Customize Apple Finder To Make It Work For You 2

If you use an Apple computer, you are going to find yourself spending a lot of time with Finder, the macOS file explorer. Unfortunately, in its default settings, Finder tries too hard to make things simple, which induces exactly the opposite effect. This is how I customize Apple Finder options to vastly improve my experience browsing for files on my MacBook.

Customize Apple Finder Preferences

The first stop is in Finder Preferences. Open a new Finder window, then click on Finder > Finder Preferences in the menu bar at the top of your screen.

Apple Mac Finder Menu Bar

Finder Menu Bar



I like to keep my Desktop clean of distractions. I also tend to always have an external hard drive connected to my laptop. For these reasons, I uncheck all the boxes to show extra items (hard and external disks, CDs, etc.) on the desktop.

Customize Apple Finder Preferences General

Finder Preferences > General


But most importantly, I do not want a New Finder windows to show All My Files. This is the utter chaos I try to avoid using Finder. Instead, the first thing I do before even using Finder, is to switch the New Finder windows to show my Home folder (the one with the little house icon). The Home folder is a great location which contains all the major folders I need: my Documents of course, but also the Desktop (yes indeed, that’s where your Desktop folder is located in your directory), your Movies, Music and more.

Tip – As you strive to get organized, only keep folders inside your home folder, leave it clear of files.


Since I find no pleasure in using tabs with Finder, I also uncheck that box.


Under the Sidebar preference tab, these are the items I choose to show:

Customize Apple Finder Preferences Sidebar

Finder Preferences > Sidebar

And of course I hide tags because who uses tags? Anyone? Anyone?


There are two options I like to modify in the Finder Preferences’ Advanced Tab.

Customize Apple Finder Preferences Advanced

Finder Preferences > Advanced


I like to keep folders on top. It makes it a lot easier to navigate directories when you can clearly separate between folders and files.


I perform searches in the current folder by default. If I really can’t find what I’m looking for, I switch over to a full Mac search.

Setup Mac Finder’s View Options

View Menu

There are other options I change for Finder, which you can find in the View dropdown menu off the Finder menu bar.

Customize Mac Finder View Menu

Finder > View Menu


I display items as List (command + 2). This is important as we change the View Options later on.


I show the Path Bar and the Status Bar (both at the bottom of the window), and the default Sidebar.

I hide the Tab Bar and the Preview.

View Options

Next I navigate to the home folder, then go back to the View menu and click on Show View Options.

Customize Mac Finder View Options

Finder > View Options


I always open and browse files in list view (see how I display items as List above).


I do not arrange them, but I sort the files by Name in alphabetical order.


This is a great trick that will help you understand how you are using storage space on your hard drive. Did you ever fill up your computer and try to figure out where the bloat was? The storage windows which you can find under About This Mac is good idea but in practice it is useless. By selecting the option to calculate all sizes, you will see on each folder a summary of the number of gigabytes used. Since we selected to start new Finder windows in your home folder, you will instantly see where all the data is. I told you. It’s magical.


Finally, and very importantly, I click on Use as Defaults so this can apply to all the folders I will open from this point forward.

How Do I Use Finder

Am I nitpicking on Apple’s Finder? Absolutely I am. The truth is that the default experience in Finder is geared towards a disorganized neophyte who’s never created a computer folder in their life. I think with these few touch ups, you can make the Mac Finder work for you

Why Can’t I Find A File in Finder

I go in depth about Finder because it is the tool that lets you organize your computer. If instead you want to launch a program, fire up Spotlight. Spotlight’s keyboard shortcut is command + space and you’ll never need the dock again. Spotlight is also very good at finding your long lost file.

Clean Up Your Mac

If setting up your Mac Finder has you invigorated, you might want to check out our Apple maintenance tips to do a whole spring clean-up.

Maintenance Tips for your Mac

Did you learn something new here? Do you have any other trick for your Mac? Let us know in a quick comment below.

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What do you think about this?

2 thoughts on “Customize Apple Finder To Make It Work For You

    • Victor Boulanger Post author

      Hey TW,

      I have a great piece of trivia for you that I am sure you will enjoy.

      I was reminded of the awesome movie reference you pointed to while listening to this Planet Money’s podcast episode: Worst. Tariffs. Ever.

      It turns out that the lesson which Ben Stein teaches is about the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, when in 1930 a group of US congressmen went pretty tariff crazy. It was a law that a thousand economists petitioned against. But it passed. Fast forward to… the Great Depression.

      Anyway, I digress. Thank you very much for reading all the details of my article! I hope your Finder feels honed.