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How to use Finder on your Mac

How to use Finder on your Mac
How to use Finder on your Mac (Image credit: iMore )

The Finder in macOS is your gateway to all of the files, apps, and downloads on your Mac. Everything, from your Dropbox folders to your cool new desktop wallpaper, can be located in the Finder. You also have a lot of control over what the Finder will show you and how different parts of the Finder will work.

Follow this guide to take control of the Finder and make it work for you.

How to open a Finder window

There are a few methods for opening windows in the Finder to let you get at your files.

  • Click on your desktop (don't select an app or program), click on File in the Menu bar and choose New Finder Window.

To open a Finder window, click on your desktop then click on File, and New Finder Window. (Image credit: iMore )
  • On your Dock, click on the Finder icon (looks like a smiling face).

Back up iCloud Photo Library to Mac HD by showing: Click the Finder icon (Image credit: iMore)
  • On your keyboard, hit 'Command-N' while you have the desktop selected.

How to customize the Finder toolbar

By default, the Finder toolbar offers several buttons you can use to change the Finder's view or perform an action, but you can customize the bar to your liking with several different tools.

  1. Open a new Finder window.
  2. Right-, control-, or two-finger-click on the toolbar.

Open Finder window, right-click toolbar (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Click Customize Toolbar…
  2. Click and drag different tools onto the bar. Here are some that you can choose from:
    • Quick Look:  The first tool I would pick. The Quick Look button is a great way to glance at a document or photo that you have in the finder.
    • Delete: Delete an item from the Finder after highlighting it.
    • Connect: Connect to an external server if you know the address. You can store several favorite servers and switch between them using this button.
    • Get Info: Highlight something in the Finder and press this button to get a detailed set of information on it.

Click Customize Toolbar, choose tools (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Click Done once you've added all of the tools to the toolbar that you want.

To customize the Finder toolbar, click Done. (Image credit: iMore)

How to use Quick Look

After adding Quick Look to the Finder toolbar, use it to take a peek at a document, photo, or other files that you've got in the Finder.

  1. Open a new Finder window.
  2. Find the file you wish to use Quick Look with and click it once.

To use Quick Look, open Finder window, highlight item (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Click the Quick Look button on your Finder's toolbarAlternatively, tap the Space bar on your keyboard.

To use Quick Look, click the Quick Look button. (Image credit: iMore)

How to use the Info button

After adding the Info button to the Finder's toolbar, you can use it to get information on a given item in the Finder.

  1. Open a new Finder window.
  2. Click on the item for which you want information.

To use the Info button, open a new Finder Window, click file (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Click the Info button.

To use the Info button, click Info

To use the Info button, click Info (Image credit: iMore)

How to show or hide hard disks, external disks, CDs, and connected servers on your desktop

  1. In Finder, click on Finder in the Menu bar and select Preferences.
  2. Click General.

To show or hide hard disks, external disks, CDs, and connected servers, open preferences, click General (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Check the boxes for the types of items you want to display on your desktop.

To show or hide hard disks, external disks, CDs, and connected servers, check the boxes (Image credit: iMore)

How to set a new Finder window's default section

  1. In Finder, click on Finder in the Menu bar and select Preferences.
  2. Click General.

To set a new Finder window's default section, click on Finder and select Preferences, click General. (Image credit: iMore)
  1. In the drop-down menu, click on the folder or storage device.
  2. If your desired section isn't immediately available, choose Other.

To set a new Finder window's default section, click on folder or storage device you want in the drop-down menu. Choose Other if you can't find your desired location. (Image credit: iMore)

How to use Tags

  1. In Finder, click on Finder in the Menu bar and select Preferences.
  2. Click Tags.

To use Tags, open Preferences, click Tags (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Check the boxes next to your tags to select which tags are displayed in your Finder's sidebar.
  2. Drag a favorite tag to the bottom of the Tags tab to make it available for quick access in Finder menus.

To use Tags, check boxes, drag tags (Image credit: iMore)

How to create custom Tags

  1. In Finder, click on Finder in the Menu bar and select Preferences.
  2. Click Tags.

To create custom Tags, click on Finder from the Menu bar, select Preferences. Click Tags. (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Below the list of tags, click the + button.
  2. Enter a name for your tag.

To create custom Tags, click the + button, then enter a name for your tag. (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Click the circle next to your tag to assign it a color.

To assign a tag a color (Image credit: iMore)

How to customize the Finder sidebar

  1. In Finder, click on Finder in the Menu bar and select Preferences.
  2. Click Sidebar.

To customize the Finder sidebar, open Preferences, click Sidebar (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Check the boxes next to the items you want to see in your Finder's sidebar.

How to customize the Finder sidebar (Image credit: iMore)

How to use Stacks in Finder

  1. Click View in the Menu bar of your Mac when on your desktop with no apps in the foreground.
  2. Click Use Stacks.

To use Stacks in Finder, click View from the Menu bar, than click Use Stacks. (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Control-click, right-click, or two-finger-click on your desktop.
  2. Hover your mouse cursor over Group Stacks By. Choose between Kind, Date Last Opened, Date Added, Date Modified, Date Created, and Tags.

To use Stacks in Finder, control-click, right-click, or two-finger-click on your desktop. Hover your mouse cursor over Group Stacks By. Choose the group to sort by. (Image credit: iMore)

How to use Gallery View in Finder

  1. Click on the Finder icon in your Dock to open a new Finder window.
  2. Navigate to the folder or section that you want to view.

To use Gallery View in Finder, click on the Finder icon, then navigate to the folder or section that you want to view2 (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Click the Gallery View button on the right-most side of the view selection buttons on the Finder window.

To use Gallery View in Finder, click the Gallery View button. (Image credit: iMore)

How to view file metadata in Finder

  1. Click on the Finder icon in your Dock to open a new Finder window.
  2. Choose the view you want to use.

To view file metadata in Finder, click on the Finder icon, then choose the view to use. (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Click on the file whose information you want to use.
  2. Click View in the Menu bar.

To view file metadata in Finder, click on the file, then click View. (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Click Show Preview.
  2. Click Show More in the Preview pane to view additional metadata.

To view file metadata in Finder, click Show Preview, then Show More. (Image credit: iMore)

How to use Quick Actions in Finder

  1. Click on the Finder icon in your Dock to open a new Finder window.
  2. Choose the view you want to use.

To view file metadata in Finder, click on the Finder icon, then choose the view to use. (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Click on the file or files on which you wish to perform a quick action.
  2. Click View in the Menu bar if the Preview pane isn't already visible.

To view file metadata in Finder, click on the file, then click View. (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Click Show Preview.
  2. Choose one of the actions available at the preview pane's bottom to perform it on the selected file or files.

To use Quick Actions in Finder, click Show Preview, then choose one of the available actions. (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Click More… to find any other actions that you might be able to take.

To use Quick Actions in Finder, click More ... (Image credit: iMore)

How to use Quick Look tools in Finder

Quick Look's updates in macOS Monterey make it more powerful than ever. Here's how you use it.

  1. Click on the Finder icon in your Dock to open a new Finder window.
  2. Choose the view you want to use.

To view file metadata in Finder, click on the Finder icon, then choose the view to use. (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Click on the file you want to use with Quick Look.
  2. Tap the space bar on your keyboard to bring up Quick Look.
  3. Click the action button to take action on the file. What actions you can take and what the button looks like will depend on the file type.
    • Documents will have a Markup button. This allows you to draw, write, and highlight images and documents, add text boxes to them and even sign documents with a pre-saved signature. Images can be cropped and rotated as well.
    • In addition to Markup, images may also have a Rotate button. Press this to rotate your image to the left.
    • Audio and video files will have a Trim button. Press this, then grab the sliders on either end of the Quick Look preview to trim the length of an audio clip or video.

To use Quick Look tools in Finder, click the action button to take an action on the file. What actions you can take and what the button looks like will depend on the file type. (Image credit: iMore)
  1. Tap the space bar again when you're done with Quick Look.

New Mac?

If you haven't purchased a new Mac just yet but you're considering one, be sure to check out our best picks for Mac desktops and laptops.

Bryan M Wolfe
Bryan M Wolfe

Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.