An Introduction to the Finder




The Finder is the core of your Mac. Understanding how the Finder works is a key part to understanding the Mac. By the end of this guide, you will have an in-depth knowledge of the Finder, which will help you manage your files and get around your Mac with ease.





Let’s take a look at what each of these does.

There are six basic parts to the Finder window. You can find them labeled in the image to the right.


  1. Title Bar
  2. Tool Bar
  3. Side Bar
  4. Status Bar
  5. Path Bar


The Title Bar shows the name of the folder you are currently viewing. As you can see in the screenshot above, we are viewing the Downloads folder, so the Title Bar displays “Downloads”. By right clicking on the Title Bar, you can browse up the file tree to view enclosing folders. Clicking one of the enclosing folders will jump you there. You can see an example of this in the screenshot to the right.


The appropriately named Tool Bar is home to several great tools. You can find them labeled in the image below. Let’s take a look.


The Finder’s Side Bar is split into three sections in OS X Lion. Favorites, Shared, and Devices. The Devices section is usually hidden until you insert a DVD, CD, External Hard Drive or other similar device.




The Favorites section of the sidebar contains shortcuts to your main folders. Your main folders are Applications, Desktop, Documents, Downloads, Movies, Music and Pictures. It also includes other functions, such as All My Files (view all files on your Mac) and AirDrop. You can easily add or remove folders in the sidebar. To add a folder, simply drag it in. To remove a folder, right click on it and select “Remove from Sidebar”.

The Shared section of the Side Bar allows you to easily find and browse through nearby Mac’s and/or Windows PC’s. When a Mac or PC with sharing is nearby, it will automatically show up in the sharing section.

The Devices section is where any CD/DVD, flash drive, or similar device will show up. Simply click on it to browse through it’s contents, and when you are done, click the eject button to safely remove it from your computer.

You can easily customize what items appear in the Finder’s Side Bar. First, open the Finder preferences window (at right).

You can easily customize what items appear in the Finder’s Side Bar. First, open the Finder preferences window (at right).


The Status Bar is a helpful information bar that can be shown at the bottom of the Finder window. The Status Bar shows you how many files are in the currently viewed folder, as well as the amount of available hard drive space. When the Icon view is being used, a icon size slider will appear at the right side of the Status Bar as pictured.


The Status Bar is disabled by default. To enable it, go to the Finder menu at the top of your screen and select View > Show Status Bar.


The Path Bar appears at the bottom of the Finder window, as shown in the screenshot above. The Pat Bar is disabled by default, but we suggest enabling it. The Path Bar makes it very easy to navigate through the Finder, always knowing where you are. To enable it, go to the Finder menu at the top of your screen and select View > Show Path Bar.

Now let's look at where all your files are located


The Home Folder on your Mac is where all of your user account’s files are stored. Within the Home folder are 9 subfolders. These are Desktop, Documents, Downloads, Movies, Music, Pictures, Public and Sites. Use these folders to keep all of your files neatly organized. The purposes of those folders are, in most cases, self evident. However, we’ll take a look at two specific ones: Public and Sites. The Public folder is visible to all other users on your Mac. Others users can view files in it, or be restricted to only placing files in it. This is dependent upon your Sharing settings in System Preferences.

The Public folder can also be seen by nearby Macs, which is also determined in System Preferences. The Sites folder can be used in conjunction with a program such as iWeb (or similar) to host HTML websites. You can direct users to your computers local IP address, and your site will be displayed. (To enable access to the Sites folder, see System Preferences > Sharing > Web Sharing)


The Finder has a very useful feature called Quick Look which allows for nearly any file (video, pdf, document, photo, webpage, etc.) to be instantly previewed without opening an application. This can be extremely useful if you are looking around for a file, but there are several similarly named files and you aren’t sure which one you want. Quick Look allows you to quickly check which one it is that you want without having to wait for a program to load.


To use Quick Look, simply select a file in the Finder or on the Desktop. Once it is selected, hit the space bar, and the preview window will appear. Hit the space bar to close the preview, or click “Open in…” to open the selected file.


When you are browsing the Finder in Icon, Cover Flow or the Column view, hovering your mouse over the file icons will reveal a special preview icon. A video or audio file will have a play button, and PDF’s and Presentations will have forwards/backwards buttons to advance through the pages/slides. Simply click these icons for a quick peak at your file.

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