How to Add Color to Finder Sidebar

Apple changed the Finder’s appearance to 50 shades of grey way ahead of the movie. You’ve probably gotten used to it, but the Finder’s nicer in color. Download the free XtraFinder, set its preferences to “Show colorful icons in the sidebar,” and you’re all set. XtraFinder can do a whole lot more too– experiment! Its icon is in the menubar and looks like this:

XtraFinder_menubar icon




Just a bit nicer in color.

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Move items to the Trash, using the keyboard

Apple-Keyboard-Command-Key Apple-Keyboard-Delete-Key

If you want to move an item to the Trash, click on it once, then hold ⌘ and press the Delete key. Your Delete key might be labeled “Backspace” but it will work just as well. Note that the item will be sent to the Trash, but not truly deleted until you Empty the trash. This is for your own protection, so you can dig around in the Trash and get stuff you accidentally threw out.

The shortcut is listed in the Finder’s File menu for reference.

Screen Shot 2015-03-12 at 8.29.28 AM

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Undo accidental “Move to Trash”

You know that ⌘-Delete will send a file or folder to the Trash. But what if you want to put the thing back? If you act quickly, you can go to the Edit menu and do “Undo Move” (or ⌘-Z). If you don’t move quickly, just go to the Trash, click on the file or folder, then go to File/Put Away. Somehow the Finder knows where the file or folder came from. Neat. I would practice this now, before you need it.

This is the Finder’s File menu.

Screen Shot 2015-03-12 at 8.38.45 AM

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As easy as 1, 2, 3.

Actually, it’s easy as 1, 2, 3, 4. And what is it that’s so easy? Switching between the Finder’s four views, that’s what. Open a Finder window and try: all it takes is ⌘-1, ⌘-2, ⌘-3, and ⌘-4.

Below: one window, four ways. (Click a thumbnail to start the slide show.)  The View is a window-by-window setting, so if you want to see icons in one window, and a list view in another, go right ahead. Just do it from the keyboard instead of using the mouse. It’s a lot faster.

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Easy way to show your Library folder

Used to be, your Home folder showed folders labeled Documents, Pictures, Movies, Music, Desktop, Public, and Library. (This is “your” Library, the so-called “user Library. There are others but this is the one we’re talking about now.) Your user Library is full of very important stuff that shouldn’t be messed with unless you know what you’re doing, so starting in Mac OS 10.7 (Lion) Apple hid it from us. Generally speaking, that’s OK, but sometimes you have to get into your user Library to delete a preference file or do some other maintenance. There are various ways to make your user Library folder visible, but none as simple as this:

1. Click on the Desktop to switch to the Finder, the open up your Home folder (⌘-Shift-H will do it)

2. Go to the View menu and choose Show View Options (or ⌘-J, as my friend Dave always reminds me)

3. Check the box at the very bottom and “Show Library Folder.” That’s all there is to it. See below.

Show View Options

This only works if you’re looking at the contents of the Home folder (Step 1 above) when you do View/Show View Options. If you want to show the Library folder on an as-needed basis, try holding the Option key and going to the Go menu. You’ll see “Library” there. Checking the box to “Show Library Folder” in the View Options for the Home Folder puts the Library into the Go folder permanently (no need for the Option key).

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Add text labels to the toolbars so you know what the buttons are for

Here’s what the toolbar (at the top of the window) looks like for most people when they open up a Finder window. Lots of buttons.

No toolbar labels

Here’s how it can look (lots of buttons, with text underneath them):

ommm_toolbarlabels_labelThis is better twice. First, it’s better because the buttons are labeled, which means now you have some idea of what the buttons do, which means you might actually use them. Second, even if you were already using the buttons, now the targets are bigger, because you can click on the label instead of the button. Bigger target = easier to click.

You turn on the labels by holding the Control key and clicking in a blank space in the toolbar. You’ll see this menu:


Choose “Icon and Text” and you’re all done. Experiment with the other options if you’d like.

Bonus: this works for Mail and Preview too.

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Go to the Desktop with ⌘-Shift-D

When saving a file, and you want to put it onto the Desktop but you’re looking at some other folder, press ⌘-Shift-D and you’ll go straight to the Desktop. Also, when you’re in the Finder, and looking at a Finder window, and you want to see the stuff behind it (on the Desktop), don’t bother with shoving windows out of the way so you can see the Desktop. Instead, do ⌘-Shift-D and the window you’re looking at will display the Desktop’s contents. Switch to Icon View (⌘-1) if you want, but List View (⌘-2) is faster since you can sort by name, date, etc.

Note: ⌘-Shift-D does other things in other programs. If Mail is frontmost, ⌘-Shift-D will Send the message you’re writing. If Safari is frontmost, the web page you’re looking at will go to your Reading List. Be sure you’re either in a Save… dialog box or in the Finder before trying the ⌘-Shift-D thing.

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Find more stuff in Recent Items

Yosemite 2015 03 04 at 7 03 46 AM

You know about Recent Items, under the Apple menu, yes? It tracks Applications, Documents, and Servers– typically, and by default, it tracks the most recent ten of each. When you’re looking for a recently-used app, document, or server, the Recent Items menu can be a big time-saver. But, since it only remembers the last ten apps, the last ten documents, and the last ten servers, there’s a fair chance that the stuff you’re looking for isn’t in the Recent Items list. What a drag if the thing you want was number eleven! We need Recent Items to remember more items. Turns out all you have to do is ask.

Recent Items can remember as many as 50 apps, 50 documents, and 50 servers. Just go to System Preferences, then General. Find Recent Items toward the bottom of the General preferences and change it as you’d like. It goes up to 50. See below.

Yosemite 2015 03 04 at 7 03 28 AM

More items means more chances that the desired app, document, or server will be in the list. Give it a try and see.

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How to find stuff on the Desktop

Some people put everything on the Desktop. That’s an easy way to file things but it’s not so easy when it’s time to find them– unless you know that clicking on some bare piece of the Desktop, and then typing the first letter of of the thing you’re looking for, will jump you to the first item on the Desktop whose name begins with that letter.

If the selected item isn’t what you’re looking for, tap the Tab key to jump to the next item, alphabetically. Shift-Tab goes in reverse, if you need it.

This actually works in any Finder window, not just the Desktop.

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