How-To Geek

Force Your Mac to Sort Folders on Top of Files (Windows Style)

Mac Folders

Even die-hard Mac converts have their issues with Mac OS, and one of those problems is that OS X lists folders mixed in with all other files. Here’s how to fix that in under five minutes with a clever hack.

You know you’ve had that issue. You’ve dug through your files looking for that one elusive folder, and because it’s jumbled in with all the other stuff, it’s more or less impossible to find. Have no fear, with no downloads or silly plug-in software, you can finally make Mac OS behave like Windows and Linux and list those folders in the proper order.


Browsing in Finder.App Package

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In order to perform this little hack, we’ll have to get to a preference list inside Finder’s contents. Navigate to your Hard Drive, then go to System > Library > CoreServices.

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If you prefer, you can always bring up the “Go to Folder” menu (shortcut key: Shift+Command+G) and type:



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Ctrl + Click (or Right-Click) on Finder or and choose “Show Package Contents.”

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You’ll be looking for the folder Contents > Resources > English.lproj. There’s a file inside it called InfoPlist.strings that has a lot of aliases for filetypes.

Note: Keep this window to this folder open, as you’ll need to find it again later in the how-to.

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Locate this arcane filename and Ctrl+Click (or Right Click) and choose “Open With.”

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Tell OS X to open it with TextEdit, or any other text editor you might have installed. If you have a programmer’s text editor, this would be a good opportunity to use it, but TextEdit will work out fine.

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This is the string you’re looking for. Press Cmd + F to do a search, then paste in the text below:

“Folder” = “Folder” ;

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This is the change you’re going to make—adding a blank space to the second instance of the word “Folder” so that it reads “ Folder” instead. You can also put a special character, like a ~ or a ! or even a number 1. But a blank space is the least obtrusive, and what we recommend at How-To Geek.

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Click save as so we can save to the desktop. Finder will probably not let you save the file inside the package. (If it does, you’re done. If not, here’s how to get around it. You will need Administrator privileges, however.)

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You may have to type the last part of the “InfoPlist.strings” file as TextEdit likes to truncate the extension. Make sure you uncheck the “If no extension is provided, use TXT” option. If you use a better text editor (one built for programming on a Mac) you won’t have this problem.

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So you have your InfoPlist.strings file on your desktop.

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You may want to make a duplicate copy of the old InfoPlist.strings file. Put it anywhere, but do not overwrite the file on your desktop. From there you can drag the new one from your desktop to the folder it lives in you opened several steps ago. Overwrite the old file inside the folder English.lproj inside Finder.App > Contents > Resources.

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Mac OS will ask you to Authenticate because you’re making changes to the system. Click “Authenticate,” input your Administrator password, and the file will overwrite.

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From there, find your Finder icon in your dock and press Ctrl + Option + Click and Relaunch finder. You can also reboot the computer, but this is much simpler and faster.

Listing Folders at the Top of Files

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Open a new window and sort your files by “Kind.” Booyah! Folders are listed at the top, where you would expect them to be if you’ve ever used a computer before.

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They’ll also appear on top if you use different view settings—you just have to go to View > Arrange By > Kind to sort them by Kind.

Note that if you sort by Name, Size, or Date, you’ll end up with the usual Mac OS sorting, with no preference given to folders over files.

Eric Z Goodnight is an Illustrator and Graphics Geek who hopes to make Photoshop more accessible to How-To Geek readers. When he’s not headbanging to heavy metal or geeking out over manga, he’s often off screen printing T-Shirts.

  • Published 06/29/11

Comments (23)

  1. bkj216

    Thanks for this guide. But why can’t apple just give us this option by default?

  2. Eric Z Goodnight

    No joke. I love my Macs (just like my Linux and Windows machines) but this is one of those things that drives me bananas.

  3. Liz

    I don’t have the infoPlist file, just AppleSystemInfo, NetInfo, and OpenSSH dot strings. What to do?

  4. Eric Z Goodnight

    Are you sure you’re inside the correct folder inside the Finder package? I can’t seem to find the strings you’re talking about.

  5. Tom

    Will lion need this/will it work with Lion?

  6. Eric Z Goodnight

    @Tom: I don’t know for a fact. It doesn’t look like the need for this has changed. Once Lion is released, I’ll test it to find out.

  7. Brian

    It’s one of the many aspects of Mac’s that differentiates it from Windows.

  8. Ian

    “where you would expect them to be if you’ve ever used a computer before.”
    Seriously, this comment is unnecessary. I have used computers since 1986 and files/folders have been intermixed for the majority of my usage. In fact I find it iritating since I think alphabetically for directory listings. Just because Windows does it doesn’t mean it’s right or best practice.

    However if you love windows’ file explorer and want an awesome utility to manage files faster, give PathFinder a shot. It’s default view is to show Folders first in listings. It also let’s you hit return to launch/open. But my favorite feature is the dual pane browser–one window with two directory views.

  9. Brandon

    This is no fix at all. It changes almost nothing. Sorting by ‘kind’ ALREADY puts the folders together, with 1 small difference: they’re not put at the type.

    This fix is needed for NAME view, where this really drives users crazy!

  10. Stephanie

    Great guide!

    The thing that’s been driving me crazy is the inability to add a permanent alias of a network drive share to the sidebar. I can add the drive share in devices, but it disappears when the drive is disconnected. While I can add an alias to the finder toolbar or to the dock, that’s not quite cutting it. Any insight for how to modify the sidebar would be much appreciated!

  11. JRM

    How can you make Win7 sort like OSX?

  12. ga4a

    why won’t they give it as default ? because according to them… mac is much cooler than windows.

  13. Dave

    Like they said above. This still doesn’t make it work like Windows/Linux. I don’t know anyone who sorts by “Kind” in windows!

    I don’t want to sort by “Kind”, I want to sort by “Name” with the folders listed 1st. And all alphabetically of course!

    Pathfinder can do it! Why can’t OSX Finder?! I love Pathfinder but there are some things it just doesn’t play well with and I have to go back to Finder.

  14. Pete

    TotalFinder will do this and a whole lot more.

    Folders together in Name view? No problems.

    Dual panes (or more) for dragging and copying files? No problems.

  15. Eric Z Goodnight

    A lot of Reddit readers have talked about TotalFinder, and I have to admit it looks really good. But it is Snow Leopard only, and not likely to have a Leopard release. This tip should work just fine in both 10.5 and 10.6.

    Still, to each his own.

  16. trm96

    This is something that has always annoyed me with OS X’s finder, thanks for the tip!

  17. Carlos Ferrari

    @Pete: I second Total Finder and there’s one more thing – it also have “cut” enabled!

  18. Rafael

    Dang, its no longer working in LION.

    Any ideas?

  19. Jake

    Indeed, doesn’t work in LION anymore. I don’t care about the whole Mac VS Win. I just want it back.

  20. Pier Giulio

    Yeah, I updated to Lion before I could try this… I’m a mac user since Monday, before always windows, and I need the folders on top without additional programs….

  21. Health Intuitive Bruce Dickson

    Hmm I love your tips however this routine goes off track pretty much immediaely on my imac running 10.6.8. Can you please ALWAYS put that exact number of the operating system on your posts? Thanks.

    My expereince is no “coreservices” in 10.6.8

  22. Health Intuitive Bruce Dickson

    Here’s the feature in 10.6.8: Spotlight > library > go to the spotlight library > Drag and drop to put file items in the order you wish them displayed, Logically folders, collections, should be on top but you decide.

  23. polly

    ditto to liz’s reply – this used to work but the latest update wiped that file. can we edit another? thanks!

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