The Finder is the most complained about application on the Mac, and rightly so—it’s just not very powerful, and often behaves in unexpected ways. Today, we’ll be taking a look at several tweaks that will make the Finder suck less.
Some of our tweaks will be in the form of setting changes that make more sense, and then others are tweaks or add-ons that enhance the Finder. Keep reading, and then give us your thoughts in the comments.
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Add a Path Bar to the Finder
The Finder has an option for a basic path bar like that of Nautilus. To show it, go to View -> Show Path Bar:
There’s also a path button that you can add to the Finder’s toolbar. Right click on the toolbar and click “Customize toolbar. . .” Then, drag the “Path” button to wherever you want:
You can also right-click on the title bar to get a path listing:
If you don’t need a full path bar, you can also just show the path in the Finder’s titlebar with these terminal command:
defaults write com.apple.finder _FXShowPosixPathInTitle -bool YES
You can undo this by changing the “YES” to a “NO” and running the commands again.
Search the Current Folder
As far back as Tiger, when you searched for something with the search bar in a Finder window, it would default to searching your entire computer. With Snow Leopard, Apple finally added the option to change the default to searching in the folder you’re currently in.
To change it, go to Finder -> Preferences and then to the “Advanced” tab. Then, on the drop-down menu for “When performing a search:” select “Search the Current Folder”:
Add Quit to the Finder’s menu
Currently, the only way to quit the Finder is by typing “killall Finder” in a Terminal window, which is inconvenient. But we can add a quit item to the Finder menu by using a different terminal command:
defaults write com.apple.Finder QuitMenuItem -bool YES
Clean up the “Open With” Menu
After a while, when you have a lot of applications installed, your “open with” menu will get overwhelmed. To clear it, open the Finder and navigate to ~/Library/Preferences and delete the file “com.apple.LaunchServices.plist”.
Make Folders Always Open in a Particular View Style
Sometimes you might want one folder to open up in a different view than another, say if you want your documents folder to open in List view, and the rest to open in icon.
In versions of OS X before Snow Leopard, when you changed the view style of one folder, it only applied to that folder. Apple changed that with Snow Leopard by making the view style persistent, so that if you change the view style in one folder, you change it in every folder.
There’s still a way to get one folder to open in a different view style, though. First, navigate to the folder you want to apply the view style to. Then, change the view style to what you want for that folder. Now, go to View -> Show View Options and check the box next to “Always open in [view style].”
Easily Show/Hide Hidden Files
Unlike in Explorer, there’s no view option to show hidden files in the Finder. If you just need to open hidden files, then you can show hidden files quickly in Snow Leopard by hitting Command-Shift-Period in an open dialogue.
You can use this terminal command if you need to do more with hidden files. If you want to hide the hidden files, just replace TRUE with FALSE instead.
defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles TRUE
That will show all hidden files in the Finder. However, seeing .DS_Store files everywhere is pretty distracting, so what you can do is create an Automator action to run the terminal commands to hide or show, and then you can add the action to the Finder’s toolbar for easy access just by dragging it there:
We’ve also put together an Automator application that you can download if you don’t want to go through the hassle.
Use Smart Folders to Find Files More Easily
Smart Folders are the OS X equivalent of the Libraries feature in Windows 7 and saved searches under Linux in Nautilus. Smart folders basically display the results of a constantly-running search, making it easy to find files that are spread across your hard drive. The Finder by default comes with several pre-configured Smart Folders in the sidebar:
However, most people don’t know that they can create their own Smart Folders. In Finder, go to File -> New Smart Folder to create one. You can search for something by name, type of file, date last opened, date created, and contents. To test it out, let’s try searching for all the applications that have been downloaded in the last three days.
First, click the little “+” on the bar below the search field, and set it to “[Kind] is [Application]”:
Then, click the + button again and set it to “[Created date] is [within last] 3 days”:
Now that we’ve got our search criteria, we can save the search as a folder. Click the “save” button and give it a name. We then have the option to save it in a specific location and whether we want it added to the Finder sidebar. We’ll save ours on the desktop, and choose to put it in the sidebar:
Add Tabs to the Finder
Tabs is probably the most-requested feature for the Finder, something that Apple apparently doesn’t recognize. TotalFinder adds Google Chrome-like tabs, among other features:
TotalFinder is shareware, available for $15.
Ditch the Finder for Something More Powerful
If none of these tweaks can make you happy or at least content with the Finder, then you might consider replacing it altogether. Seasoned Mac veterans probably know about Path Finder, the souped-up alternative to the Finder. It offers a lot of features the Finder lacks, such as tabs, dual-pane browsing, and bookmarks. If you really can’t stand the Finder, then Path Finder is worth a try.
Hopefully these tips will help you have a better Finder experience—was there anything we missed? Be sure to share your expertise with your fellow readers in the comments.