebar and now the contents of said folder are just a click away, even if the folder is buried inside six other folders.
What? The Finder has preferences? Yes. All kinds. Use the Preferences to display specific items on your Mac’s Desktop (which also gets displayed in the Finder). I like the spring-loaded folders.
The Finder’s Preferences also display labels and names. Right click on any file or folder and you can change the background color to match a label. That’s handy to quickly find specific folders or to see what a new application or utility adds to your Mac (when you change all the folder colors in your Library).
And, of course, you can change the devices and folders which show up inside the Finder’s Sidebar, right from the Preferences panel.
The top of your Mac’s Finder window is the Toolbar. It’s customizable, even more so than with the Customize Toolbar window pane. Why Apple doesn’t populate the Toolbar is another discussion.
You can add all sorts of things to the Toolbar. Add the Applications folder, the Home folder, Documents, as well as the CD/DVD burning utility, and the navigation tools. Even better, you can drag and drop folders and frequently used utilities.
One click to an app or utility icon in the Toolbar opens it. One click to a folder in the Toolbar, opens the Finder window for that folder.
Those are the major Finder items that many Mac users don’t know about, seldom use, but are happy when they find out how much more efficient and productive they can be.
My Mac has a single Finder window open; usually in Column View. And I never have to click to open a window and continue the process of opening window after window to get to a file.
The Finder has a few other features which make it worthy. For example, right click on a file or folder in the Finder to get more information, and more options. The Finder’s Action button gives even more options for navigating.
Add the CD/DVD Eject button to the Toolbar to quickly eject a disk without using the keyboard. My favorite unheralded feature is the Quick Look. Select a file and touch the Mac’s space bar to get a quick look at the file.
Word processing documents reveal their contents, as do spreadsheets, and other documents. Movies will play. Photos will display. Select the file, press the space bar. Sweet.
In other words, maybe there’s a good reason why the Mac’s Finder has not had revolutionary changes; Apple opting instead not to scare users, but add handy, useful, non-overpowering features (sometimes embedded to obscurity) for the masses.
Without question, the Finder isn’t a perfect metaphor to navigate and manage files, folders, apps, utilities on our Macs, but what alternatives improve on that imperfection? And, how many of us take full advantage of the utility that’s already built in to the Finder?
Got a Finder quirk, problem, or feature not noted above? Share with other Mac360 readers in the Comments section below.