The Finder has preferences too

Updated April 4th, 2020.

It’s Finder month! Enjoy the first of four articles all about the Finder. Talk about hidden features: it’s practically a hidden app! Many Mac users never think about the Finder and might not even know what it’s called. These articles will change that. You use the Finder every day– let’s get good at it.

The macOS Finder is a really important app. It’s the thing that “makes a Mac look like a Mac”– it shows the Desktop, it displays folders and files and apps, it displays connected hard drives, it displays networked and shared Macs. It launches automatically and it can’t be quit*, which explains why most people don’t even think about it.

Ah, but you should think about it. You can customize the Finder so it looks the way you want, because just like most apps, the Finder has preferences too. Go to the Finder’s Preferences… menu and have a look around.

Preferences... in the Finder menu
Preferences… in the Finder menu

Not sure how to do this? Just make sure you see “Finder” next to the Apple menu. Click on the Desktop to activate the Finder, or click on the Finder icon in the Dock. It’s the very first thing in the Dock so this should be easy. Once you’ve done that, go the the Finder menu and choose “Preferences…”

The Finder
The Finder

There are four sections of Finder preferences to explore. The first one, General, is where you specify whether the hard drive icon shows on the Desktop or not. (It’s “not” by default.) It’s also where you specify what happens when you make a new Finder window.

General Finder Preferences
General Finder Preferences

The second section is Tags, which is great for those people who use tags (I’m not one of them). Anyway, you know where to find it now.

Tags Finder Preferences
Tags Finder Preferences

The third section is Sidebar. This is where you specify the folders that appear in the Sidebar. Be sure to check the boxes for Desktop, Documents, and Downloads so you have quick access to them.

Sidebar Finder Preferences
Sidebar Finder Preferences

Note: we can add other folders to the Sidebar by dragging them in but for the standard Apple folders this is the quickest and easiest way to turn them on and off.

The fourth section is Advanced. You can show filename extensions (things like “.jpg” and “.psd” and “.png”, etc.), you can turn off or on the warning you get when you empty the Trash, you can tell folders to sort at the top of Finder windows. (If you do, you get all of the folders, sorted alphabetically, above all of the files, also sorted alphabetically. I wouldn’t do it– I think it’s confusing. But there it is in case you want to do it.)

Advanced Finder Preferences
Advanced Finder Preferences

That’s all for today. Play around with the the Finder’s preferences and make it your own. It can make a big difference.

* Well, “almost” can’t be quit. You can force-quit the Finder (but it will start right back up again, because it’s really a “force-relaunch”).

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