15 Tips to Better Organize and Find Files on Your Mac

These tricks all involve the Finder, your Mac's powerful file manager.

Matt Elliott Senior Editor
Matt Elliott is a senior editor at CNET with a focus on laptops and streaming services. Matt has more than 20 years of experience testing and reviewing laptops. He has worked for CNET in New York and San Francisco and now lives in New Hampshire. When he's not writing about laptops, Matt likes to play and watch sports. He loves to play tennis and hates the number of streaming services he has to subscribe to in order to watch the various sports he wants to watch.
Expertise Laptops, desktops, all-in-one PCs, streaming devices, streaming platforms
Nelson Aguilar
Nelson Aguilar is an LA-based tech how-to writer and graduate of UCLA. With more than a decade of experience, he covers Apple and Google and writes on iPhone and Android features, privacy and security settings and more.
Matt Elliott
Nelson Aguilar
4 min read
Finder logo on a MacBook

Unlock the full potential of the Finder.

The more files you have on your Mac, the more difficult it can be to find what you're looking for. That's why we have the Finder, which can help you more easily go through your computer's documents, folders and applications. However, to get the most out of the Finder, you need to know how to use it efficiently.

In this story we'll show you 15 tricks you need to know to master the Finder, whether you need to open specific folders, quickly delete unimportant files, hide annoying sidebars and more. Here's what you need to know.

And if you want more Mac tips, check out where to find all of your saved Wi-Fi passwords on your computer and these six Mac keyboard shortcuts you should be using all the time.

Set a default folder to appear each time you open a new Finder window

If you navigate to a particular folder often, then you can set it as your default and save yourself a few clicks each time you open the Finder. Click the Finder menu in the menu bar and then select Preferences. Under the General tab, you will see that for New Finder windows show, the default is All My Files. You can change to your Home or Documents folder, or whichever folder you use the most.

Automatically remove items from the Trash

If you click the Advanced tab in Preferences, you'll see a number of boxes to check, including Remove items from the Trash after 30 days. This can help you keep your trash from overflowing with files.

Open a new Finder window

Need to open another Finder window. You can use a keyboard shortcut for that. Hit Command + N to open a new Finder window. You can also use Command + T to open a new Finder tab, which allows you to view various folders within a single Finder window.

Open a specific folder in the Finder

Instead of looking for a folder, you can use the following keyboard shortcuts to open a specific folder:

  • Command + Shift + C: Top-level Computer folder
  • Command + Shift + D: Desktop folder
  • Command + Shift + F: Recents folder
  • Command + Shift + G: Go to Folder window
  • Command + Shift + H: Home folder for your account
  • Command + Shift + I: iCloud Drive folder
  • Command + Shift + O: Documents folder
  • Command + Shift + R: AirDrop folder
  • Command + Shift + U: Utilities folder
  • Command + Option + L: Downloads folder

Quickly search for a file or folder in the Finder

Although you can click on the magnifying glass in the top-right corner of any Finder window to search for a file folder, you can also use the keyboard shortcut Command + F to open the Finder with the search bar already activated.

Get info about a file or folder in the Finder

Need more information about a file or folder, such as file kind, folder size, date created or last modified? You can hit Command + I to open the Get Info panel for any selected file.

Show or hide the Sidebar in the Finder

If you need a cleaner view, use Command + Option + S to show or hide the Finder's sidebar. Hit Command-Control-T to add a selected item -- a folder, usually -- to the sidebar.

Show or hide the path bar in the Finder

The Finder has another information bar in addition to the sidebar: the path bar. It's the narrow bar along the bottom edge of the Finder, which shows you the folder path to the file you currently have selected. If you want to hide or show it, hit Command + Option + P.

Change the Finder view

You can change the view of the Finder by clicking the four buttons in the menu bar at the top of a Finder window. Alternatively, you can use keyboard shortcuts:

  • Command + 1Icon view
  • Command + 2List view
  • Command + 3Column view
  • Command + 4Gallery view

Check out your view options

Hit Command + J to open the View Options panel. This lets you choose, among other things, the types of columns -- Date Modified, Size, Tags and so on -- that you want to see for the Finder's column view. You can set different columns to show for different folders in the Finder.

Quickly view a file without opening it

You can always double-click a file to view it, obviously, but there is a way to simply preview it. If you click on a file once, to highlight it, and then hit the spacebar, you can check out a preview of it. If you hold down Option + spacebar, you can open a full-screen slide of the file.

Create a new folder

Just like on your desktop, you can use the Command + Shift + N keyboard shortcut to create a new folder in the Finder.

Quickly trash a file or folder

Save yourself the trouble of dragging a file to the trash can in your dock. Instead, select the files or folders in the Finder you'd like to trash and hit Command + Delete. In related news, you can hit Command + Shift + Delete to empty the trash.

Add a file or folder to your dock

Use Command + Control + Shift + T to add a file or folder in the Finder to your dock. It will sit to the right of the dock's divider.

Customize the Finder toolbar

From the menu bar at the top of the screen, go to View > Customize Toolbar to drag buttons to and from the toolbar at the top of the Finder. If you find that you don't like the changes you made, just drag the default set back to the Finder to start again.

Looking for more Mac tips and tricks? Here's a trackpad setting you should adjust and four different ways to take a screenshot on your Mac.