4 Finder Tips for OS X

New Finder Features That Can Make Using Your Mac Easier

With the release of OS X Yosemite, the Finder has picked up a few new tricks that can make you a bit more productive. Some of these tips may make it easier to work with files, while others can help you see the bigger picture.

If you're using OS X Yosemite or later, it's time to see what new features are in store for you in the Finder.

Published: 10/27/2014

Updated: 10/23/2015

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Go Full Screen

Green Traffic Light
Courtesy of Pixabay

The ever-present traffic lights in the top left corner of a Finder or application window work a little bit differently now. In fact, if you haven’t heard about the changes to the traffic lights, you may be in for a big surprise when you try clicking the green light.

In the past (pre-OS X Yosemite), the green button was used to switch between a window's system-defined size, and the size a user had adjusted the window to. With the Finder, this usually meant toggling between a smaller Finder window size that you may have created, and the default, which automatically sized a window to display all sidebar or Finder column data within the window.

With the advent of OS X Yosemite, the default action of the green traffic light button is to toggle the window to full screen. This means that not only the Finder but any app can now run in full-screen mode. Simply click the green traffic light button and you're in full-screen mode.

To return to the normal desktop mode, move your cursor to the top left area of the display. After a second or two, the traffic light buttons will reappear, and you can click the green button to return to the previous state.

If you prefer the green traffic button to work as it did before OS X Yosemite, hold down the option key when you click the green button.

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Batch Rename Comes to the Finder

Finder Rename
Screenshot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Renaming a file or folder in the Finder has always been an easy process; that is, unless you wanted to rename more than one file at a time. Batch renaming apps have a long history in OS X precisely because the system never had a built-in multi-file renaming utility.

There are a few apps that Apple includes with the OS, such as iPhoto, that can do batch renaming, but if you had a large number of files in the Finder whose names needed to be changed, it was time to break out Automator or a third-party app; of course, you could also manually change the names, one at a time.

Rename Finder Items

With the arrival of OS X Yosemite, the Finder has picked up its own batch renaming capabilities that support three different ways of changing the names of multiple files:

  • Replace Text: This is a simple find-and-replace method that works on a set of selected files or folders by finding all occurrences of text entered in the Find field, and replacing it with text from the Replace With field.
  • Add Text: This renaming option will either prepend or append the text you enter to the file and folder names you've selected.
  • Format: The format option works similarly to the Add Text method above, in that it will prepend or append information to the existing file names, but it takes things a few steps further by letting you specify any text you wish to add, along with an index, counter, or date. You can also specify the starting number for the index and counter options. If you choose the date option, the current time and date will be added to the file name.

How to Use the Rename Finder Items Feature

  1. To rename multiple finder items, start by opening a Finder window and selecting two or more Finder items.
  2. Right-click on one of the selected Finder items, and choose Rename X items from the pop-up menu. The X indicates the number of items you selected.
  3. The Rename Finder Items sheet will open.
  4. Use the pop-up menu in the top left corner to select one of the three renaming methods (see above). Fill in the appropriate information and click the Rename button.

As an example, we will rename four items using the Format option to append text and an index number to each Finder item we selected.

  1. Start by selecting four Finder items in the current Finder window.
  2. Right-click on one of the selected items, and choose Rename 4 Items from the pop-up menu.
  3. From the pop-up menu, select Format.
  4. Use the Name Format menu to select Name and Index.
  5. Use the Where menu to select After Name.
  6. In the Custom format field, enter the base name you wish each Finder item to have. Tip within a tip: Include a space if you wish to have one after the text; otherwise, the index number will run up against the text you entered.
  7. Use the Start numbers at: field to specify the first number.
  8. Click the Rename button. The four items you selected will have the text and a series of sequential numbers added to their existing file names.
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Add a Preview Pane to the Finder

Screenshot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

This may not be quite the new feature we think it is. A preview panel has been available for quite a while in the Finder's Column view. But with the release of Yosemite, the preview panel can now be enabled in any of the Finder's view options (Icon, Column, List, and Cover Flow).

The Preview pane will display a thumbnail view of the item currently selected in the Finder. The Preview pane uses the same technology as the Finder's Quick Look system, so you can even see multipage documents and flip through each page if you wish.

In addition, the preview pane displays information about the selected files, such as file type, date created, date modified, and the last time it was opened. You can also add Finder tags just by clicking the Add Tags text in the preview pane.

To enable the Preview pane, open a Finder window and select View, Show Preview from the Finder menu.

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Sidebar Organization

Apple just can't make up its mind about the Finder sidebar, and how much freedom end users should have in how it's organized. In much earlier versions of OS X, the Finder's sidebar and its content were entirely up to us, the end users. Apple pre-populated it with a few locations, most notably the Music, Pictures, Movies, and Documents folders, but we were free to move them about, delete them from the sidebar, or add new items. We could even add applications directly to the sidebar, for an easy way to launch apps we used frequently.

But as Apple refined OS X, it seemed that with each release of the operating system, the sidebar became more and more restrictive in what it allowed us to do. That's why it was a bit of a fun discovery to see that a restriction that used to prevent moving sidebar entries around between the Devices and Favorites categories had been lifted. Now, this restriction seems to fluctuate with each version of OS X. In Mavericks, you could move a device to the Favorites section, provided the device wasn't the startup drive, but you couldn't move any item from the Favorites section to the Device section. In Yosemite, you can move items between the Favorites and Devices sections to your heart's content.

I wonder if this is just something that Apple overlooked, and it will be "fixed" in a later version of OS X Yosemite. Until then, feel free to drag your sidebar items around, any way you want, between the Favorites and Devices sections.

The Shared section of the sidebar is still off limits.