SEARCH

How-To Geek

How To Make the Mac OS X Finder Suck Less

3551374677_276ff87a75_z

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.

Image by abooth202

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:

image

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:

image

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
killall Finder

image

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”:

image

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
killall Finder

image

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
killall Finder

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:

image

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:

image

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]“:

image

Then, click the + button again and set it to “[Created date] is [within last] 3 days”:

image

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:

image

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:

image

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.

Alex is a Mac geek and former hackintosher, as well as other stuff.

  • Published 11/1/10

Comments (9)

  1. Ditching my Mac

    Too bad this doesn’t fix the terrible MacOS window management or inability to use Firewire or USB 3.0. Oh well, at least I can buy two Win 7 PCs that are more powerful with the money I’ll get from selling my Macbook pro.

  2. Jon

    Not to mention lack of Blu-Ray support!

  3. Thomas P

    Thanks for these fantastic tips to improve Finder. I think the most helpful is adding the folder path to the titlebar as clicking on the titlebar to display the path is a huge inconvenience. I can definitely also utilize the search tip and Hidden files Automator script.

  4. _Mike

    The quit menu item setting script has a small type-o. The ‘f’ in Finder should be lower case:

    defaults write com.apple.finder QuitMenuItem -bool YES

  5. Inaud Irtitsov

    @Jon: Don’t worry about Blu-Ray support. It’s already a dead format. Not enough adoption by consumers.

    @Ditching my Mac: Have fun with Windoze. Some people need to be tortured by Windoze than use Mac OS X with its awesome UNIX core.

  6. Bou

    @Ditching my Mac for the windows management, there is BetterTouchTool. And yeah finder sucks!

  7. Drew

    I have never really had any major qualms with finder, being an average user. There are occasional annoyances when I am trying to do something out of the ordinary and have to enable all kinds of things in terminal to do it, but for the most part I like how it is all organized and such. It isn’t made for power users, it is made to be simple, simple being the Steve Jobs vision. This being said, this article was pretty handy, some of the tweaks are rather useful even for an average user. Seeing all the hidden folders has made me realize how similar to linux OSX is… I wonder if I could modify the linux system to simplify the file system like on a mac, that would be useful. Anyway, nice article, good work.

    Anyone who would have a mac and decide to move to windows obviously has some unresolved childhood issues that causes a slight disturbance in their logical thinking. Have fun with those viruses, bugs, useless updates, limited file support, and ineffective hardware use. I’ll be sticking with the computer of choice by google, who is using macs to take over the world.

  8. Kate Nickerson

    This helped so much! Thanks!

  9. Morten Slott Hansen

    Thanx for this. I’m coming from Linux using KDE and I feel Lion is lacking _alot_ of cool things. This has most certainly helped me like my mac a little more. I want to learn the mac way as I absolutely LOVE this ac air design – so light :)

Enter Your Email Here to Get Access for Free:

Go check your email!