Using Mac Smart Folders

Smart Folders allow you to view collections of files that share something in common, even if they are not all stored in the same folder. You create a Smart Folder just as you would perform a Finder search. But the Smart Folder will live on as a saved search in any location you specify, or nearly the Finder sidebar. Smart Folders update automatically to include new files that meet the same criteria.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: Using Mac Smart Folders.

On your Mac you have a variety of ways to organize your files. You can create folders and subfolders and put the files in there anyway you want. If you can't find a file you can always search for it.

But there is also another option. You can create what are called Smart Folders or also Save Searches. Let me show you how they work. I'm here in my Documents folder. I'm going to go to File, New Smart Folder. It will open up another window that looks just like a Finder search window because basically it is a Finder search window. I'm going to search for the word Test and I'm going to select Name Matches test and also say I want to search only in the Documents folder. I can see the results there.

Now I can hit the Save button and it will allow me to save this as a Saved Search, also known as a Smart Folder. So it will say New Smart Folder. savedSearch. I can save it to the default location which is Saved to Searches which is in my Library folder. We are not going to do that right now. Instead we're going to save it in the Documents folder. So we'll do Save and when we look in the Documents folder now we see New Smart Folder.savedSearch. We select it and we see the search results.

Now the important thing to realize is that these results are updated automatically. So if I were to add a new file that had the word test in it, it would appear here. Adding a new file or renaming a file that includes the word test in it would put it here where I can see it.

Now the files aren't actually here. This is just like a search. Each of the files is still in the original folder it was located in. This is another way to view it. Think of it like a playlist in iTunes. iTunes, if you make a playlist, you would put songs in there. But it doesn't remove the songs from the artist and album that the song is catalogued under. It just creates another way for you to view that song. This is the same thing here. These Smart Folders or Saved Searches create another way for you to view files that have something in common.

You can get a lot more complex with your search terms. So I can do test, name matches, but I can also hit the plus button and do last opened date, you know the kind of file. All sorts of things. Anything that you do in a search you can specify for a Smart Folder and it will add that in as a criteria that's then automatically updating to include files that match that criteria.

Also the default location. Let's try using that. So let's actually go to my Documents folder here. We'll do a New Smart Folder and we will do the same thing. Search for matches, test, in the Documents folder and I'll save it. Now let's keep it in that Saved Searches location. So what happens to it. Well now you really can't access that Smart Folder. But you can because notice that both times when I created the Smart Folders it put them in the Favorites on the left sidebar of the Finder window. So there's my original one, there's the new one I just created. The difference is this original one is actually located in my Documents folder and I can access it that way. This one I can't access any other way except by clicking on Favorites here on the left.

So if that's where you want to access your Smart Folder then you can just save it in that default location. But if instead you want it to be a real folder, or at least masquerade as a real folder inside of your Documents folder or somewhere else, then save it to your custom location as well.

So Smart Folders are really useful for things like say you have multiple work projects, you have a folder for each work project, but there's something in common like say the project document for each one. You can then do a Smart Folder that looks for the term project document in the name or even the tag or the comment on the file project document and then have a Smart Folder that lists all of your project documents.