Working with Finder

Learn how to use the OS X Mountain Lion Finder feature to improve your knowledge of the Apple operating system.

Working with Finder

Launch "Getting to Know Finder" video!Watch the video (3:17).

If you use a Mac, you'll use Finder any time you want to navigate to a file. You'll also be able to control how your files are displayed, making it easier to find what you need.

Watch the video to learn how to use Finder.

The Finder window

To start navigating, you'll first need to open a Finder window. There are two main ways to do this:

The Finder window is divided into three main parts: The contents of the current folder; the Sidebar, which you can use to choose a location; and the toolbar, where you can customize the way contents are displayed.

Screenshot of OS X Mountain LionThe Finder window

Your home folder

In the Finder sidebar, you will see shortcuts to folders that have names like Documents, Downloads, Music, and Pictures. These folders are part of your account's home folder. To keep your files organized, you may want to use these folders instead of putting everything on the desktop. If you don't see all of these folders in the sidebar, you can open your home folder to view them.

To open your home folder:

  1. Make sure you are in Finder (the left side of the menu bar should say "Finder").
  2. In the menu bar, click Go and select Home.


    Screenshot of OS X Mountain LionOpening the home folder
  3. Your home folder will open in a Finder window.


    Screenshot of OS X Mountain LionThe home folder

Changing the view, arrangement, and sort options

Mountain Lion allows you to change the way folder contents are displayed by changing the view, arrangement, and sort options. This makes it easier to find the specific file you're looking for.

View options

Finder has four different view options to choose from. You may prefer to use just one all the time, or you can switch between them whenever you want.

No matter which view you're in, you can preview a file by pressing the space bar on your keyboard. This is known as Quick Look. It works with most common file types, but not all.

Screenshot of OS X Mountain LionPreviewing a file with Quick Look

To change the item arrangement:

With Mountain Lion, you can group folder contents by file type, application, date, size, or label. This is useful when you have a lot of files in a folder.

  1. Click the Item Arrangement button, then select the desired arrangement.
    Screenshot of OS X Mountain LionArranging by Date Created
  2. The folder contents will now be arranged into groups.
    Screenshot of OS X Mountain LionAfter arranging the folder

To remove the grouping, simply change the item arrangement to None.

To sort in list view and cover flow:

If you are in list view or cover flow, you can sort the folder contents. This is similar to item arrangement, except it only puts the contents in order and doesn't group them. You can't use sorting and item arrangement at the same time, so you'll need to make sure the item arrangement is set to None.

If you don't see the column you want, you can right-click any column header to select the columns you want to show.

Screenshot of OS X Mountain LionRight-clicking the header to add columns

Working with files and folders

Launch "Working with Files and Folders" video!Watch the video (3:05).

Now that you know how to use Finder, you can learn how to create new folders, add shortcuts to the desktop, delete files, color-code folders, and unmount drives that are connected to your computer.

Watch the video to learn how to work with files, folders, and more.

Creating and modifying folders

As you organize your files, you'll need to create new folders from time to time. Most of the time, you'll be creating folders within other folders, but you can also put them directly on the desktop. Once you've created a folder, you can change its name or color-code it.

To create a new folder:

  1. Navigate to the location where you want to create the new folder.
  2. Right-click and select New Folder.


    Screenshot of OS X Mountain LionRight-clicking to create a new folder
  3. Type the desired name for your folder.


    Screenshot of OS X Mountain LionTyping a name for the folder

You can also create a folder by clicking File in the menu bar and selecting New Folder.

To rename a folder:

  1. Click the folder once to select it (do not double-click), then press the Return or Enter key. The folder name should now be highlighted.
    Screenshot of OS X Mountain LionThe highlighted folder name
  2. Type the desired name for the folder.
    Screenshot of OS X Mountain LionTyping a new name for the folder

To color-code a folder:

  1. Right-click the folder icon and select the desired color.


    Screenshot of OS X Mountain LionChoosing a folder color
  2. The folder name will now show the new color.
    Screenshot of OS X Mountain LionThe folder name with the new color

Creating a shortcut to a folder

If you have a folder you use frequently, you can save time by creating a shortcut (also called an alias) on the desktop. Instead of navigating to the folder each time you want to use it, you can simply double-click the shortcut and the folder will open. A shortcut will have a small arrow in the lower-left corner of the icon.

To create a shortcut:

  1. Navigate to where where your folder is located.
  2. Hold down the Option and Command keys, then click and drag the folder to the desktop. While you are dragging it, you should see a small arrow on the icon.


    Screenshot of OS X Mountain LionCreating a shortcut on the desktop
  3. When you release the mouse, the shortcut will be created. The icon should still have an arrow indicating it's a shortcut.


    Screenshot of OS X Mountain LionThe finished shortcut

Deleting files and folders

If you want to remove some of the clutter from your computer, you can delete files and folders you don't need. This will move them to the Trash (which is just like the Recycle Bin in Windows). Then, if you're sure you want to permanently delete them, you can empty the Trash.

To delete a file or folder:

  1. Click and drag the file or folder onto the Trash icon on the Dock. Alternatively, you can select the file and then press Command+Delete.


    Screenshot of OS X Mountain LionDragging a file to the Trash
  2. To empty the trash, right-click the Trash icon and select Empty Trash. All files in the Trash will be permanently deleted.


    Screenshot of OS X Mountain LionEmptying the Trash

On some Macs, right-clicking may be disabled by default. If you're unable to right-click, you can just click and hold the Trash icon until you see the Empty Trash option.

Ejecting drives

When you connect a flash drive or external hard drive to your Mac, it is known as mounting the drive. Before you disconnect the drive, it's important to eject it (or unmount it) properly to avoid damaging the data.

To eject a drive:

  1. Click the Finder icon on the Dock.


    Screenshot of OS X Mountain LionOpening Finder
  2. Locate your drive in the sidebar and click its eject button.


    Screenshot of OS X Mountain LionClicking the eject button
  3. The drive will disappear from the sidebar, and you can safely disconnect it from the computer.



If your flash drive appears as an icon on the desktop, right-click the drive icon and select Eject. The drive icon will disappear from the desktop. Alternatively, you can click and drag it to the Trash. It can then be safely disconnected from your computer.

Screenshot of OS X Mountain LionEjecting a USB flash drive