Customizing Finder Windows

Mac OS X enables you to customize many aspects of Finder windows, including the toolbar, the status bar, and the views you use.

Customizing the Toolbar

You can control many aspects of the toolbar that appears in Finder windows. You can show or hide it, and you can customize the tools that it contains.

Showing or Hiding the Toolbar

You can hide or show the toolbar in a Finder window in any of the following ways:

  • Click the Show/Hide Toolbar button in the upper-right corner of the Finder window.

  • Choose View, Hide Toolbar or View, Show Toolbar.

  • Press graphics/symbol.gif+B.

The state of the toolbar controls how new Finder windows open. If the toolbar is displayed, then new Finder windows open according to the preferences you set in the System Preferences utility. If the toolbar is hidden, new Finder windows always open in a separate window.

When you open a new Finder window (for example, by holding down the Option key when you open a new Finder window), the toolbar is hidden in the new window.

The toolbar state in currently open Finder windows is independent. For example, you can show the toolbar in one Finder window while it is hidden in another. In fact, if you have two Finder windows for the same directory open at the same time, you can hide the toolbar in one window while it is shown in the other.

The toolbar state is not independent when you open one Finder window inside another one. The toolbar for that window takes on the state that it was in in the previous window.

Changing the Tools on the Toolbar

The default toolbar contains various useful buttons, but you can customize its content by adding tools to it or removing tools from it.

  1. Open a Finder window.

  2. Choose View, Customize Toolbar (or hold down the Shift key while clicking on the Show/Hide Toolbar button). The contents of the Finder window will be replaced by the Toolbar customization window (see Figure 3.9).

    Figure 3.9. You can add buttons to or remove them from the toolbar using the Customize Toolbar command.


  3. To add a button to the toolbar, drag it from the window to the toolbar; place it in the location where you want it. (Table 3.2 lists the available buttons and what they do.)

    When you move a button between two current buttons on the toolbar, existing buttons will slide apart to make room for the new button.


    If you place more buttons on the toolbar than can be shown in the current window's width, a set of double arrows appears at the right edge of the toolbar. Click this to pop up a menu showing the additional buttons.

  4. Remove a button from the toolbar by dragging it off of the toolbar.

  5. Change the location of the icons by dragging them.

  6. Use the Show pop-up menu to determine whether the tools have text and an icon, text only, or an icon only.

  7. Click Done.

The toolbar will reflect the changes you made (see Figure 3.10).

Figure 3.10. Several buttons that are not on the default toolbar, such as the Path, Burn, and iDisk buttons, are quite useful. In the figure, you can see that I have added them to my toolbar.


Table 3.2. Useful Toolbar Buttons
Button Name What It Does
Back/Forward Moves you back or forward in a chain of Finder windows.
Path Pops up a menu that shows the path to the current directory. You can choose a directory on the pop-up menu to move there.
View Changes the view for the current window.
Eject Enables you to eject items, such as mounted volumes, CD-ROM discs, and so on, from the desktop.
Burn Enables you to burn a CD-R, CD-RW, or DVD-R.
Customize Enables you to open the Customize Toolbar window.
Separator A graphic element you can use to organize your toolbar.
New Folder Creates a new folder.
Delete Deletes the selected item.
Connect Opens the Connect to Server dialog box.
Find Opens the Finder's Find tool.
Get Info Opens the Get Info window for a selected item.
Computer Opens the Computer directory.
Home Opens the Home directory.
iDisk Accesses your iDisk.
Directories There are several buttons for the Mac OS X directories, such as Documents, Movies, Music, and so on. Clicking these buttons moves you into the directory.
Search Enables you to search Finder windows.


You can return to the default toolbar by dragging the default toolbar set onto the toolbar in the Customize Toolbar window.


If you add more buttons than can be displayed and then want to remove some of the buttons you can't see (you see the double arrows instead), you have to make the window wider so that you can see the button on the toolbar to remove it; you can't remove a button from the pop-up menu. You can also temporarily remove other buttons until you can see the one you want to remove.

Customizing the Status Bar

The status bar, which is hidden by default, is located under the toolbar, and provides status information for the current directory, volume, or whatever else is being displayed in the Finder window. Mostly, the status bar provides information about the number of items in the window, and the amount of free space on the current volume. It also contains an icon for those situations in which the current directory is read-only (the icon is a pencil with a slash through it). As with the toolbar, you can hide or show the status bar using the View menu. Unlike the toolbar, you can't change the contents of the status bar.

Customizing Finder Window Views

For each view type of Finder window view, you can set Global view preferences that affect all windows you open using that view type. You can then set the Window options for individual windows to override the global settings for that view type. One of the customization options for the List view is the data you see in the window. For example, you can choose to display the Comments column for a window in List view. If you set this as a Global preference, each time you open a new window in List view, you will see the Comments column. If there is a window in which you don't want to see the Comments column, you can change the Window preferences for that window so that the Comments column is not displayed.

When you change a Global preference, it affects all windows shown in that view. When you change a window's preference, it affects only the current window.

Customizing the Icon View


The Icon view has the following view options:

  • Icon size You can set the relative size of the icons you see.

  • Text size You can set the size of text displayed next to the icons you see.

  • Label position You can set the location of the text next to icons. Your choices are on the bottom or to the right of the icon.

  • Snap to grid With this option enabled, icons align themselves to an invisible grid.

  • Show item info With this option enabled, you see information for the items in a window. The information you see depends on the items being displayed. For example, when the window shows volumes, you see the total space on the volume and the free space on each volume. When you view folders, you see the number of items in that folder.

  • Show icon preview By default, file icons contain a preview of the file's content within the icon. At press time, this preference does not seem to affect anything. Presumably, when this feature is activated in a later update of OS X, it will cause the icon preview to be hidden if the check box is unchecked.

  • Keep arranged by You can choose to keep icons grouped by a criterion you select, including Name, Date Modified, Date Created, Size, and Kind.

  • Folder background You can choose the background used for a Finder window. Your choices are White, a color of your choice, or a picture of your choice. If you choose Color or Picture, tools will appear to enable you to select the color or picture you want to use.

Set your Global preferences for the Icon view using the following steps:

  1. Open a Finder window so that you can preview the preferences you will set.

  2. Choose View, Show View Options or press graphics/symbol.gif+J. The View Options window appears (see Figure 3.11). You use this window to set both Global and window settings.

    Figure 3.11. The View Options window enables you to customize Finder window views.



    The name of the current Finder window is shown at the top of the View Options window.

  3. Click the "All windows" radio button.

  4. Use the Icon size slider to set the relative size of the icons you see. As you move the slider, the icons in the open window will reflect the size you set. When you are happy with the size of the icons, release the slider.

  5. Use the Text size pop-up menu to set the size of the text.

  6. Use the radio buttons in the Label position area to choose the location of icon text.

  7. Use the four check boxes to enable or disable the options described in the previous bulleted list.

  8. If you enabled "Keep arranged by," choose the criterion by which you want icons grouped using the pop-up menu (Name is selected by default).

  9. Choose the folder background option by choosing one of the radio buttons under Background.

  10. If you chose Color, use the Color button to open the Color Picker to choose the background color you want to use.

  11. If you chose Picture, click the Select button and then use the Select a Picture dialog box to choose a background image.


    Supported image formats include PICT, TIFF, and JPEG. The background image you choose will appear in folders you view using the Global icon settings. This does not affect any image you are using as a background image on your desktop.

  12. Close the View Options window when you have finished setting the global options.

After you have made these settings, any window you view in Icon view will be displayed using your global preferences unless you override the Global settings by setting a window's preference.

To change the preferences for an individual window, do the following:

  1. Open the window you want to view and put it in the Icon view.

  2. Open the View Options window by choosing View, Show View Options (or press graphics/symbol.gif+J).

  3. Click the "This window only" radio button.

  4. Use the controls to set the Icon view preferences for the window you opened in Step 1 (see the previous steps for help).

  5. Close the View Options window when you are done.


You can also modify the view of the desktop, which is always in icon view. Click anywhere on the desktop and open the View Options window. You will be able to set the icon size, text size, and other options just like a folder window (except for the folder background that is set using the Desktop pane of the System Preferences Utility).

This window will use the preferences you set for it until you change them.


You can reapply the global preferences at any time by returning to the View Options dialog box and clicking the "All windows" radio button. The window will return to your global view settings.

Customizing the List View

Customizing List view works pretty much the same way as Icon view, except that you have different options.

Set your Global List view preferences using the following steps:

  1. Open a Finder window in List view.

  2. Open the View Options window (graphics/symbol.gif+J).

  3. Click the "This window only" radio button.

  4. Check the radio button you want to use under Icon Size.

  5. Choose the text size on the Text size pop-up menu.

  6. Check the check boxes next to the data columns you want to be displayed in List views. The default data are Date Modified, Size, and Kind. The other data that are available are Date Created, Version, and Comments. Data for which you check the check boxes will be displayed in columns in the List view.

  7. Check the "Use Relative Dates" check box if you want to use relative dates.


    When you use the relative dates option, you will see relative date information (such as yesterday) for some dates rather than the full date for all dates.

  8. Check the "Calculate all sizes" check box if you want the size of folders to be displayed in the Size column.


    This option uses lots of extra computing power, especially for those folders that contain many folders and files. You should usually leave this check box unchecked unless folder size information is critical to you.

  9. Close the View Options window.

Every window you see in List view will use these options, unless you override the global settings for a particular window.

Overriding the global options for a specific window is analogous to what you do for the Icon view. Open the window, open the View Options window, click the "This window only" radio button, and use the controls to set the view options for the current window.

To reapply the Global List view preferences to a window, click the "All windows" radio button in the View Options window.


The Window settings for a window are retained (although not used) even after you reapply the Global settings to it. You can easily switch back to them by clicking the "This window only" radio button again. The window will return to the most recent window settings you applied to it.

Customizing the Columns View


The Columns view has fewer customization options than do the other views. The Columns view preferences that you set apply to all windows in the Columns view.

  1. Open a Finder window in Columns view.

  2. Open the View Options window (graphics/symbol.gif+J).

  3. Uncheck the "Show icons" check box to hide the icons in the window.

  4. Uncheck the "Show preview column" check box if you prefer not to see the preview of selected files in the window.

  5. Close the View Options window.


As far as I can tell, there isn't a way to choose the List view or the Icon view for every window you open (you can set the Columns view for every new window you open by using the Finder Preferences dialog box). The Finder remembers the view you used the last time you opened a specific window and maintains that view each time you open that window?until you change that window's view. Unfortunately, you can't set the view to be List or Icon on a system-wide basis.

Similarly, you can't tell the Finder to apply the global view preferences to all windows at the same time. If you have changed the view preferences for individual windows, you have to reapply the global view preferences to that window if you want to use them (by using the View Options dialog box).

    Part I: Mac OS X: Exploring the Core
    Part III: Mac OS X: Living the Digital Lifestyle