How to Customize the Finder’s Toolbar in OS X

You spend a lot of time in OS X’s Finder, so you should make sure it fits your workflow as well as it possibly can. Here’s how to customize the Finder’s toolbar with all the buttons you need.

The Finder can be a tad confusing at first, especially for those switching over from Windows-based machines. It’s similar to File Explorer, but also very different, and these differences can cause a lot of head-scratching until you’ve figured it all out–and customized it to fit your needs.

The toolbar can be found along the top of the Finder, just below the window title. It contains a variety of useful functions such as back/forward buttons, view options, arrangements, and more. But you can add or remove buttons to further enhance or reduce the Finder toolbar’s functionality.

Customizing the Finder toolbar is super easy. To access this hidden power, first right-click if you’re using a mouse, or tap with two fingers if you’re using a trackpad (if your trackpad won’t let you do this, then you might need to enable it). This will activate the toolbar’s context menu. From this menu, you can choose between four looks. The default is to show the toolbar with icons and text.

You can also make the toolbar appear with icons only:

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 11.36.18 AM

Or have it show text only:

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 11.36.47 AM

Finally, you can hide the toolbar altogether, meaning you will see no toolbar icons or text:

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 11.37.17 AM

To bring the icons and/or text back, simply “right-click” on the title bar to once again access the context menu.

Once you figure out which look works for you, you can dive deeper into further configuration options by selecting the “Customize Toolbar…” selection. This will open a new preference pane from which you can choose 20 different toolbar buttons.

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 11.38.25 AM
Some buttons, like Dropbox, are additional buttons that you get by installing other apps. They won’t appear with a plain OS X installation.

In the following example, we’ve elected to add the New Folder and Delete button to our toolbar.

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 11.39.59 AM

You can also drag icons around and rearrange them in a fashion that make the most sense to you. In the following screenshot, we’ve moved a couple things around to give you a clear idea of how this works.

Finally, note the option at the bottom of the customize pane to restore the toolbar to its default set. To do this, you just drag the whole thing to the toolbar and it will be reset to default. You can also select different show options in the bottom-left corner. Doing so in this way will give you a clear idea of how things will look before you commit to any changes.

When you are done customizing the toolbar, simply click “Done” and the customize pane will slide out of view.

The toolbar isn’t the only Finder feature you can customize, either. You can customize folder views, which will let you tailor how folders look (spacing, arrangement, etc.), as well as the Finder’s sidebar, so you can quickly access your most frequently used locations, and much more.

So, whether you’re new to Macs, a recent Windows convert, or you simply didn’t know any better, once you master the Finder, you will find your OS X experience far more productive and powerful.

Matt Klein is an aspiring Florida beach bum, displaced honorary Texan, and dyed-in-wool Ohio State Buckeye, who fancies himself a nerd-of-all-trades. His favorite topics might include operating systems, BBQ, roller skating, and trying to figure out how to explain quantum computers.