100 Tips #9: The Geography Of Finder Windows

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We’ve looked at the Dock, and we’ve looked at the Menu Bar. Today we’re taking our first look at Finder.

This is what you’ll see when you first start to use Finder in Mac OS X. Broadly speaking, it does the same job as Windows Explorer, but it does many of those things in different ways.

Before we go into any more detail (which we will, in forthcoming tips), it helps to understand the layout of a Finder window.

Along the top you’ll see the Toolbar. In it are buttons that perform actions – select a file, then click a button to make something happen to it. Change the view shown in the window itself, create new folders, stuff like that.

You can customize this toolbar, just as you can in any other Mac application. We will cover that in a separate post soon.

Down the left side is the Sidebar, which is a list of locations on your computer. With one click here, you can get to your Desktop, or your Documents folder, or your Pictures folder. And that’s just using the default locations – you can add any folder you like here, creating your own shortcuts to things that help you most. Again, that’s something we’ll cover in a post of its own soon.

Windows Explorer windows are laid out in a similar way, but actions often appear in the sidebar. That doesn’t happen on OS X (unless you consider viewing a Saved Search as an action – but let’s deal with that another day). One really useful button in the Finder Toolbar is the Action button – the one that looks like a cog with a little triangle next to it.

Select a file or folder, then click this to see what actions are available to you. The list you see will change, depending on what you’ve got selected. Try it out on a few files to see what I mean.

Now you know what’s where in a typical Finder window, we’ll look at various aspects of using and customizing it in more detail over the next week or so.

(You’re reading the 9th post in our series, 100 Essential Mac Tips And Tricks For Windows Switchers. Find out more.)

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About the author

Giles TurnbullGiles Turnbull is a freelance writer in England. He also writes for the Press Association and The Morning News. You can find out more at his website, and follow him on Twitter @gilest.

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