Mac Tips and Tricks – Getting the Most from the Finder

If you use a Mac, you probably use the Finder every day. These tips help you work faster with the Finder, so you can find files in record time.

Find the View for You

The Finder in Mac OS X Tiger sports three ways to view your files: as icons, as a list, and as columns. To flip between them, choose View > As Icons, View > As List, or View > As Columns. You can quickly flip by pressing Command-1, 2, or 3.

The default Icons view (Command-1) is the easiest to understand. This view shows the contents of a single folder, with each file or sub-folder shown as a single, large icon. To open a file or folder, double-click it.

The powerful List view (Command-2) is great for viewing lots of items at once, and for sorting items in a particular order. Click the arrow to the left of a folder to view the contents of that folder in the same window. To sort all files and folders by a particular column, click that column’s heading at the top of the window. Click it again to reverse the order. You can also reorder columns by dragging a column’s heading left and right, and resize columns by clicking between two headings and dragging. To add and remove columns, choose View > Show View Options, and toggle the options under “Show columns”.

The Columns view (Command-3) lets you quickly navigate up and down your folder tree. Click an icon in the sidebar, such as “Macintosh HD”, and you’ll see the contents of that item in the first column to the right. Click a folder in that column to display its contents in the next column along, and so on. This is a really quick way to browse your folders. To resize a column, drag the handle at the bottom of a column divider left or right. To resize all columns at once, Option-drag a handle.

Finally, if you’re lucky enough to use Leopard, you can switch to Cover Flow view (Command-4) to browse your files much like you browse albums in iTunes.

Preview Images in the Finder

By default, the Icons view shows photos and other images as generic icons, but you can change it to show thumbnail previews of images. To do this, choose View > Show View Options and check “Show icon preview”. Use the “Icon size” slider near the top of the dialog to make the thumbnails bigger or smaller.

To preview an image in the Finder, switch to Columns view (Command-3) and click an image in a column. A preview appears in the column to the right. If you’re running Leopard then you can also hit the Spacebar to preview the currently selected image(s) using the handy Quick Look feature.

Work Quickly with Keyboard Shortcuts

You can work with your files quickly via the keyboard. Here are some handy keys to know:

  • Move around items in the current folder: arrow keys
  • Select multiple items: Shift-arrow keys
  • Find an item in the current folder: type the first few letters of its name
  • Move up a folder: Command-Up arrow
  • Return to the previously viewed folder: Command+[ (square bracket)
  • Go forward to a more recently viewed folder: Command+]
  • Open a selected item: Command-O (the letter ‘O’)
  • Rename a selected item: Enter
  • Move a selected item to the Trash: Command-Delete (the big “Delete” key)
  • Create a copy of an item: Command-D
  • Create a new folder: Command-Shift-N
  • Open a new Finder window: Command-N

You can also jump to the items in the sidebar with a variety of shortcuts; view these under the Go menu.

With these three techniques – switching views, image previewing, and keyboard shortcuts – you can find your Mac files more easily. Happy Finding!