Finder is your Mac’s basic file browser, but it’s packed with useful features that can transform the way you perform everyday actions. Here are a few of our favorite features that we think you should be using.
Customize the Sidebar with Useful Locations
Finder’s sidebar works best if it’s full of useful locations that you use. To customize it, launch a Finder window then (in the menu bar at the top of the screen) click Finder > Settings followed by the “Sidebar” tab. From here you can enable or disable common shortcuts like AirDrop, iCloud, and Downloads.
Alternatively, click and drag any Finder window into the sidebar. To do this, navigate to the folder you want to add to your sidebar. Now click and drag the folder’s name at the top of the window. You’ll start to drag a folder icon which you can place into the sidebar.
You can now click and drag to rearrange these locations or right-click and select “Remove from Sidebar” to get rid of them. If you’ve somehow hidden your sidebar, get it back using View > Show Sidebar.
Quickly Share via AirDrop, Messages, and More
Use the “Share” button in the Finder toolbar or right-click on anything you want to share to access the built-in Share menu. You can quickly access sharing options for AirDrop, Mail, Messages, and frequent contacts. You’ll also see some other shortcuts for adding files to Notes, adding images to Photos, copying a link to items stored in iCloud Drive, and more.
Hit the “Edit Extensions” button to enable other Share menu services (if available).
Use Tags to Gather Files
Tags might just be the most under-appreciated Finder feature, but they can make life so much easier if you remember to use them. You’ll find a list of recent tags in your Finder sidebar (head to Finder > Settings > Sidebar and enable “Recent Tags” if you don’t).
From here you can customize tags using the “Tags” tab in Finder > Settings. You can add new tags, rename existing ones, and change colors to suit your liking. Apply tags to a file or folder using the right-click (Control+Click) context menu, or using the “Tags” button in the Finder toolbar.
Click on a tag to reveal a list of files or folders that have the tag applied, regardless of where they are on your drive. Make Finder tags work for you and you’ll be able to keep track of large numbers of useful files, regardless of their location.
Use Smart Folders to Group Things Automatically
Like tags, Smart Folders are another longstanding and powerful Finder feature. Unlike tags, which need to be applied to files and folders before they’re useful, Smart Folders group files based on existing criteria. So if you want to group all files that
With a Finder window open, click on File > New Smart Folder to get started. Click on the plus “+” button to add your first criteria, and then keep refining your Smart Folder by adding more criteria to narrow your search further. Hit “Save” and choose where to place your Smart Folder. You can then access it to show any files that meet the criteria you have specified.
Don’t forget to use the “Other” option to access a huge range of criteria.
See Free Space in the Status Bar
Changes made in macOS Ventura make it harder to see your free space at a glance since Apple removed the handy overview under the “About This Mac” window. Fortunately, you can still do this easily with Finder by enabling the status bar under View > Show Status Bar.
You’ll now see available free space for the current volume at the bottom of the Finder window. Keep in mind that if you’re perusing an external drive then you’ll see the total available space for that volume, and you’ll need to be viewing a folder on your local “Macintosh HD” partition to see how much local space you have left. This also works for iCloud.
Access iPhone Backup, Restore, and File Transfers
Plug in your iPhone or iPad and then click on the device shortcut in your Finder sidebar to create backups, restore software, or perform file transfers. This functionality was once limited to iTunes but since Apple discontinued the app (on macOS, at least) the responsibility was handed off to Finder.
You’ll be able to manually sync photos (if you’re not using iCloud Photo Library), music, movies, TV shows, and more. Use the “Files” tab to transfer files to and from app data using drag and drop.
Use Finder Tabs to Keep Things Tidy
You can use tabs in Finder just like you can in Safari. To open a new Finder tab, simply hit Command+T on a Finder window (you’ll also find the option under File > New Tab). You can also Command+Click on a sidebar shortcut or Command+Double Click a folder to open a tab. This is a great way of cutting down on clutter by condensing similar Finder operations within a single window.
You can choose to permanently display the tab bar if you want using View > Show Tab Bar. With two or more tabs open you can click and drag files between tabs, drag to rearrange, move tabs from one Finder window to the other, or undock tabs by dragging them out of the Finder window.
Change Which Folder Appears When You Launch Finder
Set your starting folder when you open a new Finder window under Finder > Settings > General. Use the “New Finder Windows” show drop-down box to pick a location or your recent files, or specify a custom location using the “Other” option instead. This affects both new windows and new tabs, so pick something useful.
Use Different Views for Different Folders
You can view files as icons, as a list view, as columns, and as a gallery within Finder. You can switch between this using the “View” button in the Finder toolbar or using the View menu. Finder will remember which view you’ve chosen depending on the folder you’re currently using.
This means you can use List view for folders with lots of files, making it easy to sort through them. You can right-click (Control+Click) on the list criteria at the top of the folder to add different criteria by which to sort. Then click on each criterion to toggle between descending and ascending order.
For media, you might prefer gallery view. Column view is useful if you want to switch between a lot of folders since it shows the folder structure as a series of columns. When you double-click on a folder Finder will default to the view that you’ve previously chosen for that particular folder, otherwise you’re free to scroll and click around until you’ve found what you want.
Use Quick Look to Preview Files With Spacebar
Why waste time opening files when you can quickly preview them instead? Highlight a file and then hit Spacebar to open a preview in Quick Look. This works great for images, videos, audio, and documents. You can even access markup tools when previewing a PDF document.
Use “Go to Folder” to Navigate Quickly
Finder’s “Go to Folder” shortcut is handy for quickly navigating using your keyboard. Access it with the Shift+Command+G keyboard shortcut (or find it under Go > Go to Folder). Once open, you can start typing the name of the folder you want and see some smart suggestions appear which you can select with your arrow keys (or mouse).
Use the right arrow key to autocomplete the path name with Finder’s suggestion, then use a “/” to see a list of available folders within that location.
Bonus: Access Quick Actions on the Right Click Menu
You can right-click (or Control+Click) on a file in Finder to access the Quick Actions menu, which lets you run context-dependent Automator and Shortcuts workflows. With this menu, you can do things like resize and convert images and PDF documents in two-clicks.
You can add useful macOS Shortcuts to your Quick Actions menu simply by checking the “Use as Quick Action” box in the “Shortcut Details” panel.