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15 Finder shortcuts every Mac user needs to know

Find things faster with Finder.

Matt Elliott/CNET

Whether you are using OS X El Capitan or MacOS Sierra, these shortcuts will make you faster at finding things with Finder.

1. Set a default folder

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 Finder. Click the Finder menu in the menu bar and 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.

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

2. Two new Sierra settings

If you are using MacOS Sierra, click the Advanced tab in Preferences and you'll see two new check boxes:

  • Remove items from the Trash after 30 days
  • Keep folders on top when sorting by name
Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

The first helps you keep your trash from overflowing with files, and the second helps you navigate Finder more easily by grouping your folders above your files.

3. Open, says me

Hit Command-N to open new Finder window. Hit Command-T to open new Finder tab.

4. Open specific folder in Finder

Use the following keyboard shortcuts to open a specific folder in Finder:

  • Command-Shift-C -- top-level Computer folder
  • Command-Shift-D -- Desktop folder
  • Command-Shift-F -- All My Files 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

5. Start a search in Finder

Hit Command-F to open Finder with the search bar activated.

6. Get Info

Hit Command-I to open the Get Info panel for a selected file where you can view the kind of file, its size, when it was created and last modified, among other attributes.

7. Sidebar shortcuts

Hit Command-Option-S to show or hide Finder's sidebar. Hit Command-Control-T to add a selected item -- a folder, usually -- to the sidebar.

8. Other bars

Finder has two other information bars in addition to the sidebar:

Use Command-Option-P to show or hide the path bar. It's a narrow bar along the bottom edge of Finder that shows you the folder path to the file you currently have selected.

Use Command-/ to show or hide the status bar. The status bar sits below the path bar and shows you how many files you have selected out of how many total files in the current folder you are viewing. If you are using iCloud, it also shows how much space you have remaining on Apple's cloud service.

9. Change Finder views

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

  • Command-1 -- icon view
  • Command-2 -- list view
  • Command-3 -- column view
  • Command-4 -- Cover Flow view

10. View 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 want to see for Finder's column view. You can set different columns to show for different folders in Finder.

11. Quick Look slideshow

The Quick Look button (the eyeball button in the Toolbar) is useful for quickly previewing files, saving you from needing to open another app. You can jump right into a full-screen slideshow by holding down the Option key when clicking the Quick Look button.

If you are using MacOS Sierra, you'll notice that the eyeball button is missing. Thankfully, there are a couple keyboard shortcuts to use Finder's Quick View feature. Press the spacebar to view any selected files via Quick Look or Option-spacebar to open a full-screen slideshow. These shortcuts also work with OS X El Capitan.

12. New folders

Hit Command-Shift-N to create a new folder in Finder.

Hit Command-Option-N to create a new smart folder. A Smart folder displays files by search criteria you define and are updated on the fly as you change, add and remove files. For more, read How to create and deploy smart folders in OS X.

13. Shortcut to trash can

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

14. Add file or folder to the Dock

Use Command-Control-Shift-T to add a file or folder to the Dock. It will sit to the right of the Dock's divider.

15. Customize the toolbar

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