Using Finder Tabs in OS X

Make the best use of finder tabs

Screenshot of Finder Tabs on Mac computer

Finder tabs, ushered in with OS X Mavericks are very similar to tabs you see in most browsers, including Safari. Their purpose is to minimize screen clutter by gathering what used to be displayed in separate windows into a single Finder window with multiple tabs. Each tab acts like a separate Finder window but without the clutter of having multiple windows open and scattered around your desktop.

Finder tabs work independently of each other. Each tab can have its own view (icons, list, column, and overflow), and each tab can contain information from any location in your Mac's file system. One tab could be looking at your Documents folder, while another is peering at your Applications.

Because they work independently, you can think of each tab as a separate Finder window, and use it the same way. You can easily drag files or folders from one tab and drop them onto another tab. This makes moving files around much easier than scrambling to arrange multiple Finder windows just so you can see what you're doing.

Finder tabs are a nice addition to the Mac OS, and you can choose to use them or not; it's up to you. But if you do decide to give them a try, here are a few tricks that will help you make the most of them.

Double-clicking a folder will still open the folder in its own Finder window. This default action hasn't changed, so unless you do a bit of exploring, you may not even notice that the Mavericks Finder supports tabs.

Tips and Tricks for Using Finder Tabs

Finder tabs work almost the same way as Safari's tabs. If you're used to working with Safari tabs, you'll find that using Finder tabs is a piece of cake. In fact, they're so similar that most of the keyboard shortcuts you use for Safari tabs will work with Finder tabs. Just make sure that the Finder is the frontmost app when you try any keyboard shortcuts.

Finder Tab Commands

  • Let's start by opening the Finder's tab bar. From the Finder menu, select View, Show Tab Bar.

Open Finder Tabs

There are a number of ways to open a new Finder tab:

  • Right-click or command-click a folder within a Finder window and select Open in New Tab from the popup menu.
  • Click the plus (+) button located at the far right of the Finder's tab bar.
  • Right-click or ctrl-click any Finder tab, and then select New Tab from the popup menu.
  • From the desktop or in an open Finder window, use the command+T keyboard shortcut (the Apple cloverleaf + T keys). The new tab will open in the Finder's default folder view.
  • Drag a folder to the Finder tab bar's plus (+) sign.
  • Use the Finder toolbar. In a Finder window, select a folder you wish to open as a tab, then click the Action (sprocket) button and select Open in New Tab.
  • In a Finder window, select File, New Tab. The new tab will open in the Finder's default folder view.

Close Finder Tabs

  • In a Finder window that has multiple tabs, hover the mouse cursor over the tab you want to close. A close tab button (X) will appear. Click the button to close all tabs.
  • To close all but the currently selected tab, right-click or ctrl-click the Finder tab you want to keep open, and then select Close Other Tabs.

Manage Finder Tabs

There are several ways to manage Finder tabs:

  • To consolidate all Finder windows into a single Finder window with tabs, go to the Finder menu and select Window, Merge All Windows.
  • To move a tab to a separate window, drag the tab from a Finder window to an area outside of the Finder's tab bar.
  • You can also move a tab to a separate window by selecting the tab in a Finder window, and then by selecting the Move Tab to New Window from the Finder's Window menu.
  • You can cycle through the tabs in the current Finder window by selecting Show Previous Tab or Show Next Tab from the Finder's Window menu.
  • You can also perform the same tab cycling using the ctrl+tab keyboard shortcut (ctrl + tab keys) for Show Next Tab, or the ctrl+shift+tab keyboard shortcut (ctrl + shift + tab keys) for Show Previous Tab.
  • Cycling through tabs can be a handy trick if you have a Finder window with a large number of tabs. The size of a tab is based on the number of tabs you have open. As you open more tabs, each tab becomes smaller, and it may lose the ability to display the full name of the folder associated with it. If you open enough tabs, it can be difficult to see all of them.

If you haven’t used tabs before, perhaps in Safari or any of the popular Finder add-ons, then they may seem to be a bit of a nuisance. But it's worth learning how to use them because they can provide unobstructed access to multiple Finder windows, and let you take care of all of your file management in a single window. With a bit of practice, you may end up wondering why it took Apple so long to deploy Finder tabs.