Files and Folders on Macs

Files and folders on Macs: Whenever users save a piece of work on their Mac, the document is saved as one or more files. There are thousands and thousands of files on every working computer, even before users add any themselves. To give easy access to all the files (it doesn’t matter if they are text documents, movie files, songs, software, spreadsheets, photos and so on) and to keep files in order, they are organized in folders. No matter if you are browsing, finding, opening, moving, arranging, copying, deleting, or compressing, you can be more efficient when you keep your files clean and organized.

How to Keep Organized Folders and Files on Mac

The Basics

Folders (sometimes called directories) are usually represented by an icon that looks like a common paper folder, either plain or featuring a graphic that represents the folder’s content. If you double-click any folder icon, it will open and display its contents in a Finder window. As to the files, most of them look like pieces of paper with a folded corner or represent the contents of the document. In some cases, however, an icon reflects the application that your Mac will use to open the file.

How to Create Files and Folders

To create a folder, yous will need to make sure you’re in Finder, where you access by clicking the desktop. Next you either choose the appropriate option from the file menu or use the shortcut Command+Shift+N. Alternatively, you can click the cog-style Action button in any Finder window. The folder will appear with the highlighted label « untitled folder », ready for you to type in a name for it, followed by Enter.

To create a file, open an application, create some work and save it. As at this writing, unlike Windows, OS X doesn’t offer a way to create a new blank file directly from Finder.

How to Rename Files and Folders

You can rename any file or folder by clicking its text label or by typing the new name. You can also select a file, press Enter and start typing. Keep in mind though that you shouldn’t change the name of your home folder or any system or application fails, as it’s bound to cause problems.

How to Delete Files and Folders

To delete a file or folder, either drag it to the Trash icon on the Dock or select the file or folder and press Command+Backspace.

How to Select Multiple Files and Folders

To select more than one file or folder, hold the Command key while clicking items. To select a range of adjacent items, hold the Shift key as you click the first and last in the range. You can then hold down the Command key and remove items one by one from the selection. A final option is to drag over multiple files, by clicking in a blank area and dragging over the files you wish to select.

Special Folders

You can create special folder types in order to help you manages files:

  • Smart Folders: These folders contain saved searches, and their contents are determined by a set of parameters that users define in advance. They stay up to date in real time, as edited or newly created files that meet the Smart Folder’s criteria. To create a Smart Folder, click Command+Option+N or press Save while searching Finder.
  • Burn Folders: These folders are used for collecting files and folders that users want to burn to DVD or CD. If users want to write the disc, they open the folder and press the Burn button. When users drag a file or folder into a Burn Folder, they actually don’t move the original, but create an alias instead, which points to the original file.

How to Preview Files

To preview a file, (or to swiftly view it without opening an application), select it in Finder and then click File – Quick Look. Alternatively, you can select the file or folder and press the space bar on the keyboard which will allow you to preview the file even quicker.

To see how the method works, you can try a few different file types out. You’ll see then that the most common files, from PDFs and Word documents, to music and video files, are all supported.

Multiple page documents can be browsed in preview mode from start to finish using the onscreen scroll bar. If you select a music file within your iTunes folder, the associated album cover art is previewed both on the file’s icon, as well as in Quick Look.

If you leave the Quick Look window while selecting items in Finder, its contents will refresh to reflect your selections. You can also select multiple files to preview in Quick Look. This approach reveals extra controls at the bottom of the panel for playing a slideshow and viewing an Index Sheet of the selections. Note that Quick Look also displays a special button for adding your selections to iPhoto. You can also extend your Quick Look selection and view it in full-screen mode..

How to Open Files

The first and most common way to open a file is by double-clicking it. OS X will then take a guess at which application you want to use to open the document, and set things in motion.

Picking the Application

Most of the time one application is capable of opening the same file. For example, a digital photo could be open in iPhoto, Preview, iMovie and other applications.

To choose an application which will open a file, if you don’t want OS X to open it with the app it seems to favor, you can use one of these three methods :

  • Right-click the file and browse the Open With option in the menu.
  • Drag the file to the icon of the application you want to use either on the Dock or elsewhere.
  • Launch the application and then press File – Open.

If you want to open a particular file with a certain application, you can right-click the file, select Open With – Other, choose the application you want to use, and finally click the Always Open With box.

Changing the Default Application

You can set the default application for a particular type of file. To choose a particular type of application to open files, select this type of file and click Command+I. You can also choose Get Information from the File menu, to bring up the file’s Info panel. From the Open With section, choose the application you’d like to open that particular type of file with, then press Change All. All the icons of that file type should change to reflect the new setting.

Files With Blank icons

There are files with blank icons, which are not associated with any particular program. If you double-click that file, it’ll elicit a dialog box with a button that says Choose Application. Then try various programs from the list. If you still can’t open that file, select the file, press Command+I, and check the file extension. If there is already an extension specified, search online to find out more about what it implies. If you can’t find any, try adding one that relates to the type of file you suspect you might be dealing with.

File Extensions

Every file has a file extension on the end of its name. It’s a special identification tag which is frequently hidden to keep things tidy, though the extensions can be revealed. To see the extension for an individual file, select it, press Command and look at the name at the top of the info panel. To show extensions for all files on your Mac, choose preferences from the Finder menu and click Advanced, then tick the Show all file extensions box.

Even if file extensions are hidden, you can change the extension of the file by single-clicking its text label and adding the extension you want after a dot. This may be useful if a file comes through in the wrong format after being transferred from another computer, by email, or some other means.

Note, that if you want to open an application or file you have used recently, it can be accessed quickly from the Recent Items sub-menu of the Apple menu (Apple icon).

If you drag a file over various application icons in the Dock, you’ll see at a glance which application will at least try to open the file, by seeing whether each icon changes color as the file hovers over it.

How to Use the Info Panel

If you want to find out more information about any file and folder, you must open its Info panel by selecting it, and pressing the Command button or choosing Get Info from the Finder’s File menu. Besides just filling you in on various bits of information, the Info panels allows you to make all sorts of changes to a file. The most useful options include:

  • The icon: You can click the icon and paste in a picture.
  • Spotlight Comments: By adding information or descriptive phrases to this panel, you can improve the efficiency of your Spotlight searches.
  • Stationary Pad: Check the Stationary Pad document if you want to temporarily treat a file as a kind of template. When you double-click a stationary file, you will open an untitled copy of the document, which can be edited and saved without affecting the original.
  • Locking files: When a file or folder is locked, a padlock appears on its icon and the file becomes “read only”, and you will not be able to edit or delete the file until the document has been locked.
  • More Info: Lists the metadata that Spotlight can use when searching for the file.
  • Name & Extension: Lets the user see and change the extension of the file, as well as choose whether it should be displayed in Finder.
  • Open with: You can use this panel to change the default application for a specific file, or for all files of the same type.
  • Sharing & Permissions: The panel lets you control which users on the Mac will be able to access the files or folders.

Browsing Files & Folders

You can search for files, but you can also browse by using Finder. To open a Finder window, you should double-click any folder or drive, or use the ever-useful shortcut, Command Key + N.

Once you have the Finder window open, the most obvious way to navigate around is to double-click items within it. There are also various other ticks to browsing files and folders:

  • Back and forward: Use the back and forward button on the Finder window toolbar to move between views – just like browsing the Web.
  • Going Up way: You’ll want to move up a level rather often, that’s you’ll want to go to the folder you’re currently viewing. Either use Command + Alt, or even better, use the Path bar or right click the title at the top of the window to go up as any levels as you like. This also works in applications: you can click the document title at the top of a window to see the folders within which it sits.
  • Select and open: Instead of selecting files and folders with your mouse and double -clicking to open them you can use the keyboard. With a Finder window open, you can jump to a file or folder by simply typing the first few letters or the name or using arrow keys. To open the selected file or folder, press Command key + arrow down key.
  • New windows: To open a folder in a new window simply hold down the Command key as you double-click it. Hold down Command + Shift if you want the current windows to shut as the new one opens.
  • Ready, steady: Finder‘s Go menu features links to various useful places – plus a sub-menu of recently visited folders. Also, get used to the menus shortcuts, such as Command key+Alt+C (to see all the drives and discs in your computer hit Command key+Alt+A for the applications folders, Command key+Alt+H for Home folder. Try Command+Alt+U to open the Utilities folder.

Useful Tips

To see what you see when you click Command key + N (this action opens a new Finder window), open Finder – Preferences – General.

You can move back and forward in Finder using the shortcuts Command key +] or Command key +[.

If you right-click the title of a window in a list, you’ll see a dropdown of the folders containing the folder you’re using.

By clicking View – Show Path Bar, you’ll make your Mac to display a strip at the bottom of Finder windows that can be used to navigate up through your Mac’s folders.


  • Asking yourself where to sell used Apple device? You’ve come to the right place. We buy your old iDevices, MacBooks and iPhones included, for the highest price online: Sell Apple Device now.


This post currently has one response

  • Pretty great post. but you simply can’t embrace all the info in one text. Anyway, thank you for trying.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.