OS X Mavericks: Working with Finder

Lesson 4: Working with Finder


Working with Finder

If you use a Mac, you'll use Finder whenever you want to navigate to a file. You'll also be able to control how your files are displayed, making it easier to find what you need.

The Finder window

To start navigating, you'll first need to open a Finder window. There are two main ways to do this:

  • Double-click any folder on the desktop.

    Screenshot of OS X MavericksDouble-clicking a folder
  • Click the Finder icon on the Dock.

    Screenshot of OS X MavericksOpening Finder

The Finder window is divided into three main parts: The contents of the current folder; the Sidebar, which you can use to choose a location; and the Toolbar, where you can customize the way the contents are displayed.

Screenshot of OS X MavericksThe Finder window

Your home folder

In the Finder sidebar, you will see shortcuts to folders that have names like Documents, Downloads, Music, and Pictures. These folders are part of your account's home folder. To keep your files organized, you may want to use these folders instead of putting everything on the desktop. If you don't see all of these folders in the sidebar, you can open your home folder to view them.

To open your home folder:

  1. Make sure you are in Finder (the left side of the menu bar should say "Finder").
  2. In the menu bar, click Go, then select Home.

    Screenshot of OS X MavericksOpening the home folder
  3. Your home folder will open in a Finder window.

    Screenshot of OS X MavericksThe home folder

Finder tabs

OS X Mavericks introduces a new feature called Finder tabs. If you ever need to browse through different folders at the same time, you can open tabs in a single Finder window instead of opening multiple windows.

To open a new Finder tab:

  1. Open Finder, click File in the Menu bar, then select New Tab. Alternatively, you can press Command+T on your keyboard.
    Screenshot of OS X MavericksCreating a new Finder tab
  2. The new tab will appear.
    Screenshot of OS X MavericksViewing two tabs in the Finder window

Changing the view, arrangement, and sort options

OS X allows you to change the way folder contents are displayed by changing the view, arrangement, and sort options. This makes it easier to find the specific file you're looking for.

View options

Finder has four different view options to choose from. You may prefer to use just one all the time, or you can switch between them whenever you want.

  • Icon View: This is the default view. It displays the folder contents as large icons.
    Screenshot of OS X MavericksIcon View
  • List View: This displays a vertical list of folder contents, along with details about each item.
    Screenshot of OS X MavericksList View
  • Column View: This shows the current folder in a column, with the parent folder in another column to the left. If the Finder window is large enough, it will display several levels of folders, allowing you to see the location of the current folder. If you select a file, it will display a preview of the file to the right of the columns.
    Screenshot of OS X MavericksColumn View
  • Cover Flow: This is similar to List View, but at the top of the window there is a preview of the folder contents. Using your keyboard's arrow keys, you can easily flip through all of the files in the folder without actually opening them.
    Screenshot of OS X MavericksCover Flow

No matter which view you're in, you can preview a file by pressing the space bar on your keyboard. This is known as Quick Look. It works with most common file types, but not all of them.

Screenshot of OS X MavericksPreviewing a file with Quick Look

To change the item arrangement:

With OS X, you can group folder contents by file type, application, date, size, or tag. This is useful when you have a lot of files in a folder.

  1. Click the Item Arrangement button, then select the desired arrangement.
    Screenshot of OS X MavericksArranging by Date Created
  2. The folder contents will now be arranged into groups.
    Screenshot of OS X MavericksAfter arranging the folder

To remove the grouping, simply change the item arrangement to None.

To sort in List View and Cover Flow:

If you are in List View or Cover Flow, you can sort the folder contents. This is similar to item arrangement, except that it only puts the contents in order and doesn't group them. You can't use sorting and item arrangement at the same time, so you'll need to make sure the item arrangement is set to None.

  • Click a column header to sort by that column. For example, you can click the Size column header to sort by file size.
    Screenshot of OS X MavericksSorting by file size

If you don't see the column you want, you can right-click any column header to select the columns you want to show.

Screenshot of OS X MavericksRight-clicking the header to add columns

Working with files and folders

Video: Working with Files and Folders

Launch "Working with Files and Folders" video!

Now that you know how to use Finder, you can learn how to create new folders, add shortcuts to the desktop, delete files, tag files and folders, and unmount drives that are connected to your computer.

Creating and modifying folders

As you organize your files, you'll need to create new folders from time to time. Most of the time, you'll be creating folders within other folders, but you can also put them directly on the desktop. Once you've created a folder, you can change its name or tag it.

To create a new folder:

  1. Navigate to the location where you want to create the new folder.
  2. Right-click, then select New Folder.

    Screenshot of OS X MavericksRight-clicking to create a new folder
  3. Type the desired name for your folder.

    Screenshot of OS X MavericksTyping a name for the folder

You can also create a folder by clicking File in the menu bar and selecting New Folder.

To rename a folder:

  1. Click on the folder once to select it (do not double-click), then press the Return or Enter key. The folder name should now be highlighted.
    Screenshot of OS X MavericksThe highlighted folder name
  2. Type the desired name for the folder.
    Screenshot of OS X MavericksTyping a new name for the folder


OS X Mavericks introduces a new feature called tags, which are similar to labels in earlier versions of OS X. Tags make it easy to organize your files and folders into different categories so you can find them quickly. Unlike labels, you can apply multiple tags to a file or folder.

To tag files and folders:

  1. Right-click the file or folder, then select the desired tag. You can also apply multiple tags if desired.

    Screenshot of OS X MavericksTagging a folder
  2. The tag will be applied.

    Screenshot of OS X MavericksThe tagged folder
  3. To quickly view tagged items, select the desired tag in the Finder sidebar. Any items with that tag will appear.
    Screenshot of OS X MavericksBrowsing tagged items

You can also tag multiple items at the same time. To do this, press and hold the Command button while selecting the desired items, click the Tag button, then select the desired tag(s).

Screenshot of OS X MavericksTagging multiple files at the same time

Customizing tags

OS X Mavericks makes it easy to customize your tags. For example, you can rename default tags, choose a new tag color, or even create your own tags. Simply open the Finder Preferences, then click Tags. From here, you can customize your tags as desired.

Screenshot of OS X MavericksCustomizing tags

Creating a shortcut to a folder

If you have a folder you use frequently, you can save time by creating a shortcut (also called an alias) on the desktop. Instead of navigating to the folder every time you want to use it, you can simply double-click the shortcut and the folder will open. A shortcut will have a small arrow in the lower-left corner of the icon.

To create a shortcut:

  1. Navigate to where your folder is located.
  2. Hold down the Option and Command keys, then click and drag the folder to the desktop. While you are dragging it, you should see a small arrow on the icon.

    Screenshot of OS X MavericksCreating a shortcut on the desktop
  3. When you release the mouse, the shortcut will be created. The icon should still have an arrow indicating that it is a shortcut.

    Screenshot of OS X MavericksThe finished shortcut

Deleting files and folders

If you want to remove some of the clutter from your computer, you can delete files and folders you don't need. This will move them to the Trash (which is just like the Recycle Bin in Windows). Then, if you're sure you want to permanently delete them, you can empty the Trash.

To delete a file or folder:

  1. Click and drag the file or folder onto the Trash icon on the Dock. Alternatively, you can select the file, then press Command-Delete.

    Screenshot of OS X MavericksDragging a file to the Trash
  2. To empty the trash, right-click the Trash icon, then select Empty Trash. All files in the Trash will be permanently deleted.

    Screenshot of OS X MavericksEmptying the Trash

On some Macs, right-clicking may be disabled by default. If you're unable to right-click, you can just click and hold the Trash icon until you see the Empty Trash option.

Ejecting drives

When you connect a flash drive or external hard drive to your Mac, it is known as mounting the drive. Before you disconnect the drive, it's important to eject it (or unmount it) properly to avoid damaging the data.

To eject a drive:

  1. Click the Finder icon on the Dock.

    Screenshot of OS X MavericksOpening Finder
  2. Locate your drive in the sidebar, then click its eject button.

    Screenshot of OS X MavericksClicking the eject button
  3. The drive will disappear from the sidebar, and you can safely disconnect it from the computer.

If your flash drive appears as an icon on the desktop, right-click the drive icon and select Eject. The drive icon will disappear from the desktop. Alternatively, you can click and drag it to the Trash. It can then be safely disconnected from your computer.

Screenshot of OS X MavericksEjecting a USB flash drive