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 Show or Hide 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 so that Finder takes up less room or display the sidebar for easy access to folders and locations. To show or hide 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. To show the sidebar, select View > Show Sidebar. To hide the sidebar, select View > Hide Sidebar.

    Show or Hide Sidebar in the macOS Catalina Finder

    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 > Preferences.

    Finder Preferences in macOS Catalina
  3. In Finder Preferences, select Sidebar.

    Finder Preferences in macOS Catalina

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

  4. Select or clear the checkbox, as appropriate, for each item in the list.

  5. Close Finder Preferences to save your preferences.

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 then drag it to the Favorites section of the sidebar.

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

    A horizontal line appears, indicating the location the folder will occupy when you release the mouse button.

    Mac Finder sidebar showing app being added
  3. Position the folder where you want it to appear, and then release the mouse button.

    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 Finder, select Go > Applications.

    Go to the Applications folder in Finder on macOS Catalina
  3. Locate the application you want to add to the sidebar, press and hold the Command key, and then 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.