How to Modify the Mac Finder Sidebar

Get more out of Finder with these easy sidebar tweaks

Finder is the quick-access center or your Mac. Its sidebar provides a handy list of commonly used folders, disks, applications, and network locations. Apple populates this sidebar with what it considers to be the most useful items for most users, but you can also add, remove, or rearrange the items that appear in it. Setting it up just the way you like it is a key to productivity.

Here, we show you how to show or hide the sidebar, add items to and delete items from it, and rearrange the items that appear in it.

Instructions in this article apply to Finder in Mac OS X Jaguar (10.2) and later, although dialog box and command names may differ.

How to Hide or Show the Finder Sidebar

Beginning with OS X Snow Leopard (10.6) and in subsequent releases of the macOS operating system, you can hide the Finder sidebar or display the sidebar for easy access to folders and locations. To hide or show the Finder sidebar, complete the following steps:

  1. Open a Finder window by selecting the Finder icon in the Dock.

    The Finder icon in the macOS Catalina Dock
  2. By default, the Finder displays a sidebar when it opens. If you prefer to hide the sidebar, in the Finder menu bar, select View > Hide Sidebar.

    The Finder View menu showing the Hide Sidebar option
  3. To reopen the sidebar after you close it, select View > Show Sidebar from the Finder menu bar.

    Finder window showing Show Sidebar in View menu

    You can also use the keyboard shortcut Option+Command+S to toggle between viewing and hiding the sidebar.

How to Customize the Finder Sidebar

To customize the items that appear in the Finder sidebar out of the box, complete the following steps:

  1. Open a Finder window by selecting the Finder icon in the Dock.

  2. Select Finder in the menu bar and choose Preferences.

    Mac Finder Preferences highlighted
  3. In Finder Preferences, select Sidebar at the top of the screen.

    Mac Finder preferences with the Sidebar tab chosen

    Items in the Finder sidebar fall into four categories: Favorites, iCloud, Locations, or Tags.

  4. Select or clear the check box, as appropriate, for each item in the list. The items you check appear in the Finder sidebar until you change the preferences again.

  5. Close the Finder Preferences to save your choices.

How to Add a Folder to the Finder Sidebar

You can add your most often used folders to the Finder sidebar for easy access whenever you open a Finder window. To add a folder to the sidebar, complete the following steps:

  1. Open a Finder window by selecting the Finder icon in the Dock.

  2. Locate a folder in the main Finder window and drag it to the Favorites section of the sidebar. A horizontal line appears, indicating the location the folder will occupy when you release the mouse button.

    Mac Finder showing app being added to sidebar

    If the Favorites section doesn't appear in the Finder sidebar, select Finder > Preferences, select Sidebar, and then select the check box for at least one item in the Favorites section.

  3. Release the mouse button to add the folder to the Finder sidebar.

    When you add a folder, app, or disk to the Finder sidebar, you only create a shortcut to that item. The item remains in its original location.

How to Add an Application to the Finder Sidebar

The Finder sidebar gives you quick access to more than folders. You can create shortcuts to the applications you use most often, as well.

Depending on the version of macOS or OS X you're using, you may need to change the Finder view to List before you can drag an app to the sidebar.

To add an application to the Finder sidebar, complete the following steps:

  1. Open a Finder window by selecting the Finder icon in the Dock.

  2. In the Finder menu bar, select Go and choose Applications in the menu.

    Finder Go menu with Applications highlighted
  3. Locate the application you want to add to the sidebar, press and hold the Command key, and drag the application to the Favorites section of the Finder sidebar.

  4. Position the application where you want it to appear and then release the mouse button.

How to Rearrange Items in the Finder Sidebar

You can rearrange most items in the sidebar as you like. To do so, drag the item to its new target location. The other items in the sidebar rearrange themselves to make room for the item you're moving.

How to Remove Items From Finder Sidebar

Like the desktop, the Finder sidebar can become cluttered. To tidy things up, you can remove folders, disks, or applications you've added by dragging the item's icon out of the sidebar. It disappears in a puff of smoke.

If you don't mind forgoing the dramatic puff of smoke, you can remove an item from the Finder sidebar by pressing and holding the Control key, selecting the item, and then selecting Remove from Sidebar.