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Handling Files: The Finder

The files on your Mac are managed by the Finder program. The Finder shows what is on the HD by means of so-called windows. You can choose how. See what you find most useful.

Important: With the introduction of MacOS 11 'Big Sur', Apple has made the Finder Window slightly different. Not so easy, if you ask MacMiep. That is why you will have to make the choice now. Do you have a Mac with Big Sur (introduced November 2020):

Does your desktop look so colorful? Then you have Big Sur.

Do you have an older operating system than Big Sur? Then scroll a little further to the TIP in the large red area. We start with Big Sur.

A new Finder window
This one has stayed the same: opening a new Finder window
You can always open a new Window via the Dock icon of the Finder: by clicking it once.

Note: Double-clicking a disk on your Desktop will also always get you a new Finder window.

Window View - in MacOS 11 Big Sur
There are four ways to display the folder hierarchy: Symbols, List, Columns and Gallery. At the top of the Window, slightly to the right of the center, you will see a Display symbol that looks like this:

Click on it to change the layout of your window. You get a drop-down menu:

1. Symbols view - in MacOS 11 Big Sur
This way you can see small images of your files and folders.

2. List View - in MacOS 11 Big Sur
Handy when you want to sort documents alphabetically, by date, size or type.
Click on the Display symbol and move the mouse to List:

Tadaaa, the List view appears. The symbol has now also changed to 'List':

3. Columns - in macOS 11 Big Sur

With this horizontal tree view you have a good overview of the structure of the folders on your Mac

4. Gallery View - in macOS 11 Big Sur
Very useful for quickly viewing and browsing your files:

Search in a Window - in macOS 11 Big Sur
At the top right you see a magnifying glass. Click on it and you will get a search window. Enter a search term in the search field and press the Return key.
Narrow your search results in Mac OS

As you can see, this view is rather concise and stylized. MacMiep thinks that is a shame; it is less clear to the beginner. In chapter Finder Tips you can read how to change this back to the old situation, if you want.

A Finder window - the movie

Finder Windows - in macOS 10.15 Catalina and older

Window display
There are four ways to display the folder hierarchy: Symbols, List, Columns and Gallery. At the top left of the Window you see four symbols that express this:

Click on it and the layout of your window changes.

1. Symbol view
This way you can see small images of your files and folders.

2. List view
Handy if you want to sort documents alphabetically, by date, size or type:

3. Columns

With this horizontal tree view you have a good overview of the structure of the folders on your Mac:

4. Gallery view
Very useful for quickly viewing and browsing your files:

No need to open programs!
So in Gallery View you do not have to start a program to watch and / or listen to it. This is very useful if you are looking for a file and have forgotten its name. So the Finder is more than just a Folder-Structure-Organize-Manager program: it is also a Preview program!

Adjust window size
You can enlarge a Window on all sides. Move your mouse over the edge or in a corner of the window until a double arrow appears. Now click and drag the Window to the desired size.

Make a Finder window fill the screen
Click on the green button at the top left:

Window no longer fills the screen
Click on the same green button.

Create a new folder
This can be found under Archive => New Folder.

Move files
Of course you can move files. Click on it, hold down the mouse button and drag the item to where you want it: "drag ende pleur".

Move and copy files at the same time
Hold down the Option (Alt) key while clicking on a file and drag it to its new location.
You will see a green ball appear to indicate that you are starting to copy.

Select multiple files at once
That can be done in different ways:
- Drag with the mouse button (left) over all the files you want to grab.
- Press the Shift key for files in a row and select the first and last file.
- For files in various places, hold down the Command key and select file by file.
Note: The Command key is the one with that weird tickle on it, next to the Spacebar.

Put individual files in a new folder at once
If you want to put several files together in a new folder to be created: select them en right-click for a shortcut menu.
Choose New folder with selection (x items). Useful!

Made a mistake?
Have you made a mistake in the Finder, for example renaming or moving a file? Under the Edit menu you will find Recovery. Faster is the key combination: Command-Z. That is pressing the Command key and the Z key simultaneously.

The Sidebar
You can use the Dock (that thing with icons in a row) as a quick stepping stone to your favorite programs, folders or documents. You can also use the menu that you will find on the left side of each Window: the Navigation column.
To be precise, drag your favorite folders, programs and / or documents under Locations. This is how an Alias ​​is created: a reference to the real file.
Apple has placed a number of folders in the Sidebar by default. You can also place folders yourself.

Drag a folder or document to the sidebar

You are now in this folder with one click. So you no longer have to go through the entire folder structure to open it. Useful!

Remove an item from the Sidebar
Right-click and choose Remove from Sidebar. This only removes this reference. So you don't throw away the original.

Note: It is better to leave the default folders in the Sidebar.
In any case, never throw away the original!

Using external drives
USB sticks, CDs, DVDs and external hard drives also appear in the Sidebar, under Locations. You will find an eject symbol next to each disc. Always use this, also for USB sticks!

Open files
Double-click on a file to open it. The file itself will choose a program to open in.
Note: You can read how to change this choice in chapter Finder Tips.

More about the Dock
Move your mouse over it and you will see the name of the program appear.

Click and the program starts (the icon jumps up and down).

Dock menu
Right-click on a Dock icon and a small menu will appear. Useful to find out where the original is (Show in Finder). Or to tell it to open after your Mac has started: Open after Login. Useful!

Make use of the Dock
Just like in the Sidebar, we can drag our favorite programs or documents to the Dock.
The handy thing about the Dock is that you always have direct access to it, no matter what you are doing.
So the Dock is a get-there-quickly thing. Handy for all your programs, but also for frequently used documents and folders. Is it in your way? Then in the Dock preferences choose 'Show and hide automatically' in System Preferences => Dock.

Put a file in the Dock
Do you want to put something in the Dock? Drag and drop the file to the Dock. MacMiep calls this "drudgery". An alias is now created, i.e. a reference or shortcut.

And there, Calculator is already in the Dock:

Remove something from the Dock
If you want to get rid of it, quickly pull it out of the dock. It will dissolve in a cloud of dust. With this the program itself has NOT disappeared, only the reference to it. So there is no reason to panic if you accidentally drag something from the Dock. Searching and dragging back is the solution.
Note: Some icons cannot be removed, for example the Recycle Bin.

Default contents of the Dock in macOS 11 Big Sur:

Finder: Right-click on the Finder icon and you can open a new Finder window or folder directly:


A copy of the iPad / iPhone and especially useful with a Trackpad is Launchpad. Here you will find all your programs, to sweep through.

Safari: internet browser (=> Internet chapter).

Mail: e-mail program (=> Internet chapter).

FaceTime: Apple's video calling program. You can be reached under your Apple ID or your iPhone number.

iMessage: Receive and send messages. You can be reached under your Apple ID or your iPhone number.

Maps: like Google maps, but from Apple.

Photos: The collection and editing program for digital photos (also RAW formats).

Address book: address database based on the V-card standard

iCal: calendar and agenda

Reminders: Digital planning board

Notes: notepad

Music: audio purchase, playback and converter program, CD / Video playback program, Internet radio, audio and MP3 CD burning.

Podcasts: Modern form of radio program

Apple TV: Everyone and their mother seems to be starting a streaming service. Apple also.

App Store
The way to get reliable software, free or paid. You always need a login name and password, a so-called Apple ID. If you don't have one yet, you will automatically be referred to create one.

System Preferences: discussed in chapter Preferences.

Bin: seems obvious to me. to empty it, click the icon in the dock and hold the mouse button for a moment. The text 'Empty bin'.

Note: You can also go to the Finder menu and choose 'Empty bin'.

The next chapter is:
Finder tips

Disclaimer: MacMiep is independent. This means she writes what she wants, based on 30 years of Mac-experience. She doesn't get paid for stories (positive or negative) on this website. MacMiep is not interested in your data. However, she does use Google's services. Google is indeed interested. Are you happy with MacMiep? Please support your local cat shelter.