Learning OS X - Getting familiar with Finder

Craig BowmanDirector of Enterprise Technology Services & Security Officer
Are you new to OS X?  This helpful advice could get you quickly up to speed if you are making the transition from windows or totally new to OS X.

Finder gives you the visual connection between you and the files located on the hard drive of your Apple computer as well as other external media.

Finder window

Most users that are familiar with Windows Explorer may compare it to the finder window.  Finder windows will be the main way to browse and work with the files on your Mac.
To the left of every Finder window you will have  a sidebar which lists all of the resources available on your computer.  This includes hard drives, network drives, thumb drives, iDisk,  Time machine and frequently visited locations and searches.

There are a few ways to bring up a Finder window.  Clicking the Finder icon will bring up Finder in the same way clicking the hard drive icon located on your computer will.  Once you choose one of these methods you will bring up a Finder window, which may similar to the picture below.

Finder Icon
This is the Finder window.  Here you will be able to see all the files located on your Mac.  There are different ways to view the finder window (similar to that of the “Views” button to a Windows Explorer window)  The picture below shows the 4 buttons located at the top of the finder window that will allow you to change the layout of how your files will be shown in Finder.

Icon view – Similar to that of “Tiles” in Windows operating systems as you will see them as a medium sized icon with the description listed below the files icon.  Additionally in Icon view there will be a slider bar you can move forward and backward to change the size of the icons.

List view – Pretty much the same as if you are used to the “list” view from a Windows Explorer window.

Column view – Column view is unique and sets itself apart from a view that you would find in Windows.  Clicking on one object in Column view will allow the next column to the right show the contents of the current object.  Example -  If you open a Finder window and click on Documents, the next column to the right will show the contents of the “Documents folder”  if there is a folder in documents called “test”  the next column to the right would show the contents of “test”.  The understanding of the columns view is pretty basic and is a great way to visually drive down through your file structure when searching for a file.

Cover Flow – This is another unique way to look at your files through the Finder window.  Many users who have an iPod may have already seen Cover Flow before on their handheld devices.  Cover flow is a great way to look at the contents of a folder within Finder.  At the top of the window you will see a large picture view of the files in the current directory.  This is a great way to look at the contents of a folder that would have photos inside.   Flipping through the files in cover flow is as easy as pressing left or right on your keyboard or using the scroll wheel on your mouse.

Navigating through the finder window will feel a little weird to a first time OS X user but is something that most will pick up very quickly after you pick your favorite view to look at your finder window.

Is that a traffic light?
close, minimize, zoom
This is no traffic light.   The red button will Close the window.  The yellow button will minimize the window to your dock.  The green button will zoom to fit the contents of that window.  The buttons will be on the upper left side in OS X and you may catch yourself going to opposite side if you are used to a Windows OS.

The two arrows pointing left and right below the three colored buttons are a way to navigate back and forth in a Finder window (this is similar to that of a web browser).  Pressing the left or the right will move you up and down a directory path.

Quick look and action buttons
quick look and action
The Quick Look button (the button with an eye shape)  allows you to preview the selected file in the Finder window.  If you are on a folder for example, clicking the Quick look button will show you how many items are in the folder, the total size and the last modified date.  If you have a picture highlighted in the finder window, the Quick look button will show you a quick preview of that picture.  

*Hint – the Quick look button command can also be executed by hitting the space bar when a file is highlighted in the finder window.  Pressing Escape on  your keyboard will also take you out of preview mode.

The action button (the button with the gear icon) will give you a list of actions that can be taken on the selected item in the Finder window.   The action button is similar to that of right clicking on a selected item.

Also located in your finder window,  you will find the Spotlight Search bar.  Spotlight search will allow you to quickly search your contacts, emails, calendars, images and documents all at once.  Spotlight search looks for data inside of files as well as the file name. If you don't remember the name of a certain file you can search for keywords that may be in a document.  Spotlight search is the quickest and easiest way to search your system in OS X.  You may be surprised to see your file located before you finish typing!

The OS X operating system will be an unfamiliar environmental for users new to computers or users migrating from a Windows OS.  Getting to know Finder can quickly help you in getting around the resources and get familiar with your Mac.
Craig BowmanDirector of Enterprise Technology Services & Security Officer

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