How to Use Column View Options in OS X Finder

Control Column View’s Appearance

Item arrangement option in the Mac's Finder
Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

The Finder’s Column view is a way to quickly and easily see where an item exists within the hierarchical view of Mac’s file system. To accomplish this, Column view shows the parent folder and any subfolders the item resides within, each represented in its own column.

Column view options are surprisingly limited. You can select a sorting option, which applies to all columns, text size, and how icons will display.

If you’re viewing a folder in the Finder in Column view, here are some additional options that will help you control how Column view looks and behaves.

Column View Options

To control how Column view will look and behave, open a folder in a Finder window, then 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 Finder menus.

  • Always open in column view: Placing a check mark next to this option will cause this folder to always use Column view when you first open the folder. You can, of course, use the Finder view buttons to change the view type after you open the folder in the Finder.
  • 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 icons: This option enables or disables the display of icons in Column view. When this option is checked, a small icon will display to the left of an item’s name.
  • Show icon preview: This option enables or disables the ability of icons to show a thumbnail preview of their contents. With a check mark in place, the icons will show a preview; with the check mark removed, the file’s default icon will display.
  • Show preview column: Column view can dedicate the last column in its display to showing detailed information about a selected file. This information is similar to the data you see when you use the ‘Get Info’ command in the Finder. The preview column only displays when a file is selected. It will not appear when a folder is the only item selected.