The Finder and Its Desktop - Getting Started with OS X Mavericks - OS X Mavericks For Dummies (2014)

OS X Mavericks For Dummies (2014)

Part I. Getting Started with OS X Mavericks

Chapter 5. The Finder and Its Desktop

In This Chapter

arrow Getting to know the Finder

arrow Using aliases: The greatest things since sliced bread

arrow View(ing) the Finder

arrow Navigating the Finder

arrow Customizing Finder windows

arrow Setting Finder preferences

arrow Getting information on icons

On your Mac, the Finder is your starting point — the centerpiece of your Mac experience, if you will — and it’s always available. In Finder’s windows or Desktop, you can double-click your way to your favorite application, your documents, or your folders. So in this chapter, I show you how to get the most from the OS X Mavericks Finder and its Desktop.

Introducing the Finder and Its Minions: The Desktop and Icons

The Finder is a special application unlike any other. It launches automatically when you log in and is always running in the background. The Desktop is a special part of the Finder unlike any other. Finally, icons and windows are the units of currency used by the Finder and Desktop.

Before I tackle any deep thoughts — such as what the Finder does or what the Desktop is — I start with a quick overview of some of the icons you’re likely to encounter as you get to know the Finder and Desktop.

Introducing the Desktop

The Desktop is the backdrop for the Finder — everything you see behind the Dock and any open windows. The Desktop is always available and is where you can usually find your hard drive icon(s).

This will be a whole lot easier with a picture for reference, so take a gander at Figure 5-1, which is a glorious depiction of a typical OS X Mavericks Finder.


Figure 5-1: A typical Finder and Desktop.

If you’re not familiar with the Finder’s Desktop, here are a few tips that will come in handy as you become familiar with the icons that hang out there:

image Icons on the Desktop behave the same as icons in a window. You move them and copy them just as you would icons in a window. The only difference is that icons on the Desktop aren’t in a window. Because they’re on the Desktop, they’re more convenient to use.

image The first icon you need to get to know is the icon for your hard drive (see Figure 5-2). You used to be able to find it on the top-right side of the Desktop, as it is in Figure 5-1. Yours probably has the name Macintosh HD unless you've already renamed it. (I renamed my hard driveMavericks HD in Figure 5-2; see the section on renaming icons in Chapter 6 if you'd like to rename your own hard drive.) You can see how selected and deselected hard drive icons look in Figure 5-2, too.

Mavericks (and Mountain Lion before it) changed a long-time Mac behavior that many users have come to expect. By default, Mavericks (and Mountain Lion) do not display optical disc and hard drive icons on the Desktop by default. If you don’t see your hard drive icon on the Desktop, select the check box for hard drives in Finder Preferences as described in the “Setting Finder preferences” section, later in this chapter.

image Other disc or hard drive icons appear on the Desktop by default. When you insert a CD or DVD or connect an external hard drive, the disc or drive icon appears on the Desktop just below your startup hard-drive icon (space permitting). You can find details about working with discs and drives in Chapter 8.

image You can move an item to the Desktop so you can find it right away. Simply click its icon in any window and then, without releasing the mouse button, drag it out of the window and onto the Desktop. Then release the mouse button. This will move it from wherever it was to the Desktop.

imageIf you drag an item from an external volume to the Desktop (or any location on your startup disk for that matter), the item is copied, not moved. Put another way, the item is moved if it’s on your startup disk, and copied if it’s on any other volume.


Figure 5-2: Unselected (left) and selected (right) hard-drive icons.

imageAt the bottom of the Finder window in Figure 5-1 are two optional bars. The lower of the two is called the status bar; it tells you how many items are in each window and, if any are selected, how many you've selected out of the total, as well as how much space is available on the hard drive containing this window. And just above the status bar is the path bar, which shows the path from the top level of your hard drive to the selected folder (which is Sample File.jpg in Figure 5-1). You can show or hide the status bar by choosing View⇒Hide/Show Status Bar and show or hide the path bar by choosing View⇒Hide/Show Path Bar. Finally, when the toolbar is hidden (see the "Bellying up to the toolbar" section, later in this chapter), the status bar moves to the top of the window (the path bar remains at the bottom of the window no matter what).

Bellying up to the toolbar

In addition to the Sidebar (introduced in Chapter 2) and some good old-fashioned double-clicking, the OS X Finder window offers navigation aids. Several of these are on the toolbar — namely, the Back and Forward buttons, as well as the extra-helpful view buttons. You can find other handy features on the Go menu, discussed a little later in this chapter.

In case you didn’t know, the toolbar is the thick gray band (see Figure 5-3) right below the title bar. On it are tools and buttons that let you navigate quickly and act on selected icons. To activate a toolbar button, click it once.

imageYou say you don’t want to see the toolbar at the top of the window? Okay! Just choose View⇒Hide Toolbar or use its keyboard shortcut (Command Key+Option+T), and it’s gone. (If only life were always so easy!) Want it back? Choose View⇒Show Toolbar or use the same keyboard shortcut: Command Key+Option+T.

imageAlas, hiding the toolbar also hides the useful Sidebar. If only you could choose to hide them independently. . . . I find this fact annoying because I use the Sidebar a lot but don’t use the toolbar nearly as often. To make matters worse, View⇒Hide Sidebar (shortcut: Command Key+Option+S) lets you hide the Sidebar without hiding the toolbar. It’s been like this for a long time, and for whatever reason, you still can’t hide the toolbar while keeping the Sidebar visible! Boo. Hiss.

When you hide the toolbar, you’ll find that when you open folders, they spawn a new Finder window. The default, which is probably what you’re used to, is to open folders “in place,” displaying their contents in the current window.

The toolbar’s default buttons are shown in Figure 5-3.

imageIf you’ve customized your toolbar by choosing View⇒Customize Toolbar, yours won’t look exactly like Figure 5-3.


Figure 5-3: A Finder window’s default toolbar.

Here is the lowdown on the toolbar’s default buttons, from left to right:

image Forward and Back buttons: Clicking the Forward and Back buttons displays the folders that you’ve viewed in this window in sequential order. If you’ve used a web browser, it’s a lot like that.

imageHere’s an example of how the Back button works. Say you’re in your Home folder; you click the Favorites button, and a split-second later, you realize that you actually need something in the Home folder. Just a quick click of the Back button and — poof! — you’re back Home. As for the Forward button, well, it moves you in the opposite direction, through folders that you’ve visited in this window. Play around with them both; you’ll find them invaluable. The keyboard shortcuts Command Key+[ for Back and Command Key+] for Forward are even more useful (in my opinion) than the buttons.

image View buttons: The four view buttons change the way that the window displays its contents.

You have four ways to view a window: Column, Icon, List, and Cover Flow. Some people like columns, some like icons, and others love lists or flows. To each her own. Play with the four Finder views to see which one works best for you. For what it’s worth, I usually prefer Column view with a dash of List view thrown in when I need a folder’s contents sorted by creation date or size. And the new Cover Flow view is great for folders with documents because you can see the contents of many document types right in the window, as I explain shortly.

imageDon’t forget that each view also has a handy keyboard shortcut: Command Key+1 for Icon view, Command Key+2 for List view, Command Key+3 for Column view, and Command Key+4 for Cover Flow view. (Views are so useful you’ll find an entire section devoted to them later in this chapter.)

image Arrange: Click this button to see a pop-up menu with options for displaying this window’s contents, as shown in Figure 5-4, which also shows the View menu’s Arrange By submenu, which unlike the pop-up version, includes keyboard shortcuts.


Figure 5-4: The View menu and pop-up menu versions of Arrange By with my Documents folder arranged by Date Last Opened.

In Figure 5-4, I selected Date Last Opened, and my Documents folder reflects that choice. Although you can sort items by Date Last Opened in List view (more on that is coming up later in this chapter in the “Listless? Try touring folders in List view” section), using the Arrange menu works for all four views and offers keyboard shortcuts (look in the View menu) to boot. I use them often, and you should too!

image Action: Click this button to see a pop-up menu of all the context-sensitive actions you can perform on selected icons, as shown in Figure 5-5.

imageIf you see angle brackets (>>) at the right edge of the toolbar, as shown in Figure 5-4, at least one toolbar item is not visible (the Search box in Figure 5-4). Click the angle brackets to select a hidden item, or expand the window enough to make the angle brackets disappear.

image Share: Click here to share the selected items with others. A pop-up menu lets you choose to share via Mail, Messages, or AirDrop for all files and folders, with Twitter and Flickr also appearing if the selected item happens to be an image (.jpeg, .jpg, .tiff, .tif, .png, and so on).

image Tags: Click here to assign one or more colored tags to selected items. You’ll find out more about tags and tagging in the “Customizing Finder Windows” section later in this chapter.

image Search: The toolbar’s Search box is a nifty way to search for files or folders. Just type a word (or even just a few letters), and in a few seconds, the window fills with a list of files that match. You can also start a search by choosing File⇒Find (shortcut: Command Key+F). You find out about Search in Chapter 7.


Figure 5-5: Use the Action pop-up menu to perform common actions on selected items.

Figuring out what an icon is

What’s an icon? Glad you asked. Each Finder icon represents an item or a container on your hard drive. Containers — hard disks, USB thumb drives, folders, CDs, DVDs, shared network volumes, and so on — can contain a virtually unlimited number of application files, document files, and folders.

Icons in the Dock and the Sidebar of Finder windows are not the same as the Finder icons I’ll be discussing in this chapter — they’re simply convenient pointers to actual Finder icons. Technically, Dock and Sidebar icons are aliases. (If you don’t yet know what an alias is, you’re going to find out long before the thrilling conclusion of this chapter.)

Anyway, working with icons is easy:

image Single-click to select.

image Double-click to open.

image Click-and-drag to move.

image Release mouse button to drop.

But enough talk. It’s time to see what these puppies actually look like.

Identifying your Finder icons in the wild

Although icons all work the same, they come in different kinds, shapes, and sizes. When you’ve been around the Macintosh for a while, you develop a sixth sense about icons and can guess what an unfamiliar icon contains just by looking at it.

The major icon types are

image Application icons are programs — the software you use to accomplish tasks on your Mac. Mail, Safari, and iCal are applications. So are Microsoft Word and Adobe Photoshop.

Application icons come in a variety of shapes. For example, application icons are often square-ish, diamond-shaped, rectangular, or just oddly shaped. Figure 5-6 displays application icons of various shapes.

image Document icons are files created by applications. Letters created with TextEdit are documents. This chapter is a document created in Microsoft Word. And my spreadsheet, PDF, video, image, and song files are all documents.

Document icons are often reminiscent of a piece of paper, as shown in Figure 5-7.


Figure 5-6: Application icons come in many shapes.


Figure 5-7: Typical document icons.

image Folder and Disk icons are the Mac’s organizational containers. You can put icons — and the applications or documents they stand for — in folders or disks. You can put folders in disks or in other folders, but you can’t put a disk inside another disk.

imageFolders look like, well, manila folders (what a concept) and can contain just about any other icon. You use folders to organize your files and applications on your hard drive. You can have as many folders as you want, so don’t be afraid to create new ones. The thought behind the whole folders thing is pretty obvious: If your hard drive is a filing cabinet, folders are its drawers and folders (duh!). Figure 5-8 shows some typical folder icons.

And while disks behave pretty much like folders, their icons often look like disks, as shown in Figure 5-9.

image Alias icons are wonderful — no, make that fabulous — organizational tools. I like aliases so much, in fact, that they get a whole entire section to themselves.


Figure 5-8: The folders in my Home folder are pretty typical folders.


Figure 5-9: Disk icons generally look a lot like, well, disks.

imageIf you’re looking for details about how to organize your icons in folders, move them around, delete them, and so on, hang in there. The next chapter (Chapter 6) is about organizing and managing files and folders.

Aliases: Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread

An alias is a tiny file that automatically opens the file, folder, disk, or network volume that it represents. Although an alias is technically an icon, it’s different from other icons; it actually does nothing but open another icon automatically when you double-click. Put another way, aliases are organizational tools that let you have an icon appear in more than one place without having to create multiple copies of the file that icon represents.

An alias is very different from a duplicated file. For example, the iTunes application uses around 290 megabytes (MB) of hard-drive space. If I were to duplicate iTunes, I’d have two files on my hard disk, each requiring around 290MB of disk space.

An alias of iTunes, on the other hand, looks just like the original iTunes icon and opens iTunes when you double-click it but requires less than 5MB of hard disk space. So try placing aliases of programs and files you use most often in convenient places such as the Desktop or a folder in your Home folder.

imageIn effect, Microsoft stole the alias feature from Apple. (If you’ve used Windows, you may know aliases as shortcuts.) But what else is new? And for what it’s worth, the Mac’s aliases usually don’t break when you move or rename the original file; Windows shortcuts sometimes do (though less frequently in Windows 8 than, say, Windows XP).

Why else do I think that aliases are so great? Well, they open any file or folder on any hard drive from anywhere else on any hard drive — which is a very good trick. But there are many other reasons why I think aliases rock:

image Convenience: Aliases enable you to make items appear to be in more than one place, which on many occasions is exactly what you want to do. For example, keep an alias of your word-processor program on your Desktop and another in your Documents folder for quick access. Aliases enable you to open your word processor right away without having to navigate into the depths of your Applications folder every time you need it.

imageWhile you’re at it, you might want to put an icon for your word processor in both the Dock and the Sidebar to make it even easier to open your word processor without a lot of clicking.

image Flexibility and organization: You can create aliases and store them anywhere on your hard drive to represent the same document in several different folders. This is a great help when you need to file a document that can logically be stored in any of several folders. If you write a memo to Fred Smith about the Smythe Marketing Campaign to be executed in the fourth quarter, which folder does the document belong in? Smith? Smythe? Marketing? Memos? 4th Quarter? Correct answer: With aliases, it can go in every folder, if you like. Then you can find the memo wherever you look instead of guessing which folder you filed it in.

image Integrity: Some programs must remain in the same folder as their supporting files and folders. Some programs, for example, won’t function properly unless they’re in the same folder as their dictionaries, thesauruses, data files (for games), templates, and so on. Thus, you can’t put the actual icon for such programs on the Desktop without impairing their functionality. An alias lets you access a program like that from anywhere on your hard drive.

I admit I’m somewhat old-school when it comes to organizing my files in the proper folders (see Chapter 6), but Mavericks’ speedy Spotlight search mechanism along with tools like Launchpad and Mission Control (all, not coincidentally, discussed in Chapter 7), as well as the Sidebar’s All My Files item, let you find pretty much any file on your disk in seconds.

Creating aliases

image When you create an alias, its icon looks the same as the icon that it represents, but the suffix alias is tacked onto its name, and a tiny arrow called a badge (as shown in the margin) appears in the bottom-left corner of its icon. Figure 5-10 shows an alias and its parent icon — the icon that opens if you double-click the alias.

To organize or not . . .

These days, some users prefer to have all their files — every single one — in one folder, usually the Documents folder. There’s nothing to prevent you from putting every file in one folder; OS X Mavericks could care less. That doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

First, opening folders with thousands and thousands of files takes longer. And the more files there are, the longer it will be before you can use them. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to wait, especially when I don’t have to. Second, folders with thousands of files become a nightmare in applications’ Open dialogs.

The good news is that you find out how to tame the Open dialog, how to create and use subfolders, and how to organize your own stuff in Chapter 6. For those who choose to ignore the good advice in this chapter and Chapter 6, Chapter 7 introduces Spotlight, which makes it simple to find and open almost any file quickly, even files in the same folder as tens of thousands of other files. But I digress. . . .


Figure 5-10: An alias (right) and its parent.

To create an alias for an icon, do one of the following:

image Click the parent icon and choose File⇒Make Alias.

image Click the parent icon and press Command Key+L.

image Click the parent icon and use the Action menu’s Make Alias command.

image Click an icon while holding down the Control key and then choose the Make Alias command from the contextual menu that appears. (You can explore contextual menus — which are very cool — in Chapter 2.)

image Click any file or folder, press and hold down Command Key+Option, and then drag the file or folder while continuing to hold down Command Key+Option. Presto! An alias appears where you release the mouse button.

imageWhen I first create a file, I save it in its proper folder inside the Documents folder in my Home folder. If it’s a document that I plan to work on for more than a day or two (such as a magazine article or book chapter), I make an alias of the document (or folder) and plop it on my Desktop. After I finish the article or chapter and submit it to an editor, I trash the alias, leaving the original file safe and sound in its proper folder and my Desktop clean and uncluttered.

Deleting aliases

This is a short section because deleting an alias is such an easy chore. To delete an alias, simply drag it onto the Trash icon in the Dock. That’s it! You can also Control-click it and choose Move to Trash from the contextual menu that appears, or select the icon and press Command Key+Delete.

Deleting an alias does not delete the parent item. (If you want to delete the parent item, you have to go hunt it down and kill it yourself.)

Hunting down an alias’s parent

Suppose that you create an alias of a file, and later you want to delete both the alias and its parent file, but you can’t find the parent file. What do you do? Well, you can use the Finder’s Find function to find it (try saying that three times real fast), but here are four faster ways to find the parent icon of an alias:

image Select the alias icon and choose File⇒Show Original.

image Select the alias icon and press Command Key+R.

image Select the alias icon and use the Action menu’s Show Original command.

image Control-click the alias icon and choose Show Original from the contextual menu.

Any of these methods opens the window containing the parent document with its icon preselected for your convenience.

The View(s) from a Window

Views are part of what makes your Mac feel like your Mac. Mavericks offers four views so you can select the best one for any occasion. Some people like one view so much that they rarely (or never) use others. Other people, like me, memorize the keyboard shortcuts to switch views instantly without reaching for the mouse. Try ’em all, and use the one(s) you prefer.

Moving through folders fast in Column view

Column view is a darn handy way to quickly look through a lot of folders at once, and it’s especially useful when those folders are filled with graphics files. The Column view is my favorite way to display windows in the Finder.

image To display a window in Column view, shown in Figure 5-11, click the Column view button on the toolbar (as shown in the margin), choose View⇒As Columns from the Finder’s menu bar, or press Command Key+3.


Figure 5-11: A Finder window in Column view.

Here’s how I clicked around in Column view to see the list of folders and files you see in Figure 5-11:

1. When I click the Documents icon in the Sidebar, its contents appear in the column to the right.

2. When I click the Templates folder in this column, its contents appear in the second column.

3. When I click the biz cards BL.TV show 12 folder in the second column, its contents appear in the third column.

4. Finally, when I click the BLTV Logo.psd icon in the third column, the contents of that file appear, along with some information about it: It's an Adobe Photoshop file, 511K in size, created on 1/23/2012, and so on. That's called the Preview column.

imageWhen you’re poking around your Mac in Column view, the following tips are good to know:

image You can have as many columns in a Column view window as your screen can handle. Just drag any edge or corner of the window to enlarge it so new columns have room to open. Or click the green Zoom (also known as Maximize) gumdrop button to expand the window to “just big enough” to display all columns with content in them.

image You can use the little grabber handles at the bottom of every column to resize the column widths.

They’re pretty versatile:

• If you drag a handle left or right, the column to its left resizes.

• If you hold down the Option key when you drag, all the columns resize at the same time.

• If you double-click one of these little handles, the column to its left expands to the width of the widest item it contains.

• Right- or Control-click any grabber handle for a pop-up menu with three options: Right Size This Column; Right Size All Columns Individually; and Right Size All Columns Equally.

image The preview column displays information about the highlighted item to its left, but only if that item isn’t a folder or disk. (If it were a folder or disk, its contents would be in this column.) For many items, the picture you see in the preview column is an enlarged view of the file’s icon. But if the item is a graphic file (even a PDF) saved in a format that QuickLook can interpret (most graphic file formats and many others including Word and Pages), a preview picture appears instead, as shown in Figure 5-11. If you don’t like having the preview displayed, you can choose View⇒Show View Options and turn off Show Preview Column.

Perusing in Icon view

Icon view is a free-form view that allows you to move your icons around within a window to your heart’s content. Refer to Figure 5-6 to see the icons in my Applications folder in Icon view.

image To display a window in Icon view, click the Icon view button in the toolbar (shown in the margin), choose View⇒As Icons from the Finder’s menu bar, or press Command Key+1.

imageLearn to love the Icon Size control in the lower-right corner of Icon view windows or in the top-right corner when the Sidebar and toolbar are hidden.

image Icon view: The ol’ stick-in-the-mud view

In all fairness, I must say that many perfectly happy Macintosh users love Icon view and refuse to even consider anything else. Fine. But as the number of files on your hard drive increases (as it does for every Mac user), screen real estate becomes more and more valuable. In my humble opinion, the only real advantages that Icon view has over Column or List view are the ability to arrange the icons anywhere you like within the window and to put a background picture or color behind your icons. Big deal.

I offer this solution as a compromise: If you still want to see your files and folders in Icon view, make them smaller so that more of them fit in the same space onscreen. This is what I do with any icons I have on my Desktop (because the Desktop allows only Icon view).

To change the size of a window’s icons, use the little slider in the bottom-right corner of the Finder window when the status bar is showing. If it’s not, choose View⇒Status Bar (or press Command Key+/).

Bigger icons make me crazy, but if you like them that way, your Mac can accommodate you. You can also alter the space between icons by dragging the Grid Spacing slider left or right. Note: If you like Icon view, consider purchasing a larger monitor; I hear that monitors now come in a 30-inch size.

The Finder’s View menu also offers a few commands that might help you glance through your icons more easily:

image Clean Up: Choose this command to align icons to an invisible grid; you use it to keep your windows and Desktop neat and tidy. (If you like this invisible grid, don’t forget that you can turn it on or off for the Desktop and individual windows by using View Options.) Clean Up is available only in Icon view or when no windows are active. If no windows are active, the command instead cleans up your Desktop. (To deactivate all open windows, just click anywhere on the Desktop or close all open windows.)

imageIf you’re like me, you’ve taken great pains to place icons carefully in specific places on your Desktop. Cleaning up your Desktop destroys all your beautiful work and moves all your perfectly arranged icons. And alas, cleaning up your Desktop is not something you can undo.

imageIf any icons are selected (highlighted) when you pull down the View menu, you see Clean Up Selection rather than Clean Up. If you choose this command, it moves only the icons that are currently selected.

image Clean Up By: This command combines the tidiness of the Clean Up command with the organizational yumminess of the Arrange By command, which I introduce in a moment.

This command sorts the icons by your choice of criteria, namely:

• Name (shortcut: Command Key+Option+1)

• Kind (shortcut: Command Key+Option+2)

• Date Modified (shortcut: Command Key+Option+5)

• Date Created (no shortcut)

• Size (shortcut: Command Key+Option+6)

• Tags (shortcut: Command Key+Option+7)

It’s similar to the Arrange By command, but this one’s a one-time affair. After you’ve used it, you can move icons around and reorganize them any way you like.

image Arrange By: This command rearranges the icons in the active window in your choice from among nine ways, which happen to be the same nine options (ten if you count “None”) in the Arrange pop-up menu (shown earlier in Figure 5-4).

Unlike Clean Up By, which is a one-shot command, Arrange By is persistent and will continue to reorganize your icons automatically. In other words, you can’t move icons around manually in an arranged window.

One last thing: The Clean Up and Clean Up By commands are only available for windows viewed as icons; the Arrange By command is available in all four views and remains in effect if you switch to a different view or close the window. To stop the Finder from arranging icons in a window, choose None from either the View⇒Arrange By submenu or the toolbar’s Arrange pop-up menu, or use the keyboard shortcut, Command Key+Control+0.

Listless? Try touring folders in List view

Now I come to my second-favorite view, List view (shown in Figure 5-12). I like it so much because of the little triangles to the left of each folder, known as disclosure triangles, which let you see the contents of a folder without actually opening it. This view also allows you to select items from multiple folders at once and move or copy items between folders in a single window. Finally, it’s the view used to present Spotlight search results.

image To display a window in List view, click the List view button on the toolbar (shown in the margin), choose View⇒As List from the Finder’s menu bar, or press Command Key+2.


Figure 5-12: A window in List view.

When you’re in List view, the following tips can help you breeze through your folders to find what you’re looking for:

image To disclose a folder’s contents, click the triangle to its left or, if it’s selected, press the right-arrow key. Figure 5-12 shows the result of either clicking the triangle to the left of the Dr. Mac 2013 folder or selecting (highlighting) the Dr. Mac 2013 folder and pressing the right-arrow key.

imageIf you press Option+right arrow, all the folder’s subfolders also expand. Had I pressed the Option key before pressing the right-arrow key in Figure 5-12, the Dr. Mac Columns Jan-June 2013 and Notes for 2013 Dr. Mac Columns folders would have expanded. If either of these folders had contained any subfolders, they would have been expanded as well.

image Click the column header to sort items in List view. Notice the little triangle at the right edge of the selected column (the Name column in Figure 5-12). That’s the column’s sorting indicator. If the triangle points upward, as it does in Figure 5-12, the items in the corresponding column are sorted in alphabetical order; if you click the header (Name) again, the triangle will flip over to point downward and the items will be listed in the opposite (reverse alphabetical) order. This behavior is true for all columns in List view windows.

image You can change the order in which columns appear in a window. To do so, press and hold a column’s name, and then drag it to the left or right until it’s where you want it. Release the mouse button, and the column moves.

The exception (isn’t there always an exception?) is that the Name column always appears first in List view windows; you can move all other columns about at will. In fact, you can even hide and show columns other than Name if you like using the View Options window.

imageYou can fine-tune all four views and the Desktop by using the View Options window. Just choose View⇒Show View Options or press Command Key+J. The options you see apply to the active window or the Desktop. Click the Use as Defaults button to apply these options to all windows in that view (that is, Icon, List, Column, or Cover Flow).

image Right- or Control-click anywhere on any column header to show or hide columns (as shown in Figure 5-12). Column names with check marks are displayed; column names that are unchecked are hidden.

image image To widen or shrink a column, hover over the dividing line between that column and drag left or right. When your cursor is over the dividing line in the header, it changes to a double-headed resizer, as shown in the margin.

You gotta go with the flow

If you’re familiar with the Cover Flow feature in iTunes or if you own an iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad (which do a Cover Flow thing when you turn them sideways in their iPod music-player mode), you’re already familiar with Cover Flow.

image To display a window in Cover Flow view, click the Cover Flow view button on the toolbar (shown in the margin), choose View⇒As Cover Flow from the Finder’s menu bar, or press Command Key+4. Figure 5-13 shows Cover Flow view.

Cover Flow view has two cool features:

image The item that's selected in the list (Graphite Eye in Figure 5-13) appears in a preview in the top part of the window.

image You can flip through the previews by clicking the images to the left or right of the current preview image or by sliding the gray oval in the black scroll bar (directly below the G in Graphite in Figure 5-13) to the left or right.


Figure 5-13: A window in Cover Flow mode.

Finder on the Menu

The Finder menu is packed with useful goodies, most of which are available in its menus. In the following sections, I look at those that pertain specifically to using the Finder.

The actual Finder menu

Here are a few of the main items you can find on the Finder menu:

image About Finder: Choose this command to find out which version of the Finder is running on your Mac. This menu item isn’t particularly useful — or at least not for very long. But when a different application is running, the About Finder item becomes About <application name> and usually gives information about the program’s version number, the developers, and any other tidbits that those developers decide to throw in. Sometimes these tidbits are useful, sometimes they’re interesting, and sometimes they’re both.

image Preferences: Use the choices here to control how the Finder looks and acts. Find out the details in the “Setting Finder preferences” section, later in this chapter.

image Services: One of the really cool features of OS X applications is the accessibility of Services. If nothing is selected in the Finder, the Services menu is empty, as shown in Figure 5-14 (A). When an icon or icons are selected, there are two Services you can choose, as shown in Figure 5-14 (B). Finally, if a word or words are selected, you have a myriad of options, as shown in Figure 5-14 (C).

In other words, the items you see in the Services menu are context-sensitive, so what you see in yours will depend on what you have selected. If you look in the Services menu and don’t find anything interesting, try selecting something else and looking again; you might be pleasantly surprised.

imageChoose the last item in the menu, Services Preferences, and you can enable dozens of useful Services that aren’t available by default.

image image Hide Finder (Command Key+H): Use this command when you have Finder windows open and they’re distracting you. Choosing it makes the Finder inactive (another program becomes active) and hides any open Finder windows. To make the Finder visible again, either choose Show All from the application’s self-named menu (the one that bears the name of the active application, such as Finder, TextEdit, System Preferences, and so on) or click the Finder icon, shown in the margin here, in the Dock.

imageThe advantage to hiding the Finder — rather than closing or minimizing all your windows to get a clean screen — is that you don’t have to open them all again when you’re ready to get the windows back. Instead, just choose Show All (to see all windows in all apps) or click the Finder button in the Dock to see all Finder windows.

image Hide Others (Option+Command Key+H): This command hides all windows associated with all running programs except the active program. It appears in most applications’ self-named menu and is good for hiding distractions so you can focus on one thing: the unhidden application.

imageAnother easy way to hide all open applications and windows while activating the Finder is to hold down the Command Key and Option keys and click the Finder icon in the Dock. This technique works with whatever application is active, not just the Finder. So if you’re surfing the web and decide you want to see only Safari’s windows on your screen, Command Key+Option-click the Safari button in the Dock, and it will happen instantly.

image Show All: Use this command as the antidote to both of the Hide commands. Choose this, and nothing is hidden anymore.

Note that all three of these commands require that at least one application be running in addition to the Finder. Put another way, when the Finder is the only app running, these three commands are grayed out and unavailable.

imageYou can achieve much the same effect as all this hide-and-show jazz by using Mission Control, which I discuss in Chapter 7.


Figure 5-14: Services available with nothing selected (A), an icon selected (B), and a word selected (C).

Finally, if you noticed that the Finder menu’s Empty Trash command isn’t mentioned here, that’s because it’s mentioned briefly in Chapter 4 and gets detailed coverage in Chapter 6.

Like a road map: The current folder’s pop-up menu

In the center of the window’s title bar is the name of the folder that you’re viewing in this window: the highlighted folder. You know that already. What you might not know is that it offers a hidden road map to this folder from the top level. The following steps explain how it works:

1. Control-click and hold the folder’s name (Desktop) in the title bar.

A pop-up menu appears, with the current folder (Desktop, in Figure 5-15) at the top.


Figure 5-15: Traverse folders from this convenient pop-up menu.

imageThe Control-click shortcut is new in Mavericks; in all previous versions of OS X it was Command Key-click.

2. Select any folder in the menu, and it becomes the highlighted folder in the current window; release the mouse button, and that folder’s contents are displayed.

As shown in Figure 5-15, the contents of the Desktop folder — a file and a folder — are displayed in the window. If I release the mouse button, the contents of the highlighted folder (bobl) will appear.

3. After jumping to a new folder, you can click the Back button.

Hey, you’re right back where you were before you touched that pop-up menu!

imageDon’t forget that you can display the path bar near the bottom of the window (it’s showing in Figures 5-12, 5-13, and 5-15) by choosing View⇒Show Path Bar. Then you can double-click any folder displayed in the path bar to open it.

Last but not least, this trick doesn’t just work on Finder windows . . . it also works with the title bar in most document windows (Word, Photoshop, and so on), showing you the path to the folder containing the document you’re working on.

Going places with the Go menu

The Go menu is chock-full of shortcuts. The items on this menu take you to places on your Mac — many of the same places you can go with the Finder window toolbar — and a few other places.

The following list gives you a brief look at the items on the Go menu:

image Back (Command Key+[): Use this menu option to return to the last Finder window that you had open. It’s equivalent to the Back button on the Finder toolbar, in case you have the toolbar hidden.

image Forward (Command Key+]): This command is the opposite of using the Back command, moving you forward through every folder you open. Remember that if you haven’t gone back, you can’t go forward.

image Enclosing Folder (Command Key+image): This command tells the Finder window to display the folder where the currently selected item is located.

image All My Files (Shift+Command Key+F): This command shows you all your document files at once.

imageThis is a good time to use the Arrange pop-up menu to sort these files into some semblance of order.

image Documents (Shift+Command Key+O): You’ll probably use this command often because the Documents folder is a great place to save documents you create.

image Desktop (Shift+Command Key+D): Use this command to display the Desktop folder, which contains the same icons as the Desktop you see behind open windows.

image Downloads (Option+Command Key+L): This opens your Downloads folder, which is where files you download in Safari, save as attachments in Mail, or receive via AirDrop (explained shortly) are saved by default.

image Home (Shift+Command Key+H): Use this command to have the Finder window display your Home folder (which is named with your short name).

image Computer (Shift+Command Key+C): This command tells the Finder window to display the Computer level, showing your Network and all your disks.

image AirDrop (Shift+Command Key+R): AirDrop lets you share files wirelessly with anyone around you. No setup or special settings are required. Just click the AirDrop icon in the Finder Sidebar, use this menu item, or use the keyboard shortcut, and your Mac automatically discovers other people nearby who are using AirDrop. Bear in mind that not all Macs capable of running Mavericks support AirDrop. If your Mac is 2009 vintage (or older), AirDrop might not work.

image Network (Shift+Command Key+K): This command displays whatever is accessible on your network in the Finder window.

image Applications (Shift+Command Key+A): This command displays your Applications folder, the usual storehouse for all the programs that came with your Mac (and the most likely place to find the programs you install).

image Utilities (Shift+Command Key+U): This command gets you to the Utilities folder inside the Applications folder in one fell swoop. The Utilities folder is the repository of such useful items as Disk Utility (which lets you erase, format, verify, and repair disks) and Disk Copy (which you use to create and mount disk-image files). You find out more about these useful tools in Chapter 19.

image Recent Folders: Use this submenu to quickly go back to a folder that you recently visited. Every time you open a folder, OS X creates an alias to it and stores it in the Recent Folders folder. You can open any of these aliases from the Recent Folders command on the Go menu.

image Go to Folder (Shift+Command Key+G): This command summons the Go to Folder dialog, shown in Figure 5-16. Look at your Desktop. Maybe it’s cluttered with lots of windows, or maybe it’s completely empty. Either way, suppose you’re several clicks away from a folder that you want to open. If you know the path from your hard drive to that folder, you can type the path to the folder in the Go to the Folder text box (separating folder names with forward slashes [/]) and then click Go to move (relatively) quickly to the folder you need.

imageThe first character you type must also be a forward slash, as shown in Figure 5-16, unless you’re going to a subfolder of the current window (bobl in Figure 5-16).

imageThis particular dialog is a tad clairvoyant; it tries to guess which folder you mean by the first letter or two that you type. For example, in Figure 5-16, I typed the letter A and paused, and the window guessed that I wanted Applications. Then I pressed the right-arrow key to accept the guess and typed /U, and the window guessed the rest (tilities) and filled it in for me.

image Connect to Server (Command Key+K): If your Mac is connected to a network or to the Internet, use this command to reach those remote resources.


Figure 5-16: Go to a folder by typing its path.

One last thing: If you’re looking for the Library folder inside your Home folder, which used to appear in the Go menu (before OS X 10.7 Lion), it’s now hidden for your protection (as I explain in Chapter 6). To reveal it, hold down the Option key and click the Go menu.

Customizing Finder Windows

The Finder is outrageously handy. It not only gives you convenient access to multiple windows, but also offers ways to tweak what you see till you get what works best for you. So whereas earlier sections in this chapter explain what the Finder is and how it works, the following sections ask, “How would you like it to be?”

Adding folders to the Sidebar

Adding whatever folder you like to the Sidebar is easy. All you need to do is select the item you want to add and choose File⇒Add to Sidebar from the menu bar (or press ⇧+Option+T). You can now reach the item by clicking it in any Finder window’s Sidebar. And you can move files or folders into that folder by dragging them onto the Sidebar icon for the item.

To remove an item from the Sidebar, right-click or Control-click the item and choose Remove from Sidebar.

Setting Finder preferences

You can find Finder and Desktop preferences by choosing Finder⇒Preferences. In the Finder Preferences window that appears, click the icons in the toolbar to select one of the four Finder preference panes: General, Tags, Sidebar, and Advanced, all of which are shown in Figure 5-17.


Figure 5-17: Set Finder preferences here.

General pane

In the General pane, you find the following options:

image Show These Items on the Desktop check boxes: Select or deselect these check boxes to choose whether icons for hard drives; external disks; CDs, DVDs, and iPods; and connected servers appear on the Desktop. OS X Mavericks (and Mountain Lion before it) deselects all four options by default (which differs from earlier versions of Mac OS, which enabled all four by default). If you don’t want disk icons cluttering your beautiful Desktop, deselect (clear) these check boxes. When they’re deselected, you can still work with hard drives, CDs, DVDs, and other types of disks. You just have to open a Finder window and select the disk or disc you want in the Sidebar.

image New Finder Windows Show: Here, you can choose whether opening a new Finder window displays All My Files, your Home folder (which is my preference), the Documents or Desktop folders, or any other disk or folder. (All My Files is the default.)

image Command Key-Double-Click Opens a Folder in a New Tab check box: Selecting this box spawns a new tab in the current window when you Command Key-double-click a folder or disk.

imageDon’t enable it and Command Key-double-clicking a folder opens it in a new window.

The default behavior is for folders to open “in place” when you double-click them without pressing the Command Key key, which prevents window clutter. If you want a new window or tab instead, press Command Key before you double-click. This forces the folder to open in a new window or tab (depending on whether the box is checked or not). Between this feature and Column view, I rarely need more than two windows onscreen, and I get by most of the time with a single window with multiple tabs.

image Spring-Loaded Folders and Windows: This one’s easier to do than to explain, so do this: Select the check box to enable the feature and then drag any icon (except a disk icon) onto any folder or disk icon. When the folder or disk icon is highlighted, don’t release the mouse button. After a delay (which you set via the Delay slider), the highlighted folder icon “springs” open. If you drag the item onto another folder now, that folder springs open. And so on. This continues until you release the mouse button, at which time the item you’re dragging is dropped into whichever folder is open at the time. Notice that each time you drag the item onto a different folder the previous folder springs shut automatically. That’s spring-loaded folders for you.

imageAs long as the check box is checked, you can make folders spring open instantly by pressing the spacebar, regardless of the delay you’ve specified with the Delay slider.

Tags pane

imagePrevious versions of OS X featured colored Labels, but Mavericks takes it to a new level, replacing Labels with Tags.

Labels weren’t particularly useful. You could assign only one label to a file or folder, and they weren’t integrated with Opening and Saving files. In a nutshell, Tags do everything Labels did and much, much more.

The Tags pane is where you manage your tags, which appear in the File menu, the right- or Control-click shortcut menu, the Sidebar, and the toolbar. You can see a file or folder’s tags in Finder windows, Get Info windows and inspectors, and Open and Save sheets, and you can use them as criteria for searches and Smart Folders.

image To rename a Tag, click its name and type a new one.

image To change a Tag’s color, click the colored circle to the left of its name and choose a different color.

image Check the boxes for Tags you want to appear in the Sidebar and toolbar, as shown in Figure 5-18.


Figure 5-18: I checked the boxes for these four Tags, so they’re displayed in the Sidebar and the toolbar’s Tags button.

imageTo see your unchecked Tags in the Sidebar or toolbar, click All Tags in (Sidebar) or Show All (toolbar).

Now, here’s how to use ’em. To assign Tags to icons, select the icon(s) and then follow these steps:

1. Choose FileTags and click one or more of the colored dots in the Tags section.

2. Right- or Control-click and click one or more of the colored dots in the Tags section of the shortcut menu.

3. Click the Tags button in the toolbar and click one or more of the Tags.

Here are a few more handy tricks with Tags:

image To create a custom Tag on the fly: Right- or Control-click an item, choose Tags, type a label for the new tag, and then press Return.

image To untag an item: Right- or Control-click the item, choose Tags, select the tag you want to remove, and then press Delete.

image To remove every instance of a Tag from every file and folder on your disk: Right- or Control-click the Tag in the Tags pane of Finder Preferences, and then choose Delete Tag. Don’t worry. Deleting a Tag won’t delete the items; it just removes that Tag from every item.

imageClick the Tags in your Sidebar to see every file on all connected hard disks with that tag.

Sidebar pane

The Sidebar pane lets you choose which items are displayed in the Sidebar. Select the check box to display the item; deselect the check box to not display it.

Advanced pane

The Advanced pane is just big enough to offer the following check boxes and a pop-up menu:

image Show All Filename Extensions check box: Tells the Finder to display the little two-, three-, four-, or more-character filename suffixes (such as .doc in summary.doc) that make your Mac's file lists look more like those of a Linux user. The Finder hides those from you by default, but if you want to be able to see them in the Finder when you open or save files, you need to turn on this option.

image Show Warning before Changing an Extension check box: Allows you to turn off the nagging dialog that appears if you attempt to change the two-, three-, four-, or more-character file extension.

image Show Warning Before Emptying the Trash check box (on by default): Allows you to turn off the nagging dialog telling you how many items are in the Trash and asking whether you really want to delete them.

image Empty Trash Securely check box: Makes Secure Empty Trash the default. The Secure Empty Trash feature overwrites deleted files with meaningless data so neither the files nor their contents can be recovered.

image When Performing a Search pop-up menu: Lets you choose the default search location when you initiate a search as described earlier in this chapter. Your choices are Search This Mac, Search the Current Folder, and Use the Previous Search Scope.

Digging for Icon Data in the Info Window

Every icon has an Info window that gives you — big surprise! — information about that icon and enables you to choose which other users (if any) you want to have the privilege of using this icon. (I discuss sharing files and privileges in detail in Chapter 16.) The Info window is also where you lock an icon so that it can’t be renamed or dragged to the Trash.

To see an icon’s Info window, click the icon and choose File⇒Get Info (or press Command Key+I). The Info window for that icon appears. Figure 5-19 shows the Info window for a folder called A Few of My Favorite Icons.

Documents, folders, and disks each have slightly different Info windows. In this section, I give you highlights on the type of information and options that you can find.

The gray triangles reveal what information for an icon is available in this particular Info window. The sections that you see for most icons include the following:

image Add Tags: Click in this field to add Tags to this item.

image General: For information of the general kind, such as

Kind: What kind of file this is — an application, document, disk, folder, and so on

Size: How much hard drive space this file uses

Where: The path to the folder that contains this file

Created: The date and time this file was created

Modified: The date and time this file was last modified (that is, saved)

Version: Copyright information and the file’s version number

Label: Choose or change the color label.


Figure 5-19: A typical Info window for an application (QuickTime Player, in this case).

Five other check boxes may or may not appear in the General section of a particular Info window. Here’s the scoop on this quintet of optional options:

Open in 32-bit Mode (check box): Most late-model Macs can take advantage of Mavericks’ high-performance 64-bit processing mode. Some applications are designed to take advantage of Mavericks faster 64-bit processing mode, but sometimes programs that should run in 64-bit mode don’t run properly. If an application doesn’t work properly — it often quits unexpectedly, freezes, or refuses to launch at all — try selecting this check box. It couldn’t hurt.

imageThis option is available only for applications designed to run in both modes; if you don’t see this check box, that means the program you’re using can run in only one mode.

Shared Folder (check box): Designates the folder as Shared, so other users are allowed to see and use its contents. You find out all about sharing in Chapter 16.

Stationery Pad (check box): This one appears only in the Info window of document icons. If you select it, the file becomes a template. When you open a Stationery Pad document, a copy of its contents appear in a new Untitled document that you would typically save with a descriptive name.

Locked (check box): If this box is checked, you receive a warning if you try to put the item in the Trash: This Item Is Locked. Do You Want to Move It to the Trash Anyway? Your options are Stop and Continue. If you continue, the item goes into the Trash as usual. Then, when you try to empty the Trash, you receive another warning: There Are Some Locked Items in the Trash. Do You Want to Remove All the Items, Including the Locked Ones, or Just the Unlocked Ones? Your choices this time are Cancel, Remove Unlocked Items, and Remove All Items. If you choose to Remove All Items, the locked item(s) are deleted. If you choose Remove Unlocked Items, the locked item(s) remain in the Trash, and you receive the There Are Some Locked Items warning again the next time you try to empty it.

To remove the locked item from the Trash, click the Trash icon in the Dock and drag the locked item out of the Trash and into a folder or onto the Desktop.

image More Info: When the file was created, modified, and last opened (documents only).

image Name & Extension: Tells the full name, including the (possibly hidden) extension.

image Comments: Provides a field in which you can type your own comments about this icon for Spotlight to use in its searches.

I talk about searching a little earlier in this chapter and discuss Spotlight searches in greater detail in Chapter 7.

image Preview: When you select a document icon, the menu offers a Preview option that you use to see a glimpse of what’s in that document. You can also see this preview when you select a document icon in Column view; it magically appears in the rightmost column. If you select a QuickTime movie or sound, you can play your selection right there in the preview pane without launching a separate application. And when you select most pictures, you see a preview of the actual picture (Elvis in Figure 5-19).

image Sharing & Permissions: Governs which users have access to this icon and how much access they are allowed. (See Chapter 16 for more about access privileges.)

imageIf you press the Option key before you pull down the Finder’s File menu, the Get Info command changes to Show Inspector (alternatively, press Command Key+Option+I). The Inspector window looks and acts like a Get Info window for the most part, with two whopping exceptions:

image It displays info for the currently selected icon. Click a different icon, and the Inspector displays different info. So you can Get Info on lots of icons by using the arrow keys or pressing Tab or Shift+Tab. Try it — it’s cool.

image It displays cumulative info when you select multiple icons. This is an easy way to determine the total size of several items (files or folders) all at once.

And that’s about it for icons, which are among the most fundamental parts of what makes your Mac a Mac (and not a toaster or an Xbox).