Finder Tips

finderRepresented by the blue icon with the smiling face, the Finder is the home base for your Mac. You use it to organize and access almost everything on your Mac, including documents, images, movies, and any other files you have.

To open a Finder window, click the Finder icon in the Dock. To go to the Finder without opening a window, click the desktop.

Finder preferences

Use Finder preferences to set options for Finder windows, file extensions, and the Trash.

To view Finder preferences, click the Finder icon in the Dock, then choose Finder > Preferences.

Finder icon in Dock


Show these items on the desktop

Select any items you want to see on the desktop.

New Finder windows show

Choose which folder is displayed when you open a new Finder window.

Open folders in tabs instead of new windows

Select what happens when you hold down the Command (⌘) key and double-click a folder.

  • When selected: Folders open in tabs.

  • When deselected: Folders open in windows.

Spring-loaded folders and windows

Select to have folders open when you drag items over them.

Use the slider to specify how long an item has to be over a folder before the folder opens.


Show these tags in the sidebar

Customize the tags you see in the Finder sidebar.

  • See a tag in the sidebar: Select the checkbox to the right of the tag.

  • Change a tag color: Click the color next to the tag , then choose a new color.

  • Change a tag name: Click the tag, click the tag’s name, then enter a new name.

  • Create a new tag: Click Add .

  • Delete a tag: Select the tag, then click Remove .

Favorite Tags

Customize the tags you see in the shortcut menu that appears when you Control-click a file.

  • Add a tag: Select it in the list above the Favorite Tags section, then drag it over the tag you want to replace. You can have up to seven tags in the shortcut menu.

  • Remove a tag: Drag it out of the Favorite Tags section until you see a puff of smoke.

For more information about tags, see Use tags to organize files.


Show these items in the sidebar

Select the items you want to see in the Finder sidebar.

These items also appear in Open and Save dialogs.


Show all filename extensions

A filename extension—the period followed by a few letters or words that you see at the end of some filenames (for example, .jpg)—identifies the type of file. This option affects most, but not all, filenames. You can show or hide extensions for individual files in their Info windows.

Show warning before changing an extension

Display a warning if you accidentally try to change an extension. As a rule, you shouldn’t change filename extensions.

Show warning before emptying the Trash

Display a warning so you don’t accidentally delete items in the Trash.

Empty Trash securely

Make sure that items you delete when you empty the Trash can’t easily be recovered using data recovery tools. When this option is selected, the deleted files are overwritten with meaningless data.

When performing a search

Choose what you want to search by default when you use the search field in Finder windows. You can search your entire Mac, the folder that’s currently open, or the scope you specified the last time you searched in a Finder window.

For even more ways to customize Finder windows, see Customize the Finder toolbar and sidebar.

Rename files, folders, and disks

You can change the name of most files, folders, and disks, including the internal hard disk (named Macintosh HD by default). If you change the name of your hard disk, it still appears with its original name on a network.

Rename one item

  1. Select the item you want to rename, then press Return.

  2. Enter a new name.

    You can use numbers and most symbols. You can’t include a colon (:) or start the name with a period (.). Some apps may not allow you to use a slash (/) in a filename.

  3. Press Return.

Rename multiple items

  1. Select the items, then Control-click one of them.

  2. In the shortcut menu, select Rename Items.

  3. In the pop-up menu below Rename Folder Items, choose to replace text in the names, add text to the names, or change the name format.

    • Replace text: Enter the text you want to remove in the Find field, then enter the text you want to add in the “Replace with” field.

    • Add text: Enter the text to you want to add in the field, then choose to add the text before or after the current name.

    • Format: Choose a name format for the files, then choose to put the index, counter, or date before or after the name. Enter a name in the Custom Format field, then enter the number you want to start with.

  4. Click Rename.

These are some items you should not rename:

  • App folders and any items that came with your system, such as the Library folder. (If you change the name of an item and experience problems, change the name back. If this doesn’t help, you may need to reinstall the software.)

  • Filename extensions—the period followed by a few letters or words that you see at the end of some filenames (for example, .jpg). If you change an extension, you may no longer be able to open the file with the app that was used to create it.

  • Your home folder—the one with your name on it.

Ways to view items in Finder windows

There are four ways to view items in a Finder window: as icons, as a list, in columns, or in Cover Flow. To choose a view, use the View buttons at the top of the Finder window:

View Buttons

In the four views, there are additional ways to customize how your items are displayed.

Sort items, arrange icons, and resize columns

Your sort and icon arrangement settings for a folder apply until you change them. For example, if you sort your Documents folder by Date Added, the next time you view your Documents folder, it’s sorted by Date Added.

Sort items: In any view, click the Item Arrangement button , then choose an option, such as Date Created or Size.

Arrange icons neatly: In Icon view, choose View > Clean Up.

Resize columns: In List view, Column view, and Cover Flow, drag the line that’s between the column headings.

To expand a column to show all filenames in their entirety, double-click the column divider.

Further customize Icon, List, Column, or Cover Flow view

You can customize each view to accommodate your preferences. For example, you can change the text size of file names and, in some views, change the size of file icons.

  1. Select a folder in the Finder, then click a View button: Icon, List, Column, or Cover Flow.

  2. Choose View > Show View Options, then set the options you want.

    • To have the folder always open in the view, select the “Always open in” checkbox.

    • To have subfolders also open in the view, select the “Browse in” checkbox.

      If a subfolder opens in a different view, select the subfolder, choose View > Show View Options, then deselect the “Always open in” and “Browse in” checkboxes. The checkboxes must be selected for the main folder and deselected for the subfolder.

  3. To use these settings for all Finder folders that are in this view, click Use as Defaults.

    For example, if you set options for Icon view, then click Use as Defaults, all folders in Icon view appear with the same options. Use as Defaults isn’t available for Column view because the settings apply automatically to all folders in Column view.

Customize the Finder toolbar and sidebar

There are several ways to customize the Finder toolbar and Finder sidebar.

Before you start, open a Finder window by clicking the Finder icon at the left end of the Dock.

Finder icon in Dock

Customize the toolbar

Hide or show the toolbar: Choose View > Hide Toolbar, or View > Show Toolbar.

Hiding the toolbar also hides the sidebar, and moves the status bar from the bottom to the top of the window.

Resize the toolbar: If you see angle brackets  at the right end of the toolbar, it means the window is too small to show all of the toolbar items. Enlarge the window or click the brackets to see the rest of the items.

Change what’s in the toolbar: Choose View > Customize Toolbar. You can drag items into and out of the toolbar, add a space between items, and choose whether to show text with the icons.

Rearrange the items in the toolbar: Hold down the Command (⌘) key, then drag an item to a new location.

Add a file or app: Hold down the Command (⌘) key, then drag the item to the Finder toolbar until a green plus sign (+) appears.

Remove an item: Drag the item out of the toolbar until you see a puff of smoke.

Customize the sidebar

Hide or show the sidebar: Choose View > Hide Sidebar or View > Show Sidebar. (If Show Sidebar is dimmed, choose View > Show Toolbar.)

Resize the sidebar: Drag the right side of the divider bar to the right or left.

Change what’s in the sidebar: Choose Finder > Preferences, click Sidebar, then select or deselect items.

Rearrange items in the sidebar: Drag an item to a new location. You can’t rearrange items in the Shared section.

Add a file, folder, or disk: Drag the item to the Favorites section.

If you don’t see the Favorites section, go to Finder > Preferences > Sidebar, then select at least one item in the section.

Add an app: Hold down the Command (⌘) key, then drag its icon to the Favorites section.

Remove an item: Drag the item icon out of the sidebar until you see a puff of smoke.

The sidebar link disappears, but the original item is still on your Mac. You can’t remove items from the Shared section.

To change other Finder preferences, choose Finder > Preferences. For more information, see Finder preferences.

To set the scrolling behavior for Finder (and other) windows, choose Apple menu > System Preferences, then click General.

Open General preferences for me

Open folders in new Finder tabs or windows

When you open a folder in the Finder, the folder’s contents usually replace the current contents of the window. If you prefer, you can open a folder in a new tab or window.

Set folders to open in tabs or windows

  1. In the Finder, choose Finder > Preferences, then click General.

  2. Select or deselect “Open folders in tabs instead of new windows.”

Open folders in tabs or windows

Press the Command (⌘) key while you double-click the folder.

The folder opens in a new tab or window, depending on your Finder preferences.

Tip:   If the Finder toolbar and sidebar are hidden, double-clicking a folder without pressing the Command key opens the folder in a new window.

To open a new Finder window without opening a specific folder, choose File > New Finder Window or press Command (⌘)–N.

Work with tabs

If all of your tabs aren’t visible, scroll through them.

When two or more tabs are open, click Add  to open a new tab.

To close a tab, place the pointer over the tab, then click Delete .

Show or hide filename extensions

Filename extensions—the period followed by a few letters or words that you see at the end of some filenames (for example, .jpg)—indicate which app can open a file.

Filename extensions are usually hidden in OS X, but if you find them useful, you can show them. If extensions are hidden, OS X still opens files with the proper apps.

For one file

  1. Select a file, then choose File > Get Info, or press Command (⌘)–I.

  2. Click the triangle next to Name & Extension to expand the section.

  3. To show or hide the filename extension, select or deselect “Hide extension.”

For all files

If you select “Show all filename extensions,” all extensions are shown, even for files that have “Hide extension” selected. If you deselect “Show all filename extensions,” then file extensions are shown or hidden based on their individual “Hide extension” settings.

  1. Choose Finder > Preferences, then click Advanced.

  2. Select or deselect “Show all filename extensions.”

When you rename a file or folder, don’t change its filename extension. Or, you may no longer be able to open the file with the app that was used to create it. To be warned before you change an extension, select “Show warning before changing an extension” in the Advanced pane of Finder preferences.

If you want to change a file’s format, use the app you used to create the file. For example, TextEdit can convert a document from plain text format (.txt) to a rich text format (.rtf), and Preview can convert many types of graphics files.

Delete files and folders

At any time, you can get rid of files, folders, and other items that you no longer need. You start by dragging items to the Trash, but the items aren’t deleted until you empty the Trash.

Trash in the Dock
Note:   If you turned off Time Machine or haven’t backed up your files recently, you may want to store a backup copy on a storage device, just in case you change your mind and want the item later.

Delete an item from your Mac

  1. Drag the item to the Trash. Or select the item, then press Command (⌘)–Delete.

  2. Click the Trash, then click Empty. You can also choose Finder > Empty Trash.

    When you see a warning message, click OK.

    Note:   If you see Empty Securely or Finder > Secure Empty Trash instead of Empty or Empty Trash, see If the Empty Trash command isn’t in the Finder menu.

Delete a locked item from your Mac

You must unlock the item before putting it in the Trash.

  1. Select the item, then choose File > Get Info or press Command (⌘)-I.

    If you are not logged in as an administrator, you may need to click the lock icon , then enter an administrator name and password.

  2. Drag the item to the Trash, click the Trash, then click Empty. You can also choose Finder > Empty Trash.

    When you see a warning message, click OK.

Securely empty the Trash

Even after you empty the Trash, deleted files can be recovered using data-recovery software. For extra security, you can delete files so they can’t easily be recovered.

  1. Drag the item to the Trash.

  2. Click the Finder icon in the Dock, then choose Finder > Secure Empty Trash. When you see a warning message, click OK.

    To always empty the Trash securely, choose Finder > Preferences, click Advanced, then select “Empty Trash securely.”

Files deleted in this way are completely overwritten by meaningless data. This may take some time, depending on the size of the files.

Prevent the Trash warning message from appearing

Once: Press the Option key when you click Empty or choose Empty Trash.

Always: Turn off the warning in the Advanced pane of Finder preferences. Choose Finder > Preferences, click Advanced, then deselect “Show warning before emptying the Trash.”

If you change your mind before emptying the Trash

Click the Trash to open it, then drag the item out of the Trash, or select the item and choose File > Put Back.


See your files in the Finder

Represented by the blue icon with the smiling face, the Finder is the home base for your Mac. You use it to organize and access almost everything on your Mac.

Example of a Finder window

See your stuff

Click items in the Finder sidebar to see your files, apps, downloads, and more. To make the sidebar even more useful, customize it.

Use folders … or don’t

If you like working in a folder structure, you can do that. It’s easy to create new folders in your Documents folder, on the desktop, or in iCloud Drive. For more information about iCloud Drive, see Store documents with iCloud Drive.

If you’d rather avoid folders, use All My Files. All of the files on your Mac and in iCloud are there. You can also use tags to organize your files.

Choose your view

You can choose how you view the items in Finder windows. For example, you don’t have to view your items in a list—Cover Flow lets you flip through your files and folders visually.

AirDrop it

You can send a file to a nearby iOS device or Mac right from the Finder. Click AirDrop in the sidebar to get started. For more information, see Use AirDrop to send files to devices near you.

You can also select a file in the Finder, then click the Share button  to share it using Mail, Messages, Twitter, Facebook, and more.

Onscreen help in OS X

The Finder and most other Mac apps have a Help menu in the menu bar. Use the Help menu and Help Window to get information about OS X, your Mac, and your apps.

Help menu

In the Help menu, you can search for menu items and help topics.

See how the Help menu works: Click the Finder icon in the Dock, open the Help menu, then enter “clipboard.” The results include the Show Clipboard menu item and help topics about the Clipboard.

See a menu item: Open the Help menu, enter the menu item you’re looking for, then place the pointer over the menu item result.

For example, in the Finder, enter “clipboard” in the Help menu, then place the pointer over Show Clipboard. The Edit menu opens with an arrow pointing to the command.

Get help: Open the Help menu, enter a search term, then choose one of the help topics, or choose Show All Help Topics to see more topics.

Help window

If you choose a help topic from the search results in the Help menu, or if you choose Mac Help or an app’s help (such as Mail Help or iTunes Help), the Help window opens.

Search: Enter a word or two in the search field, then choose a suggestion or press Return.

See more topics for the help you’re viewing: Click the Table of Contents button  in the Help window.

See previous topics: Click the Back  and Forward  buttons.

See a list of recently viewed topics: Click and hold the Back or Forward button until a list appears, then choose the topic you want.

Make text bigger or smaller: Press Command (⌘)-Plus (+) or Command (⌘)-Minus (–).

Find words within the current topic: Press Command (⌘)-F.

Print or share a topic: Click the Share button  in the Help window, then choose an option.

If help doesn’t answer your question

Enter different words in the search field.

If you searched for one word, search for two or three words. If you searched for many words, search for fewer words.

Open the specific app you want help for, then choose Help > [App name] Help.

Make sure you’re connected to the Internet. If you’re not connected, most of the help topics are unavailable.

Share on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and more

You’ll find the Share button  in the Finder as well as in many OS X apps, including Safari, Notes, Reminders, Photo Booth, and iPhoto. The Share button gives you an easy way to share links, photos, videos, and more—instantly.

Share items from a Finder window

  1. In a Finder window, select one or more items, then click the Share button  in the toolbar.

    If the item is on the desktop, Control-click it, then choose Share from the shortcut menu.

    Share button in a Finder window toolbar
  2. Choose how you want to share from the options listed in the Share menu.

    The options listed—including Email, Messages, Facebook, Twitter, and others—depend on the type of item you’re sharing and how you set up Extensions preferences, as described below.

  3. Provide any additional information needed for the sharing method you chose. For example, if you share a photo using Twitter, you can type some text describing the photo.

Customize the Share menu

You can choose which items appear in the Share menu by using Extensions preferences. Your choices also affect what appears in the Social widget in Today view in Notification Center. For more information.

  1. Click the Share button , then choose More from the Share menu to open Extensions preferences.

    You can also choose Apple menu > System Preferences, then click Extensions.

    Open Extensions preferences for me

  2. Click Share Menu on the left, then select the items you want in the Share menu and deselect the items you don’t want.

    If an item is selected in Extensions preferences, but you don’t see it in an app’s Share menu, then you can’t use that item to share in that particular app. For example you can’t use AirDrop in Mail or Safari.

You’ll find the Share button in many places on your Mac. You can tweet your favorite webpage links from Safari, share notes via Mail and Messages, and post photos and videos to Flickr or Vimeo. Or select a photo in your Pictures folder and use AirDrop to share it with others near you.