Modify the Finder Sidebar to Suit Your Preferences

Adding Files, Folders and Apps

Finder sidebar showing app being added
Besides files and folder, apps can be added to the Finder's sidebar. Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

The Finder sidebar is a handy list of commonly used folders, drives, and network locations. Apple pre-populates it with what it considers to be most useful items for most users, but there's no reason not to add, remove, or rearrange items. After all, setting it up just the way you like it is a key to productivity.

Show or Hide the Sidebar

OS X 10.4.x allows you to hide the sidebar; OS X 10.5 doesn't give you this option, while 10.6 and later puts the sidebar view under your control from the Finder's View menu.

To hide the sidebar in OS X 10.4.x, look for the little dimple in the bar that separates the sidebar and the Finder window. Click and drag the dimple all the way to the left to hide the sidebar. Click and drag it to the right to reveal or resize the sidebar.

In OS X 10.6 and later the Finder's sidebar can be hidden, allowing the window to take up less room, or displayed, giving you easy access to many locations, files, and even apps, all from the Finder's window.

  1. To display the Finder's sidebar highlight a Finder window, either by selecting an existing Finder window, Clicking on the Desktop (the desktop is a special Finder window), or clicking on the Finder icon in the Dock.
  2. From the Finder menu, select View, Show Sidebar, or use the keyboard shortcut Option + Command + S.​
  3. To hide the Finder's sidebar, make sure a Finder window is active.
  4. From the Finder menu, select View, Hide Sidebar or use the keyboard shortcut Option + Command + S.​

Show or Hide the Sidebar's Default Items

  1. Open a Finder window by clicking its icon in the Dock, or by clicking on a vacant area of the desktop.
  2. Open the Finder's preferences by selecting 'Preferences' from the Finder menu.
  3. Click the 'Sidebar' icon in the Preferences window.
  4. Place or remove a checkmark, as appropriate, from the list of items in the sidebar.
  5. Close the Preferences window.

Feel free to experiment with the items in the list. You can return to the Finder preferences at any time, and modify the show/hide details.

Add a File or Folder

You can add your most often used files or folders to the sidebar, to keep them a mouse click away whenever you open a Finder window.

  1. Open a Finder window by clicking its icon in the Dock. Or clicking on a free space on your Mac's desktop.
  2. Click and drag a file or folder to the sidebar. A horizontal line will appear, indicating the location the file or folder will occupy when you release the mouse button. With OS X YosemiteOS X El Capitan, macOS Sierra, and macOS High Sierra you need to hold down the Command (Cloverleaf) key when you drag a file to the Finder's sidebar. Dragging a folder does not rquire the use of the Command key.
  3. Position the file or folder where you want it to appear, and then release the mouse button. There are some restrictions on where you can place a file or folder. In Tiger (10.4.x), you can only place an item in the 'Location' section of the sidebar; the upper section is reserved for drives and network devices. In Leopard (10.5.x), you can only add items to the 'Places' section of the sidebar. In OS X Yosemite and later, placement is limited to the Favorites section.

Add an Application to the Sidebar

Although this isn't commonly known, the sidebar can hold more than just files and folders; it can also hold the applications you use most often. Follow the same steps as adding a file or folder, but select an application instead of a file or folder. Depending on the version of OS X or macOS you are using, you may need to hold down the Command key as you drag an application to the sidebar.

To make matters even more interesting, depending on the version of the Mac OS you are using you may need to set the Finders view setting to List before you can drag an app to the sidebar. 

Rearrange the Sidebar

You can rearrange most items in the sidebar as you see fit. Though each version of OS X has various restrictions. Simply click and drag a sidebar item to its new target location. The other items will rearrange themselves, to make room for the item being moved.

Remove Items

Like the desktop, the sidebar can quickly get cluttered. You can remove a file, folder, or application you added by clicking and dragging its icon out of the sidebar. It will disappear in a puff of smoke. Don't worry, though, the item itself is still safe in its original location; only the sidebar alias was incinerated.

If you don't mind forgoing the dramatic puff of smoke, you can remove an item from the Finder sidebar by right-clicking on the item and selecting Remove from Sidebar in the popup menu.

More Finder Makeovers

Customizing the Finder sidebar is just one of many steps you can take to making the Finder best suit your needs. You can discover many more methods of Finder customization in the guide: