How To Customise Your Finder | Mac Setup & Preferences

When you’re new to OS X, or if you haven’t used a Mac for quite some time, it can seem as if simple tasks require a bit more effort than you expect. For instance, keyboard shortcuts are listed next to common commands in the menu bar, but many have none.

Not knowing how to use shortcuts can slow you down. Don’t worry, though – you can still use the keyboard to access any menu, even if there’s no obvious shortcut listed. The trick is knowing where to look – usually System Preferences in the Apple menu – or what keys to hold when dragging something. Let’s take a closer look at just how to tailor a Mac to your needs, particularly in Finder, using the desktop and managing files.

A Different View

Use the four buttons in the toolbar to switch between Finder views. icon view is clear but shows little detail; List view can be tailored by right-clicking a column header; Cover Flow is a hybrid of the two; and Column view displays a hierarchical view of your folders.

Manage The Sidebar

In Finder, browse to a folder you use often. To save having to negative to it again and again, simply drag it between two items in the sidebar’s Favourites section. Let go of the mouse button when a line indicates the insertion point, and a shortcut will be added at that point. You can now just click this to go straight to that folder. You can reorder items in the sidebar by dragging them up or down. Remove any you don’t want by holding Command and dragging them out of the window.

Apps In The Dock

Apps that are open, as well as shortcuts to your favourites, sit in the left-hand part of the Dock. To ass a Dock shortcut for an app, click the Finder one (This is always situated at the far left of the Dock), then Applications in the new window’s sidebar. Drag an app onto the Dock for instant access. Drag icons left and right to rearrange them, and upwards to remove a shortcut from the Dock. Want an app to reopen at login? Right-click it and select Option → Open At Login.


Tiny The Dock

Dock icons become smaller when lots of apps are open. Go to Apple → System Preferences, click on Dock and set whether the icons magnify when you mouse over them, whether the Dock is hidden until your pointer hits the screen edge, and other settings. to view an app’s windows, right-click its Dock icon and select Show All Windows.

Which Way Is Up

If you can’t get used to Mountain Lion’s “natural” scrolling direction, go to System Preferences → Mouse or Trackpad (the setting is independent for each). Under Scroll & Zoom, untick “Scroll direction: natural”. Scroll bars are normally hidden until you start scrolling, but can be made always visible in General preferences pane.


Moutain Lion’s autocorrect feature is similar to the iPhone’s. Not every app makes use of it, but Safari, TextEdit and other Apple apps do. If you find it gets in your way, it can be turned off. In System Preferences click Language & Text, and untick “Correct Spelling automatically”

Quick Folder Access

Your folder you use often can be dragged from a Finder window into the right side of the Dock as a shortcut – in this case called a Stack – as a quickly way to open files. Stacks for your documents and downloads are already set up for you. Right-click to pick from alternative grid and lists layouts that can be more practical for some types of file, and to change the sort order.

Status Check

Various feature in OS X can display their status at the right of the menu bar. Click one to save having to open System Preferences to make changes. Type menu bar into System Preferences’ search bar to see which features offer this. Third-party menu bar items, and a few of Apple’s, can be rearranged by holding Command and dragging them.

Leaner Search Result

You can choose the kinds of item that appear when searching with the Spotlight menu (by clicking on the magnifying glass in the menu bar or typing into the search field in the tool bar of a Finder window). Open System Preference and click Spotlight. Untick the information you don’t need to appear in the Spotlight menu. Drag items to change the order in which they appear in Spotlight. Hover your pointer over a found item for a Quick Look preview of it.

Menu Browse

Although it’s not obvious, you can use the arrow keys on your keyboard and Enter to browse the menu bar and pick an item. To activate this, press ctrl + F2 on a full-size keyboard (Such as Apple’s Extended Keyboard), or fn + ctrl +F2 on either a Macbook keyboard or Apple’s standard wireless keyboard.

Alternatively, memorise the shortcut next to an item for direct access. If none is shown, you can set one in System Preferences under Keyboard → Keyboard Shortcuts → Application Shortcuts. Click the + sign, select an app, type the menu item’s name exactly as it appears in the app. and press a combination that uses at least one of the standard modifier keys Command, Enter, and ctrl. You can use the ↑ (Up) key in conduction with one or more of these, but not alone – it’s reserved for typing symbols and capital letters.

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  1. Thad says:

    I’ve used OS X since 2009, but I still continue to learn new tricks about it. Thanks for pointing out some things I didn’t know!

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