Customize the Mac's Finder Toolbar

Make the Finder Your Own

Customize the Finder Toolbar
Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

The Finder toolbar, a collection of buttons and a search field located at the top of a Finder window, is easy to customize to meet your specific needs. ​While the default toolbar configuration works for most users, changing the toolbar by adding new commands, rearranging to better suit your style, or even adding commonly used apps and services can move the Finder toolbar from adequate to supercharged.

In addition to the Back, View, and Action buttons that are already present in the toolbar, you can add functions such as Eject, Burn, and Delete, as well as adding a large collection of actions that can make using the Finder so much easier.

Let's get started customizing your Finder toolbar.

Enable the Finder Customization Tool

  1. Open a Finder window by clicking the Finder icon in the Dock.
  2. Select Customize Toolbar from the View menu, or right-click in a blank area of the Finder toolbar and select Customize Toolbar from the pop-up menu. A dialog sheet will slide into view.

Add Items to the Finder Toolbar​

With the Finder customization sheet open, you will see a selection of buttons that you can drag onto the Finder toolbar. Dragged buttons can be positioned anywhere within the toolbar, with current buttons moving out of the way to make room for new ones you drag into place.

  1. Some of my favorite functions to add to the toolbar include:
    • Path: Shows the current path to the folder you're viewing in the active Finder window.
    • New Folder: Lets you add a new folder to the folder you're currently viewing.
    • Get Info: Displays detailed information about a selected file or folder, such as where it's located on your drive, when it was created, and when it was last modified.
    • Eject: Ejects removable media, such as CDs and DVDs, from the optical drive.
    • Delete: Sends files or folders off to oblivion, or the Trash, as some people call it.
  1. Click and drag icons for the desired functions from the dialog sheet to the Finder toolbar.
  2. Click the Done button when you've finished adding items to the toolbar.

Space, Flexible Space, and Separators

You may have noticed a few unusual items in the dialog sheet for customizing the Finder toolbar: Space, Flexible Space, and depending on the version of the Mac OS you are using, Separator.

These items can add a bit of polish to the Finder toolbar by helping you organize it.

  • Space: Adds a fixed-size space, approximately the size of a single toolbar icon, to the toolbar. You can use a space to give Finder toolbar items a little breathing room.
  • Flexible Space: Produces a space that is variable in size. As the size of the Finder window changes, the flexible space size changes, but it never becomes smaller than the standard (default) space item.
  • Separator: Adds a visual vertical line to help separate toolbar icons. A good use of a separator is to help define a group of related toolbar icons. Can’t find the separator item? Apple removed it from the toolbar options starting with OS X Lion. That’s too bad; I thought it was a useful feature. You can use the space item, listed above to perform a function that's similar to the separator, just not as elegant.

Remove Toolbar Icons

After you add items to the Finder toolbar, you may decide it's getting too cluttered. It's as easy to remove items as it is to add them.

  1. Open a Finder window by clicking the Finder icon in the Dock.
  2. Select Customize Toolbar from the View menu. A dialog sheet will slide down.
  3. Click and drag the unwanted icon away from the toolbar. It will disappear in the ever-popular puff of smoke.

    Default Toolbar Set

    Want to return to the default set of toolbar icons? That 's an easy job as well. You'll find a complete set of default toolbar icons near the bottom of the Customize Toolbar sheet. When you drag the default set of icons onto the toolbar, it will move as a complete set; no need to drag one item at a time.

    Toolbar Display Options

    Besides being able to pick which tool icons are present in the Finder toolbar, you can also select how they're displayed. The choices are:

    • Icon and Text
    • Icon only
    • Text only

    Go ahead and use the Show drop-down menu to make your selection. You can try each one, and then settle on the one you like best.

    I like the Icon and Text option, but if you prefer a bit more elbow room in your Finder windows, you can try the text only or icon only options.

    When you finish making the changes, click the Done button.