We’re big fans of column view in Finder windows (choose View > as Columns). You never have to worry about missing icons that are outside the window, everything is sorted alphabetically, and selecting a file shows a preview. But the column widths can be too thin, such that they cut off file and folder names, or too wide, forcing you to scroll unnecessarily. You probably know you can drag the handles at the bottom of the column dividers, but that’s fussy when you have lots of columns. Instead, double-click a column handle to expand or shrink the column so the longest name fits perfectly. Option-double-click a column handle to do that for all the columns showing. If you forget, Control-click a handle to see commands for Right Size This Column, Right Size All Columns Individually, and Right Size All Columns Equally.
This isn’t about periscopes or mouthwash—when it comes to searching, a scope is the area in which a search takes place. When you use the Search field in a Finder window to look for files and folders, you have the choice of two scopes: This Mac or the current folder. You can always switch the scope after starting the search by clicking the other choice near the top of the window, but it’s easier to set the default search scope in Finder > Preferences > Advanced so it’s set right to start. From the “When performing a search” pop-up menu, choose Search This Mac to search across all indexed drives, Search the Current Folder to limit the search to the folder showing when you start the search, or Use the Previous Search Scope. Most of the time, if you have any idea where the item you’re looking for might be, selecting an enclosing folder and then searching within it is the best approach.
When you’re in the Finder, choosing File > New Finder Window does, as you’d expect, open a new Finder window. But what folder appears in that window? By default, new Finder windows open to Recents, which is a built-in smart folder showing recently opened documents. If you’d prefer to see items in a fixed location on your drive, go to Finder > Preferences > General and choose any location from the New Finder Windows Show pop-up menu. We’re partial to Desktop or Documents, but you can choose whatever folder makes sense with your workflow.
Do you have a document that you open regularly, perhaps from your Desktop? If you’d like to make it stand out from other documents, why not give it a custom icon? This was common practice on the Mac back in the day, and it’s still possible in modern versions of macOS. Go to Google Images and search for “searchTerm icon” to see what images are available. (It’s fine to use any graphic for one-time personal use; if you’re planning to distribute the file or publish the icon in any way, make sure to read and honor any licensing requirements.) Download an image you like (Control-click it and look for a Save Image command), open it in Preview (where you can delete any background or crop as desired), press Command-A for Select All, and Command-C to copy the image. Then select the icon for the file you want to customize, press Command-I to open its Get Info window, click the current icon in the upper-left corner (it gets a faint highlight outline), and press Command-V to paste.
When you double-click a document, macOS uses the document’s file extension to figure out which app should open the file. So, by default, a PDF file called laser-squid.pdf opens in Preview because the Finder knows that everything with a .pdf extension should open in Preview. But what if you would prefer to open .pdf files in Adobe Reader, or you want comma-separated value (.csv) text files to open in Numbers? To change any mapping, select a file of the type in question and choose File > Get Info to open the Info window. In the Open With section, click the pop-up menu to choose the desired app and then click the Change All button.
When a Mac folder contains a lot of files, the Finder’s List view often works best, since it lets you focus on a single folder and easily sort the contents by clicking the different columns: Name, Date Modified, Size, and Kind. But did you know that you can resize columns, rearrange them, and even add and remove columns? To resize a column, drag the vertical separator line to the right of its name. To move a column, click and hold on its name, and then drag it to the desired position. And to add or remove a column, Control- or right-click any column header and select or deselect the desired column. Choose from Date Modified, Date Created, Date Last Opened, Date Added, Size, Version, Kind, Comments, and Tags.
Have you ever needed to write directions for where to find a file on the Mac? That’s easy if it’s in a well-traveled location, like the Music or Pictures folder, but more difficult if it’s in an obscure hidey-hole. Rather than write out instructions like “Look in the Chrome folder inside Google’s Application Support folder in your user Library folder,” select the item in question, hold down the Option key, and choose Edit > Copy “ItemName” as Pathname. (A pathname, or path, is the sequence of nested folders that holds a file or folder, such as
/Users/adrian/Library/Application Support/Google/Chrome.) Then paste the path into an email message or word processing document (or wherever you like). You’ll now have the entire thing exactly where you need it, and you don’t have to worry that you’ve accidentally left out a navigational step.
If your Mac is anything like ours, you end up with lots of apps open, each with one or more windows that obscure the Desktop. For those people who like to save in-progress documents to the Desktop and keep current project folders there, all those windows get in the way. macOS has a solution. Open System Preferences > Mission Control, and in the Keyboard and Mouse Shortcuts section, from the Show Desktop pop-up menu, choose a keyboard shortcut. Try the right-hand modifier keys—we’re fond of Right Option—because they’re easy to press and aren’t likely to be used for other purposes. Then, whenever you want to see and work with the icons on your Desktop, hit that key, and do what you want. If you like, you can press that key again to bring the windows back.
Finder freezes. They shouldn’t happen at all, and they don’t happen often, but it’s not unheard of for your Mac’s Finder to freeze, freak out, or otherwise stop responding properly. To bring it back to life, hold down the Option key, click and hold the Finder icon in the Dock, and choose Relaunch. (If the “click and hold” action feels odd, you can instead hold down Control and Option, and then just click.) In theory, you should be able to keep working normally after the Finder relaunches, but we recommend restarting your Mac afterward just to be safe.