Folder Basics

Everything on your Mac – Documents, Pictures, Music, Apps, and more, is organized in folders. As you create documents, install apps, and do other work, you can create new folders to keep yourself organized.

See your files in the Finder

The Finder is the home base for your Mac. The Finder icon looks like a blue smiling face; click the icon in the Dock to open a Finder window.
Finder icon in Dock

You use Finder windows to organize and access almost everything on your Mac.

Example of a Finder window

See your stuff

Click items in the Finder sidebar to see your files, apps, downloads, and more. To make the sidebar even more useful, customize it.

Use folders … or don’t

If you like organizing your files in folders, you can do that. It’s easy to create new folders in your Documents folder, on the desktop, or in iCloud Drive. For more information about iCloud Drive, see Store documents with iCloud Drive.

If you’d rather avoid folders, use All My Files. All of the files on your Mac and in iCloud are there. You can also use tags to organize your files.

Choose your view

You can choose how you view the items in Finder windows. For example, you don’t have to view your items in a list—Cover Flow lets you flip through your files and folders visually.

Send it with AirDrop

You can send a file to a nearby iOS device or Mac right from the Finder. Click AirDrop in the sidebar to get started. For more information, see Use AirDrop to send files to devices near you.

You can also select a file in the Finder, then click the Share button  to share it using Mail, Messages, Twitter, Facebook, and more.

Create a folder

  1. Click the desktop if you want to create the folder on the desktop; otherwise, open a Finder window and navigate to where you want to create the folder.

  2. Choose File > New Folder, or press Shift-Command-N.

    If the New Folder command is dimmed, you can’t create a folder in the current location. For example, you can’t create a folder in the All My Files section of the Finder sidebar.

  3. Enter a name for the folder, then press Return.

Move items into folders

Do any of the following:

Put an item in a folder: Drag it to the folder.

Put several items in a folder: Select the items, then drag one of the items to the folder.

All selected items move to the folder.

Keep an item in its original location and put a copy in a folder: Hold down the Option key, then drag the item to the folder.

Keep an item in its original location and put an alias for it in a new folder: Hold down the Option and Command keys, then drag the item to the folder.

Make a copy of an item within the same folder: Select the item, then choose File > Duplicate or press Command-D.

Copy files to a different disk: Drag the files to the disk. To move files to a different disk without copying them, hold down the Command key, then drag the files to the disk.

Quickly group multiple items into a folder

You can quickly create a folder of items on the desktop or in a Finder window.

  1. Select all the items you want to group together.

  2. Control-click one of the selected items, then choose New Folder with Selection.

  3. Enter a name for the folder, then press Return.

Merge two folders with the same name

If you have two folders with identical names at two different locations, you can merge them into a single folder.

Hold down the Option key, then drag one folder to the location that contains a folder with the same name. In the dialog that appears, click Merge.

The Merge option appears only if one of the folders contains items that are not in the other folder. If the folders contain different versions of identically named files, the only options are Stop or Replace.

To organize your files automatically, use Smart Folders. Smart Folders automatically gather files by type and subject matter, and are instantly updated as you change, add, and remove files on your Mac.

Rename files, folders, and disks

You can change the name of most files, folders, and disks, including the internal hard disk (named Macintosh HD by default). If you change the name of your hard disk, it still appears with its original name on a network.

Rename one item

  1. Select the item in a Finder window or on the desktop, then press Return. Or force click the item’s name.

  2. Enter a new name.

    You can use numbers and most symbols. You can’t include a colon (:) or start the name with a period (.). Some apps may not allow you to use a slash (/) in a filename.

  3. Press Return.

Rename multiple items

  1. Select the items in a Finder window or on the desktop, then Control-click one of them.

  2. In the shortcut menu, select Rename Items.

  3. In the pop-up menu below Rename Finder Items, choose to replace text in the names, add text to the names, or change the name format.

    • Replace text: Enter the text you want to remove in the Find field, then enter the text you want to add in the “Replace with” field.

    • Add text: Enter the text you want to add in the field, then choose to add the text before or after the current name.

    • Format: Choose a name format for the files, then choose to put the index, counter, or date before or after the name. Enter a name in the Custom Format field, then enter the number you want to start with.

  4. Click Rename.

These are some items you should not rename:

  • App folders and any items that came with your system, such as the Library folder. (If you change the name of an item and experience problems, change the name back. If this doesn’t help, you may need to reinstall the software.)

  • Filename extensions—the period followed by a few letters or words that you see at the end of some filenames (for example, .jpg). If you change an extension, you may no longer be able to open the file with the app that was used to create it.

  • Your home folder—the one with your name on it.

Open folders in new Finder tabs or windows

When you open a folder in the Finder, the folder’s contents usually replace the current contents of the window. If you prefer, you can open a folder in a new tab or window.

Set folders to open in tabs or windows

  1. In the Finder, choose Finder > Preferences, then click General.

  2. Select or deselect “Open folders in tabs instead of new windows.”

Open folders in tabs or windows

Press the Command key while you double-click the folder.

The folder opens in a new tab or window, depending on your Finder preferences.

Tip:   If the Finder toolbar and sidebar are hidden, double-clicking a folder without pressing the Command key opens the folder in a new window.

To open a new Finder window without opening a specific folder, choose File > New Finder Window or press Command-N.

Work with tabs

If all of your tabs aren’t visible, scroll through them.

When two or more tabs are open, click the Add button  to open a new tab.

To close a tab, place the pointer over the tab, then click the Delete button .

Customize the Finder toolbar and sidebar

There are several ways to customize the Finder toolbar and Finder sidebar.

Before you start, open a Finder window by clicking the Finder icon at the left end of the Dock.

Finder icon in Dock

Customize the toolbar

Hide or show the toolbar: Choose View > Hide Toolbar, or View > Show Toolbar.

Hiding the toolbar also hides the sidebar, and moves the status bar from the bottom to the top of the window.

Resize the toolbar: If you see angle brackets  at the right end of the toolbar, it means the window is too small to show all of the toolbar items. Enlarge the window or click the brackets to see the rest of the items.

Change what’s in the toolbar: Choose View > Customize Toolbar. You can drag items into and out of the toolbar, add a space between items, and choose whether to show text with the icons.

Rearrange the items in the toolbar: Hold down the Command key, then drag an item to a new location.

Add a file or app: Hold down the Command key, then drag the item to the Finder toolbar until a green plus sign (+) appears.

Remove an item: Hold down the Command key, then drag the item out of the toolbar.

Customize the sidebar

Hide or show the sidebar: Choose View > Hide Sidebar or View > Show Sidebar. (If Show Sidebar is dimmed, choose View > Show Toolbar.)

Resize the sidebar: Drag the right side of the divider bar to the right or left.

Change what’s in the sidebar: Choose Finder > Preferences, click Sidebar, then select or deselect items.

Rearrange items in the sidebar: Drag an item to a new location. You can’t rearrange items in the Shared section.

Show or hide all the items in a section: Position the pointer over the section head until you see Hide or Show appear, then click the Hide or Show button. For example, to hide temporarily your Favorites, position the pointer over the Favorites heading in the sidebar and click the Hide button.

Add a file, folder, or disk: Hold down the Command key, then drag the item to the Favorites section.

If you don’t see the Favorites section, go to Finder > Preferences > Sidebar, then select at least one item in the section.

Add an app: Hold down the Command key, then drag its icon to the Favorites section.

Remove an item: Drag the item icon out of the sidebar until you see a gray remove sign (x).

The sidebar link disappears, but the original item is still on your Mac. You can’t remove items from the Shared section.

To change other Finder preferences, choose Finder > Preferences. For more information, see Finder preferences.

To set the scrolling behavior for Finder (and other) windows, choose Apple menu > System Preferences, then click General.