Understanding the Finder in Mac OS X

August 31, 2011, By Christian Cawley

One of the main elements of Mac OS X is the Finder, a file browser that puts the user in touch with various applications, files, folders and drives, and offers various ways to interact with them all.

The Finder can always be identified by the menu bar – when a Finder window is open, you will see that this is indicated across the top of your screen. You’ll also no doubt notice that the Finder window features plenty of buttons and options to choose from.

Understanding the Finder in Mac OS X

Listed in the Finder you will find devices such as your iDisk or your computer hard disk drive, any shared resources you might have access to across a network, places such as your desktop or home page and even a useful set of views that can be used to help you get the most out of the Finder window.

In fact, there is such a lot squeezed into this feature of Mac OS X, so let’s take a look at it!

The Left-Hand Pane

On the left hand side of the Finder window, you will find all of the locations where you might find files and folders or where you might like to save them to. These are split into Devices, Shared and Places, and each can be used to navigate around your Mac to find documents, photos, MP3s, etc.

Under Devices you will see list of all disk devices connected to your Mac, from the built in hard disk drive to the optical disc, any external hard disks and USB drives and any other storage types you have connected. Networked drives should be mounted on your Mac by dragging them into the Devices list.

Under Shared you will see a list of any other Macs and PCs that are currently connected to your network. You might connect to one of these via the Connect As… option after clicking it, although this will first require some configuration of both devices to permit this.

You will also find the Places section in the left-hand pane where a small section of default folders are listed, such as Applications or your Desktop. Additional places can be added by dragging a folder from your desktop or the Finder window into the left-hand pane in the Places section.

The Main Pane

The real action in the Mac Finder occurs in the main pane of the window, where items are listed according to the selected view. Here you will also find the Spotlight search box in the top right corner, which by default will run a search of your entire Mac. Folders and their contents are listed in the main pane, usually with small thumbnail icons but thanks to the Views option on the menu bar you can select from Icons, List, Columns and Cover Flow. Note that your choice here will depend on the contents of the chosen folder – some files don’t look great in Cover Flow view, for instance.

It is via the main pane that most of the business takes place in the Finder; it is here where you might right-click a file to rename it or copy it, for instance.

Note that this is just the tip of the iceberg – there is much more of interest in the Mac Finder…

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