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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Customizing Finder Windows

Mac OS X enables you to customize many aspects of Finder windows, including the toolbar, the status bar, and the views that 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 +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 the Option key down 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 a number of 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. The contents of the Finder window will be replaced by the Toolbar customization window (see Figure 3.8).

  3. Figure 3.8 You can add buttons to or remove them from the toolbar using the Customize Toolbar command.

  4. 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.

  5. NOTE

    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.

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

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

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

  9. Click Done.

The toolbar will reflect the changes that you made (see Figure 3.9).

Figure 3.9 Several buttons that are not on the default toolbar, such as the Path, Burn, and Eject 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


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.


Enables you to eject items, such as mounted volumes, CD-ROM discs, and so on, from the desktop.


Enables you to burn a CD-R or CD-RW.


A graphic element that you can use to organize your toolbar.


Deletes the selected item.


Opens the Connect to Server dialog box.


Opens Sherlock.


Accesses your iDisk.


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.


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


If you add more buttons than can be displayed and then want to remove one of the buttons that 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 buttons until you can see the one that 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 that 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 that 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 that you see.

  • Icon arrangement  This setting controls how icons are arranged in the window. You can choose to have no automatic alignment. You can choose to have icons always snap to the invisible grid on the desktop; this option helps keep icons in neat rows and columns. You can also choose to keep icons grouped by a criterion that you select including Name, Date Modified, Date Created, Size, Kind, and Label.

  • Folder background  You can choose the background used for a Finder window. Your choices are none, a color of your choice, or a picture of your choice.

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

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

  2. Choose View, Show View Options or press +J. The View Options window appears (see Figure 3.10). You use this window to set both Global and window settings.

  3. Figure 3.10 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.

  4. Click the Global radio button.

  5. 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.

  6. Use the Icon arrangement radio buttons to set the arrangement of the icons in the window.

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

  8. Choose the folder background option by choosing one of the Folder Background radio buttons.

  9. If you choose Color, use the color button to open the Color Picker to choose the background color that you want to use.

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

  11. NOTE

    Supported image formats include PICT, TIFF, and JPEG. The background image you choose will appear in folders that you view using the Global icon settings. This does not affect any image that 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 that 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 that 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 +J).

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

  4. Use the controls to set the Icon view preferences for the window that 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 and arrangement for icons on your desktop.

This window will use the preferences that 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 "Global" 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 (+J).

  3. Click the Global radio button.

  4. Check the check boxes next to the data columns that 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.

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

  6. NOTE

    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.

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

  8. TIP

    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. Check the Icon Size radio button that you want to use.

  10. Close the View Options window.

Every window that 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 Global 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 that you applied to it.


In case you were wondering, you can't customize the Columns view; it is what it is.

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