Secrets of the Finder

April 18, 2011, By Christian Cawley

One of the key elements of Mac OS X is the Finder, a very useful tool that combines the desktop area with a directory browser, enabling you to “find” files, folders and applications anywhere on your Mac computer.

Organized in the traditional “folders on the left, contents on the right” arrangement, the Finder also features a search tool to help you to find the information you’re looking for on your Mac.

Using the Finder you can launch applications, open utilities and even select data to burn to CD or DVD. Let’s take a look at the options available to you with the Finder…

Using the Finder in Mac OS X

Opening the Finder

There are several ways in which you might open the Finder. The first is via the desktop – in fact the Mac OS X desktop IS the Finder, and by clicking in an icon-free portion of the desktop you will see that the Finder is already open as indicated by the menu bar.

You may also open the Finder from the dock, where you will find it on the left-most side.  It is with this icon that you can open a Finder Window, something that you might also do via File > New Finder Window if viewing directly from your Mac’s desktop.

In the File menu you will also find options to create a New Folder within the currently viewed folder, while you can set various options via the Finder > Preferences folder.

Finder Preferences

You can adjust how the Finder behaves and the information that is displayed with the Finder Preferences. For instance in the General view you can change what items are shown on the desktop, with Hard disks, External disks, CDs, DVDs and iPods and Connected servers all options.

You can also determine what folder opens when you open a new Finder window via the General screen, as well as specify the spring-loaded folder opening effect.

The folders, places and devices visible in the sidebar on the left can be toggled via the Sidebar screen, a good way of customizing your Finder view, while the Advanced view will provide various options such as Empty Trash Securely, as well as showing warnings for emptying trash and changing file extensions.

The search tool, available in the top-right of all Finder windows, can also be adjusted here, using the When performing a search: drop-down menu to choose between Search This Mac, Search the Current Folder and Use the Previous Search Scope.

Launching Apps and Utilities from the Finder

The main use for the Mac OS X Finder is probably to launch applications, utilities and documents, something that can be easily done via the main Finder window by opening the Applications screen. You might also use the Go > Applications menu option; the same menu provides options for opening documents and utilities, as well as your iDisk and providing access to the local network.

In the Applications view you will find all installed applications on your Mac. All you will need to do to launch an app is find the one you want and double-click!

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