MacMost Now 230: Customizing the Finder Sidebar

Learn how to use and customize the Finder sidebar. Add common folders and searches, and control which devices are shown.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: MacMost Now 230: Customizing the Finder Sidebar.

Hi, this is Gary with MacMost Now. On today's episode let's look at the Finder toolbar and how you can customize it. And here's the Finder window and you can see that the sidebar is off to the left. Now, if you don't see the sidebar chances are you have it turned off. Go to the View menu and you've got "Hide Toolbar" and "Show Toolbar". This is what it looks like when it's off; and this is what it looked like when it's on.
Now, there are usually four categories in the sidebar. First the Devices. These will show you hard drives that are in your Mac or connected to your Mac, and it will also show you things like iDisk. Also after that is Shared. Shared will show you devices on your network that are shared. After that is Places. These are things you can customize - we'll look at those in a second. And then, there are some saved searches after that. You can also customize them.
So to add an item to Places you just drag it there. So, for instance, if you wanted to add a shortcut to your Music folder, all you simply do is click on your Music folder, drag it over, and stick it in the Places area. You can also move these items around to prioritize them. To take something out of the Places area of the sidebar, simply click on it and drag it out. You'll see a little cloud appear under your cursor; just release it anywhere and it will disappear in a puff of smoke.
Now, to customize the rest of the sidebar what you need to do is when you're in the Finder, go do Finder Preferences and one of the tabs, the third one, is Sidebar. And it'll have check marks next to things that can be shown. For instance, under Devices you can decide whether you want inserted CDs, or DVDs, or iPods to show up. You can decide whether or not you want iDisk to be there at all. Under Shared you can choose whether you want Bonjour Connected Computers or the Back to my Mac functionality as well. And in Places, you can check off some default things like Home folder, Desktop, things like that. And at the bottom there are some default Search items to choose from, just below the screen here where you can't see it.
Now, to add some saved searches in the Sidebar the first thing you need to do is to perform the search. So, for instance, let's search for files that have the word "test" in the title. And say I want to save this: I can go ahead and click the Save button that appears in the bar right there and then I can name this, save it under Saved Searches, and also make sure to check off the Add to Sidebar check box here at the bottom. That will put this "Test" search down here in the sidebar. And there it is.
It's worth looking at some of the defaults here. For instance, the Today search will show you files that were last modified or opened today. Yesterday is also very useful, and for the Past Week. A quick way to find something you just had opened, but now have closed all the windows and can't quite remember where it is.
One of the most common problems people have with the sidebar is they accidentally get rid of one of the devices. For instance, they click and they drag away Mackintosh Hard Drive. And now they can't figure out how to get back the Mackintosh Hard Drive, to even add it in. Well the way to do that is simply to go back to those Preferences we looked at earlier. And you can see because I drug away the Mackintosh Hard Drive now Hard Disks has a dash next to it instead of a check mark, meaning only some of them are shown. I can go ahead and click that to a check mark and you can see that the Mackintosh Hard Drive is put back in place. And I can also add back the iDisk that way, as well.
So the sidebar is one of those things where it's always there but a lot of people don't get the most use out of it. It's a good idea to review what's in your sidebar, get rid of some folders you're no longer accessing very often, and put some common ones there. And if you're using Spotlight a lot, it's a good idea to figure out what searches you're performing most often and also put them in the sidebar, as well. So there's a quick look at the Finder sidebar. Hey, if you got any questions about using Mac OS 10 or the iPhone, visit It's our new audio podcast. You can submit a question and I'll try to answer it in an upcoming feature episode of the show. Until next time, this is Gary Rosenzweig with MacMost Now.

Comments: One Response to “MacMost Now 230: Customizing the Finder Sidebar”

    9 years ago

    “drug” is not the past tense for drag. It’s dragged…

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