How to Control Your Mac's Cover Flow View Options

Set the Cover Flow options in Finder

Finder’s Cover Flow view is an amalgam of the List view and Apple’s Quick View display, which lets you see the content of a Finder item within its icon. Cover Flow breaks the Finder window into two distinct panes, with the standard List view at the bottom and Cover Flow view at the top. If you select an item in one pane, it is highlighted in both panes.

Apple discontinued Cover Flow starting with macOS Mojave (10.14). The replacement, Gallery View, has different features and functionality.

Cover Flow on Mac

Cover Flow View Options

Cover Flow allows you to quickly can scan through all the items in a folder. The view options are mostly the same as List view options. If you’re viewing a folder in the Finder in Cover Flow view, there are some additional options that will help you control its look and behavior.

  1. Open a folder in a Finder window.

  2. Make sure you're in the Cover Flow mode by selecting as Cover Flow from the View menu.

  3. Right-click in any blank area of the window and select Show View Options. If you prefer, you can bring up the same view options by selecting View > Show View Options from the menu bar.

You can choose from the following options:

  • Always open in Cover Flow: Finder defaults to the Cover Flow view when you open a folder. You can still use the Finder view buttons to change the view type after you open a folder.
  • Arrange by and Sort options: These settings control the default order of files in Finder. For more on this topic, read about the New 'Arrange By' Option.
  • Icon size: Choose between two icon sizes: small or large. The icon size option does not affect the size of the Cover Flow pane. It refers to the icons listed in the List pane. Selecting the small icon size allows you to see more information in a Finder window. Choosing the large icon displays more detail.
  • Text size: This drop-down menu lets you specify the text size used for an item’s name and the attributes that display in each column.
    Show columns: In addition to the column indicating the name of an item or file, there are several optional columns for Finder to display. They include:
    Date Modified: The date when the item was last modified.
    • Date Created: The date when the item was originally created.
    • Date Last Opened: Lists the date of the last time the items were opened by any user or app.
    • Date Added: When the item was added to the folder.
    • Size: Displays the size of a file. Folders will only display their size if the Calculate all sizes checkbox is checked.
    • Kind: Displays the item type, such as folder, text, jpeg, or PDF.
    • Version: Displays the version attribute. Applications are the only type of item that will usually have a version attribute.
    • Comments: Any item can have a comment associated with it. Comments are added via the Get Info menu, which is available when you right-click on an item in the Finder or on the Desktop.
    • Tags: This column will display the color of a tag assigned to the item. Tags replaced Labels used in previous versions of macOS.
  • Use relative dates: You can display dates by their actual calendar date or as a relative date from today. For instance, relative dates will display as "Yesterday, 5:13 PM" or "Today, 4:00 AM." Dates older than yesterday are shown as calendar dates.
  • Calculate all sizes: This option is only active if you have chosen Size as one of the columns to display. When this option is checked, all items and folders will display their size. Calculating the size of a folder can take time, especially if it contains a large number of subfolders. If you don’t need to know a folder’s size, uncheck this option.
  • Show icon preview: This option enables or disables the ability of icons to show a thumbnail preview of their contents. With a checkmark in place, the icons will show a preview; with the checkmark removed, the file’s default icon will display.

The last option in the Cover Flow view window is Use as Defaults. Selecting this button will cause the current folder’s view options to be used as the default for all Finder windows. If you select this button by accident, you may not be pleased to discover that every Finder window now displays its contents with Cover Flow. 

To find out more about setting the Finder's default view, see Setting Finder Views for Folders and Sub-Folders.