Tip: Make use of the Finder Preferences

People may look for Finder settings and options in the System Preferences, assuming it is an integral part of the system.

Topher Kessler MacFixIt Editor
Topher, an avid Mac user for the past 15 years, has been a contributing author to MacFixIt since the spring of 2008. One of his passions is troubleshooting Mac problems and making the best use of Macs and Apple hardware at home and in the workplace.
Topher Kessler
2 min read

Because the Finder is the default interface for OS X many people may not realize it is actually a standalone application with its own settings. Instead, people may look for settings and options in the System Preferences, assuming the Finder is an integral part of the system.

Here's what the Finder's settings can do:

  • Show filesystems on the desktop
  • Change the initial Finder window folder or location
  • Have folders open in a new window or in the same one
  • Change spring-loaded folder behavior
  • Change Finder label names
  • Specify sidebar contents
  • Change file extension behavior
  • Change trash behavior
  • Change search behavior

Perhaps the most useful of these settings are the ones in the "Advanced" section that manage file extension, trash, and search behavior.

The Finder preferences contain useful options for managing file extensions, searches, and the Trash.

File Extensions

By default the Finder is set to hide the file type code in the file name, but in some situations it may be useful to see these file type extensions. For instance, I frequently convert PNG images to the JPEG format, and end up with many duplicate file names; therefore, easily noting the filetype can be exceptionally useful.

To do this, check the option to "show all filename extensions" Granted this can be done for small batches of files using the Get Info window (command-I), summary info window (control-command-I) on multiple items, or the Inspector (options-command-I), but doing it globally may be more convenient for some people.

Additionally, the option to warn against changing filetype extensions may be useful, especially if you frequently rename items and have the extensions set to be visible.

Trash Behavior

By default, to securely empty trash you must press the command key when right-clicking the trash, or select it from the "Finder" menu and as a safeguard, the secure-empty option does not have a hotkey command associated with it. Checking the option to "Empty Trash securely" in the Advanced Finder preferences changes this behavior, removing the option to empty the trash normally and adding a key command to the secure-empty process.

While this may be convenient for people who want to ensure their files are removed from the hard drive media upon erase, it may cause some unwanted behavior. This includes taking a much longer time to erase files, especially if the files are large, and more rarely you may get some permissions errors when using the secure-empty process, especially on external volumes.

Changing default search in OS X (10.6 only)

This is perhaps one of the most useful Finder setting because the default all-inclusive method makes the Finder search bar function redundant in comparison to the spotlight menu. To set the Finder search bar to by default search only within the currently opened folder, or by using the previously used search settings, select the option from the drop-down menu.

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