The Finder organizes all of your files

The Finder in OS X provides access to the files, folders, and drives on your Mac, and helps you keep them organized.

What is the Finder?

The Finder is the app that helps you navigate all of the files and folders on your Mac. The Finder lets you browse your apps, disks, files, and folders in a variety of ways. You can use the Finder to organize these items the way you want. You can also use the Finder to search for items, delete files you no longer want, and more.

Finder windows

To open a new Finder window, click the Finder icon in the Dock, then select File > New Window. The first window you may see in the Finder is All My Files. This is a special window that shows you all of the documents that you have access to on your Mac.

new Finder window showing All My Files

Window views

You can change how items are displayed in Finder windows by dragging them, arranging them, or changing their view. To change the view of the current Finder window, use the View menu in the menu bar or the View buttons in the window's toolbar. You can view as icons, as list, as colums, or as Cover Flow.

You can also arrange items within the each view. For example, to sort the items in a window alphabetically, choose View > Arrange By > Name. The Finder keeps the window organized this way until you choose another option from the View menu.

View as icons

Choose View > as Icons to see a small image that represents each file. You can move each item by dragging the icon that represents the file.

View > as Icons menu

View as list

Choose View > as List to see the items in a consecutive order. You can change the sort order of the list by clicking the headers (Name, Date Modified, Size, Kind) at the top of the list. Click the same header a second time to switch between ascending and descending order.

If an item is within a folder, you can click the triangle next to the folder name to see any items stored within that folder. 

View > as List menu

View as columns

Choose View > as Columns to see a preview appear to the right of an item when you select it. If you select a folder in column view, an additional column appears to reveal the items within the folder. As you select additional folders within folders, columns are added to the Finder window. Resize or scroll through the Finder window to move forward or backward through the nested folders. 

View > as Columns menu

View as Cover Flow

Choose View > as Cover Flow to see a preview of each item in the window, presented as a carousel above the list of files. Scroll through the carousel, or use the left and right arrows on your keyboard to move through each item. Drag the divider between the preview pane and the list of items to make the preview larger or smaller.

If an item is within a folder, you can click the triangle next to the folder name to see any items stored within that folder. 

View > as Cover Flow menu

Use folders

The Finder shows you the files contained on the drives available to your computer. You can organize these files into folders, and even store folders within other folders.

To create a new folder, click where you want the folder to appear, such as on the desktop. Then Choose File > New Folder. When the new folder appears, you can type a new name for the folder, if you want, then drag items into the folder.

You can also create a new folder by first selecting the items that you want to put in that folder:

  1. Select multiple items at once by dragging your pointer across the items to create a selection box. Or hold down the Command key and click each item that you want to select. Or select the first item you want in a list, then hold down the Shift key and select the last item.
  2. Choose File > New Folder with Selection.

To view the items stored within the folder, double-click the folder to see its contents. The name of the folder is shown at the top of the window.

OS X includes some folders that are already created for you, such as Applications, Documents, Music, and Pictures. To get to these folders, choose them from the Finder sidebar or the Go menu in the menu bar.

  • Applications. This folder holds all of your apps. Double-click an app to open it. You can also open an app using Launchpad.
  • Home. Your Mac creates a home folder for every user you have set up on your Mac. The home folder holds all of the files that belong to you.
  • Documents. This folder stores your word processing documents, spreadsheets, presentations and more. 
  • Music. This folder stores your iTunes library.
  • Pictures. This folder stores your Photos library.
  • Movies. This folder stores your iMovie and Photo Booth movies.
  • Desktop. This folder stores the items you have placed on your desktop.

Rename items

If you want to rename a file or folder that you've created, click its name in the Finder, then type a new name and press the Return key.

renaming an item in the Finder

trash icon in dock


Delete items

When you no longer want an item, you can delete it. Select the item (or folder of items) in the Finder, then choose File > Move to Trash. The Finder then moves the item to a special folder called Trash so that you no longer see it. You can view items that are marked for deletion by clicking the Trash icon in the Dock

If you decide that you don't want to delete an item that you placed in the Trash, you can drag it out of the Trash. Click the Trash icon in the Dock, then drag the item from the Trash window to another folder in the Finder, such as your Documents folder or your desktop. You can also put an item back where it was before you deleted it by selecting the item in the Trash, then choosing File > Put Back. 

When you're sure that you no longer want any of the items in the Trash, choose File > Empty Trash. This recovers the disk space that was used by these items. 

Use the toolbar

At the top of a Finder window is a toolbar. This Toolbar includes shortcuts for common actions, such as:

  • Switching window views
  • Tagging items
  • Searching for files or folders by entering text into the search field
  • Sharing items over email by selecting the item and clicking the Share button  .
  • Taking many other actions by clicking the Action button and choosing an item from the pop-up menu:Finder window with action menu selected

Quick Look

Use either of these methods to get quick preview of any item in the Finder:

  • Select the item, then choose File > Quick Look
  • Select the item, then press the Space bar.

Using Quick Look is helpful if you're not sure whether an item you've located is the one you're looking for. Quick Look opens a preview pane without opening the app associated with the item. You can even preview movies and audio files in this way. 

To learn more, use the Help menu in the Finder menu bar.

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