What is the Finder app on Mac?

What is Finder on Mac?

Anyone who works with the Mac will sooner or later be confronted with the term "Finder". But what exactly is this finder on Mac and how to use the app? Clarifying this is the content of this article.

Finder as user interface and file manager on Mac

If you want to break it down to a short explanation, you could say that the Finder is the user interface that allows working with files on the Mac. This also includes opening programs, connecting the Mac to other network resources or external media such as USB sticks, SSDs or an external hard drive. For all Windows users among you: The Finder is basically for macOS what Windows Explorer is for Windows.

The Finder is basically the app that is used to manage files and folders on the Mac. It is constantly active under macOS and is the graphical interface for the user.

The Finder is basically the app that is used to manage files and folders on the Mac. It is constantly active under macOS and is the graphical interface for the user.

How to use the Finder?

The Finder is actually an app that runs under macOS, but of course it has significantly more rights than normal programs. In addition, the Finder is actually always active when the Mac is booted up and you are logged in.

The Finder icon is usually in the bottom left corner of the Mac. If you click on it, you are in the Finder app, so to speak. You can also see this in the menu bar at the top, because the program name of the currently running app can always be seen at the top left.

The Finder can usually be found in the bottom left of the Dock on macOS.

The Finder can usually be found in the bottom left of the Dock on macOS.

Open files and folders

If you want to open folders or files in the Finder, double-click them. Alternatively, you can also right-click on an app and then select the "Open" option.

The detour via the right mouse button is particularly recommended for programs if you have downloaded apps from the Internet (and not from the App Store), because these apps are usually opened by the Gatekeeper on Mac aborted and you get the message that the app cannot be opened for security reasons. Opening with the detour with the right mouse button still works.

Open and use the Finder window

If you click on the Finder icon in the Dock, a Finder window will open automatically. This can also be achieved by pressing the CMD + N keys.

In this window, in the sidebar on the left, you can see various frequently used locations on the volume. For example documents, music, photos, downloads and much more. Inserted DVDs or CDs, external hard drives or network volumes can also be found in the lower area.

You can also change the access options in the sidebar and add locations that you often use yourself.

For copying or moving files, I usually use two Finder windows, which I arrange side by side.

For copying or moving files, I usually use two Finder windows, which I arrange side by side.

Copy and move files and folders in Finder

If you want to copy or move files or folders on the Mac, there are a few things to consider. In principle, both work via drag and drop: you click on the folder or the file, hold down the mouse button and then drag the object to the new location. To do this, I usually open one view of the folder that is being copied or moved from and a second view of the folder where the files or folder should “end up”.

But here comes the special feature: If the origin and destination of the process are on different volumes, then the files or folders are copied. However, if the two locations are in the same volume, then they will be moved.

However, if you also want to copy files within a volume, hold down the ALT key during the drag-and-drop process.

Change view in Finder windows

By default, the Finder displays the items in a folder in a grid with large icons. In most cases, this is rather impractical, since you can't sort alphabetically, by size, or by date. However, when reviewing photos, the grid view can be helpful as you can see the preview of the images.

Here you can see the two buttons that you can use to change the view of the Finder window and customize it for your own needs.

Here you can see the two buttons that you can use to change the view of the Finder window and customize it for your own needs.

If you want to change the view of a Finder window, there are two buttons in the top bar of the window. With the first button you can choose between

  • As symbols
  • As a list
  • as columns
  • As a gallery

In the second button you can then display various properties of the files and folders:

  • Name
  • Art
  • Programme
  • last opened
  • Added on
  • Modified date
  • Post time
  • Size
  • Tags

I mostly use the list view because it's the best way for me to sort by different criteria.

Viewing the files as icons is not so practical in most cases, as it is relatively confusing.

Viewing the files as icons is not so practical in most cases, as it is relatively confusing.

Delete files and folders

If you want to keep your Mac in order, you will have to delete something here and there. This is done by navigating to the relevant file or folder via a Finder window and then dragging and dropping this item into the Trash (bottom left of the Dock).

Alternatively, you can also mark the object with a mouse click and then press the CMD + delete key (top right on the keyboard).

Working with two Finder windows

Working with multiple Finder windows is especially helpful when copying or moving files and folders. One always opens when you click the Finder icon in the Dock, but you can always open more by pressing CMD + N.

Important keyboard shortcuts for working with the Finder

I often use keyboard shortcuts in my daily work, because they usually save you a lot of clicks and get you going faster. Here I've put together a few key shortcuts for the Finder. If you can think of any more, please let me know and I'll add them!

Important: By CMD I mean the "Command" key on the Mac keyboard. SHIFT, on the other hand, is the key on the left with the up arrow, which is used to write capital letters.

  • CMD + N → open new Finder window
  • CMD + Shift + N → create new folder
  • CMD + P → Show or hide path in Finder window
  • CMD + S → Show or hide sidebar in Finder window
  • CMD + T → add the selected item (usually a folder) to the Finder sidebar
  • CMD + F → Open Search with Finder window
  • CMD + Delete → put selected files/folders in the recycle bin
  • CMD + Shift + Delete → Empty Recycle Bin
  • CMD + J → Show Finder window view options
  • Spacebar → Show quick view of files
  • Option + Spacebar → Open full-screen Quick View
  • cmd + . (period) → show/hide invisible files
  • CMD + 1 → View "as icons"
  • CMD + 2 → View "as list"
  • CMD + 3 → View "as columns"
  • CMD + 4 → View "as gallery"
  • CMD + Control + Shift + T → Add file, app or folder to Dock

Keyboard shortcuts to open specific locations in Finder

There are also a few shortcuts to open specific folders in the volume or user folder. Here is a small overview:

  • CMD + Shift + C → top folder on the computer
  • CMD + Shift + D → Desktop Folder
  • CMD + Shift + F → Recent Folder
  • CMD + Shift + G → Open the "Go" window
  • CMD + Shift + H → Open the user folder for your user
  • CMD + Shift + I → iCloud Drive folder
  • CMD + Shift + O → Documents folder
  • CMD + Shift + R → "AirDrop" folder
  • CMD + Shift + U → Utilities folder
  • CMD + Option + L → Downloads folder
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3 comments

  1. Eva says:

    What I'm missing from the Finder is a way to make the font bigger.
    Does Sir Apfelot know more?

    • Jen Kleinholz says:

      Unfortunately, that doesn't exist. The only thing you can do is to lower the resolution under System Settings → Displays. Then everything automatically becomes bigger. But not just the writing.

      • Eva says:

        Yes, I knew that. Anyway, thank you!
        In my opinion, the finder has other shortcomings:
        – The settings (e.g. the sorting of the folders) are not retained.
        – If you want to save something, you are shown the Finder in a rather chaotic "sorting".
        – The same applies when accessing the MacBook from the Mac (or vice versa).

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