Mac OS X Tiger/Using the Finder

From Wikibooks, open books for an open world
Jump to: navigation, search

Introduction[edit]

Now that you've learned how to use the Dock, windows, palettes, and various other elements of the Mac interface, it's finally time to put your newfound knowledge to work and start to learn how to put your Mac to use in real-life situations. You'll start by learning how to use your first application, which is called the Finder.

The Finder is an application that lets you browse and manipulate all of the folders and files on your Mac, similar to "Windows Explorer" in Microsoft Windows. Since the Finder is so important, it gets special treatment:

  • It's always running.
  • You can't manually quit it; it quits only when you log out.
  • You won't find it in the Applications folder along with all of your other applications.
  • Its icon is permanently glued into the far left of the Dock.

This chapter will show you how to browse your Mac's disks, manipulate files, and even how to use Spotlight, Tiger's whiz-bang new search feature. If you have an appetite for advanced Finder tricks, see the next chapter.

The Finder Window[edit]

Look at your desktop, and find the icon for your internal hard drive. By default, this is called Macintosh HD, although this can easily be changed. Now double-click this icon. A brushed-metal window should appear containing your hard drive's contents.

This window is a Finder window, used to browse through the files and folders stored on your hard drive. Let's dissect a Finder window piece by piece.

File:Tiger Finder Screen.png
Fig. 1 - A Mac OS X Finder Window.


  • Toolbar - Remember learning about toolbars in Chapter 2? The Finder window has a toolbar right under its title bar, containing the buttons and controls you need to use the Finder. You can even customize it, as you'll learn below.
  • Sidebar - The Sidebar is a white column running along the left side of the Finder window, divided into two parts by a thin grey line. The upper part of the Sidebar provides links to important things like disks, networked computers, etc. As you insert disks, they automatically appear here. The lower part of the Sidebar displays quick links to folders of your choice. To add a folder, drag and drop it into the sidebar. To remove one, drag it out, and it will dissappear in a puff of smoke.
  • Divider - Remember dividers from Chapter 2? In the Finder window, a thin metallic divider seperates the Sidebar from the Contents Pane. Grab and drag the dot in the middle to resize the two. Dragging to the left will make the contents pane larger but the sidebar smaller. Dragging to the right does the opposite. You'll feel the divider "snap" into position when it reaches a reccomended size.
  • Contents Pane - The Contents Pane, the main white area to the right of the sidebar and seperator, shows the contents of the current disk or folder you're viewing.
  • Status Bar - The Status bar is a metallic strip running along the bottom of the window. A snippet of text in the middle gives you a bit of information about the folder you are viewing, e.g. the number of items inside it and the available free space on the "volume" (disk) you are browsing. Symbols sometimes appear on the left side to indicate certain properties of the folder. You'll learn more about these in the next chapter.

Getting Around[edit]

Now that you know what the different parts of the Finder window are called, it's time to learn how to browse folders! Mac OS X, like most modern operating systems, keeps files in a nest of folders. While it takes a bit of practice to find your way around, the structure is actually much more logical than that of Microsoft Windows, once you learn how it works.

Internal Hard Drive[edit]

If you followed along with the section above, you should have double-clicked the icon on the desktop for your internal hard drive (called "Macintosh HD" by default). You are now looking at a window that contains the following folders:

  • System - Marked with a big blue X logo, this very important folder contains all of the inner workings of Mac OS X itself. Since the files in here are so important to your Mac's operation, Apple has made most of its contents invisible.
  • Library - Marked with a stack of books, this folder contains the fonts, screensavers, desktop pictures, graphics, and support files that all users share. Only enter this folder if you know what you're doing.
  • Applications - Indicated by an "A" made out of various artist's tools, this folder contains the applications, or programs, that all users have access to. This also contains another folder called "Utilities", which, oddly enough, contains all Utilities.
  • Users - Marked by a few silhouettes of people, this folder contains a "home folder" for each account (covered in just a bit).

In addition, you may find one or two other folders:

  • User Guides and Information - This contains a digital manual for your computer.
  • Developer - Marked with a hammer, the Developer folder appears if you have installed Apple's "Developer Tools" for making Mac applications. It is not covered in this wikibook.

The Users Folder[edit]

You can open any folder you see in the Finder by double-clicking on its icon. Double-click on the Users folder icon.

The Users folder contains a private folder for every user account set up on your Mac. These private folders are called "Home Folders". The one for your account doesn't look like a folder at all: it looks like a little house, making it easy to spot in a crowd. There's one special folder in here, called Shared, which contains files available to all users. Remember to save files here if you want to make them available to all users of your Mac.

Your Home Folder[edit]

Double-click on your home folder, which looks like a house, to open it.

Your Home folder contains your very own private stash of files. While it can be viewed by other users, most of the folders inside it cannot. Apple includes nine folders for organizing your stuff, and assumes you will follow this organizational structure. The folders are:

  • Applications - While it looks just like the Applications folder that is in your internal hard drive's window, it is in fact very different! The applications in this folder are for you and you only - other users can't see, much less use them.
  • Desktop - This folder is a mirror image of your desktop: add a file to this folder, and it appears on your desktop. It also works in reverse: add a file to the desktop and it appears in this folder. Please note that inserted disks (which also appear on the desktop) do not also appear in this folder.
  • Documents - This folder is for keeping word processor documents, presentations, spreadsheets, etc. Feel free to create your own organizational nest within.
  • Library - Like the library folder in Macintosh HD, this contains the support files for your computer. However, this library contains the files needed only by your account.
  • Movies - Keep your home movies and QuickTime clips organized in this folder. Like the Documents folder, you are encouraged to organize it any way you want.
  • Music - This folder was intended to hold your digital music collection. If you have iTunes set to "Keep iTunes Music Folder Organised" and the path folder set to your Music folder, all the music in iTunes will be neatly organised by Artist and Album in a sub-folder. Otherwise it is mainly used for storing Garageband compositions.
  • Pictures - Like the music folder, the pictures folder is no longer very important now that Mac users keep photos in an app called iPhoto. These days, most people use the pictures folder for desktop backgrounds and pictures they didn't take themselves.
  • Public - This is the only folder in your Home folder that other users can view. Use it to share files with other users. It also contains another folder, called Drop Box, which other users can drop files into but can't view themselves.
  • Sites - This is used in running a website from your Mac, which is not covered in this wikibook.

Using the Toolbar[edit]

The Finder window's toolbar contains important buttons and controls you'll need to browse your Mac. By default, the toolbar has four buttons:

  • Back/Forward - The Back Button allows you to go back to the last folder you were viewing in the window. For instance, if you are in your home folder and you open the "Pictures" folder, you can return to your home folder by clicking the back button. The Forward Button reverses the effect of the Back button and takes you to the folder you came "back" from.
  • Window View Buttons - You'll learn about these three conjoined buttons later on.
  • Action Button - This button menu with a gear on it shows a contextual menu for the selected file; the exact same menu you'd see if you were to right-click or control-click the file's icon itself.
  • Search - This Spotlight-powered search field is amazingly good at finding files. It's discussed in the next chapter.

Manipulating Individual Files[edit]

As you use your Mac, you'll want to create your own folders and move files into them. This section explains how.

  • Selecting - Click once on a file or folder's icon to select it. The selected file or folder appears highlighted. Some actions performed in the Finder are applied to the selected file.
  • Opening - To open a file, simply double-click it.
  • Moving - To move a file, simply drag and drop it from its current location to its new one. There are a few different ways to do this:
    • If you have two Finder windows open at the same time, you can simply drag a file from one to the other. You can open extra Finder windows by choosing "File > New Finder Window" (⌘N).
    • If you drag and drop a file over a folder icon, then the file will be put inside the folder.
    • If you drag a file over a folder icon and hold it in place (without dropping) for a few seconds, the folder will open automatically. This is because folders in the Mac OS are "spring-loaded". You can repeat this multiple times to drag a file deeper and deeper into the file hierarchy without ever releasing the mouse.
  • Making a New Folder - To create a folder inside the current one, choose "File > New Folder" (⇧⌘N).
  • Renaming - You can rename a file or folder by clicking once on its icon, then once on its name, typing a new name, and pressing return.
  • Duplicate - To make a duplicate of a file, click it and choose "File > Duplicate" (⌘D).
  • Deleting - To remove a file from your Mac, you must first put it in your Mac's "Trash" folder. To do so, drag and drop the file you wish to delete over the trash can icon glued into the far right side of the Dock. However, the file is still on your Mac. Read the note box below for more information.
Info Symbol NOTE: The Trash is a temporary holding place for files that you want to delete. Much like a real trash can, you can fish out a file you want to take a look at again. However, the file is still taking up space on your disk. To view the contents of the Trash, click the trash can icon. When you're sure you want to get rid of the Trash's contents forever, choose "Empty Trash" from the Finder menu, and it (and all other files in the Trash) will be removed from your Mac.

Manipulating Groups of Files[edit]

Sometimes it is convenient to manipulate a group of two or more files at the same time. All you have to do is select the group, and then perform the action as you would with a single file. These two tricks work no matter what:

  • To select a contiguous group of files, click on the first file in a group, and then SHIFT-click the last file. Every file in between is automatically selected.
  • To select a non-contiguous group of files, hold down ⌘ as you click on each file.
Purple Hat TRICK: You can combine tricks; for instance, you can hold down ⌘ and SHIFT at the same time to select multiple contiguous groups.

Window Views and How to Use Them[edit]

Using the toolbar's view controls, you can switch between different "Window Views". These are different ways of visualizing files in the current folder. Each view also behaves differently, so you'll need to know how to interact with items in each one.

Icon View[edit]

File:Tiger Finder Icon View.png
Fig. 3 - Icon View.

In Icon view, your files and folders are represented by a grid of pictures (called icons). Advantages of this view include the easier renaming of files and easy-to-see file types, but the disadvantage is that the large and colorful icons take up a lot of space, so you can't see as many files and folders on the screen at the same time.

Info Symbol NOTE: There's a special way to select a group of files that works only in icon view. Click and drag a "box" around them (you must start dragging the box in the empty space between icons).

List View[edit]

File:Tiger Finder List View.png
Fig. 4 - List View.

In list view, files and folders are displayed in a table. The rows in the table are different items, and columns are different types of information: the file's name, size, type, etc. While you can see much more information than other views, some find this view too dense.

You can organize the items in the table by any piece of information. Click on a collumn heading and the items will appear ordered according to that heading, which glows blue. An arrow inside the heading points to show that the items are either arranged from lowest to highest (A to Z) or vice versa; clicking the heading again reverses the order.

You can also see a folder's contents in the same window by clicking the flippy triangle next to its name. Nifty, eh? As always, double-clicking a folder will make it take over the entire window.

Column View[edit]

File:Tiger Finder Column View.png
Fig. 5 - Column View.

Column view is the most visible, to the user, aspect of Mac OS X's NeXTSTEP heritage. It helps you see the hierarchy of nested folders on your Mac in a way rather similar to how music is browsed on an iPod. At the far left is a column that shows a folder's contents. Clicking on a folder in this column creates another column to the right of the first, which displays the contents of that folder. You can continue as far as you like; the farther right the column, the deeper it is in your Mac's nest of files. Selecting a file will cause an information pane to appear in the next column, including a large preview.

Another advantage of column view is that you can move files easily between two folders. Just drag and drop from one column to another! As always, folders are "spring-loaded", so you can move files with the utmost ease.

Spotlight[edit]

Spotlight, Tiger's most groundbreaking new feature, is an advanced search technology that can help you find files quickly. Unlike most desktop search features, it runs blindingly fast— almost as fast as you can type. It also searches inside the body of your files; that is, it can find that document you have hidden away by the word you know is inside it. You'll find Spotlight fields in many applications. Each one searches inside that application only. However, there is a way to search all files, regardless of which application they're in.

The Spotlight Menu[edit]

File:Spotlight Menu Anemone.png
Fig. 6 - The Spotlight Menu searching for Anemone.

At the far right side of the menu bar is the Spotlight menu, marked with a little white magnifying glass in a blue circle. This menu provides quick access to a system-wide Spotlight search field that is the equivalent of typing the same thing into every search field in Mac OS X and combining the results.

When you type a query, the results appear instantly. You don't even have to press enter! The results are automatically lumped together according to where they came from. The types are marked along the left side of the menu in grey text. Types vary, but include things like Folders, Mail Messages, Documents, Bookmarks, Images, Music, etc. There's also an item marked with "Top Hit", indicating it best matches your criteria.

Simply click on an item to open it. If you want to see an item in its location, revealing where it is stored, hold down the ⌘ key while clicking an item.

You can control the Spotlight menu from the keyboard as well. Clicking ⌘-Space opens the Spotlight menu, and holding ⌘ selects the "Top Hit".

The Spotlight Window[edit]

The Spotlight menu is great for displaying the top 20 results, but what if you want to dig deeper? This is when the Spotlight window comes in handy. In many ways, the Spotlight window works like the Spotlight Menu; it pools results from all Spotlight-enabled search fields throughout Tiger. However, the Spotlight window lets you view all results for your query, as well as manage the results much more powerfully. Let's take a look.

Opening the Spotlight Window[edit]

Opening the Spotlight window is easy enough. When you do a search in the Spotlight menu and want to see more results, choose "Show All". The number listed next to "Show All" is the number of results you'll see in the Spotlight window.

Purple Hat TRICK: You can also open the Spotlight window by pressing ⌘⌥-Space.

Using the Spotlight Window[edit]

File:Spotlight Window Anemone.png
Fig. 7 - The Spotlight Window.

Now we'll break down the Spotlight window into parts, and cover each one as we go along.

Toolbar[edit]

The Spotlight window toolbar isn't much to look at. The toolbar contains a lone search field. As you type, progress spinner appears to indicate that Tiger is busy searching. The toolbar also displays the number of results once the search is complete.

Contents Pane[edit]

This main area contains all of the results for your query. The results are split into groups according to how you choose in the sidebar (explained below). These groups are marked by blue strips, and can be hidden and shown by using the flippy triangles on their left side.

Integrated into the right side of some of these blue strips are view controls, for choosing how you wish to view the items in a particular group. The views offered are:

  • List - This button, marked by a stack of four horizontal lines, organizes items into a table, much like List View in the Finder. Each row shows (from left to right) the name of the item, the date it was last opened, the time it was last opened, and an "i" button for displaying a complete list of information and about the item, as well as a large icon or preview. As you can see in Fig. 7, this information is often quite extensive.
  • Icon - This button, marked with a grid of four squares, lets you see previews of images and PDF files before opening them. Below each icon is the item name, date last opened, and time last opened.
  • Slideshow - This button, marked with a "play" triangle in a square, displays all of the group's contents in a slideshow.
Sidebar[edit]

This white column that runs along the right of the Spotlight window lets you adjust what is searched and how it is displayed.

  • Group by - This changes how the Spotlight window groups results. Kind shows the results Spotlight-menu style, and is the most popular option. Date groups files by when you last opened them, People groups files by who created them, and Flat List eschews groupings all together for a very confusing mess of files, in case you're into that sort of thing.
  • Sort Within Group by - These options let you set how results are ordered within each group.
  • When - The "When" section lets you narrow results down to a specific time you last opened the file. This comes in handy if you know you opened the file you're looking for yesterday.
  • Where - Another handy option, the "Where" section lets you select where Spotlight should look for files. The options are your entire Computer, your personal Home folder, or any disk currently inserted.

The Simple Finder[edit]

If you have only two menus in your Menu Bar, your Dock contains very few items, and you are thoroughly confused about why nothing in this wikibook matches what you are seeing on your screen, then your computer's administrator (owner) has turned on the "Simple Finder" for you. The Simple Finder is a drastically simplified version of the Finder, so you can forget pretty much all of this book. Differences between the two Finders are:

  • The left side of the Dock contains open applications only (the Finder and the Dashboard are always running). Therefore, the left side of the Dock in the Simple Finder is not a Launcher; only a Switcher.
  • As far as you're concerned, your computer has only three folders on it.
    • My Applications - Your Mac's administrator has complete control over which apps you can use. This folder contains links to the apps which administrator has approved of.
    • Documents - A place for all your files.
    • Shared - This is the Macintosh HD > Shared folder.
  • All three of these folders are in the right side of your Dock. You can't move them.
  • The Simple Finder has no scroll bars... instead, the Simple Finder has forward and back buttons to "page" through the contents of a folder.
  • You cannot minimize or resize a Simple Finder window.
  • You can only have one window open at a time.
  • The Simple Finder has only two menus, both of which are sparsely populated with commands.
  • The Simple Finder does not support Spotlight search or Smart Folders.
  • There is no way to delete a file in the Simple Finder. Deletion requires an Administrator use the File menu option to upgrade to the standard Finder. The inability to delete a file rules out the use of Simple Finder for most of the people who could benefit from it such as the elderly, the young, and persons of all ages who may be overwhelmed by the complexity of OS X.

The Simple Finder would be fine for most kindergartners, if it allowed them to delete the files they created. In its current state, it is almost worthless. It should not be confused with the far more valuable Simple Finder UI that was introduced in Mac OS 8. It is true that even a working version of Simple Finder would still leave the user to face the complexities of Mail.app, Safari, and other OS X applications, but in practice many of these can be configured to be relatively approachable. Apple did do some work on Simple Finder for OS X 10.4, but it is clear that they are still far from matching the functionality of ten years ago.