Column View in Mac OS X Mountain Lion

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Column view in Mac OS X Mountain Lion is a darn handy way to quickly look through a lot of folders at once, and it’s especially useful when those folders are filled with graphics files. The Column view is a favorite way to display windows in the Finder.

To display a window in Column view, click the Column view button on the toolbar (as shown in the margin), choose View→As Columns from the Finder’s menu bar, or press cmd+3.

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Here’s how you can click around in Column view to see the list of folders and files you see in the figure:

  1. When you click the bobl icon in the Sidebar, its contents appear in the column to the right.

  2. When you click the Pictures folder in this column, its contents appear in the second column.

  3. When you click the iChat Icons folder in the second column, its contents appear in the third column.

  4. When you click the Gems folder in the third column, its contents appear in the fourth column.

  5. Finally, when you click the Emerald Square.gif icon in the fourth column, the contents of that file appear, along with some information about it: It’s a Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) file, 2KB in size, created on 4/12/12, and so on. That’s called the Preview column.

When you’re poking around your Mac in Column view, the following tips are good to know:

  • You can have as many columns in a Column view window as your screen can handle. Just drag any edge or corner of the window to enlarge it so new columns have room to open. Or click the green Zoom (also known as Maximize) gumdrop button to expand the window to “just big enough” to display all columns with content in them.

  • You can use the little grabber handles at the bottom of every column to resize the column widths.

    They’re pretty versatile:

    • If you drag a handle left or right, the column to its left resizes.

    • If you hold down the Option key when you drag, all the columns resize at the same time.

    • If you double-click one of these little handles, the column to its left expands to the width of the widest item it contains.

    • If you Option+double-click any handle, all the columns expand at the same time to the width of the widest item each one contains.

  • The preview column displays information about the highlighted item to its left, but only if that item isn’t a folder or disk. (If it is a folder or disk, its contents would be in this column.) For many items, the picture you see in the preview column is an enlarged view of the file’s icon.

    But if the item is a graphic file (even a PDF) saved in a format that QuickTime can interpret (most graphic file formats), a preview picture appears instead. If you don’t like having the preview displayed, you can choose View→Show View Options and turn off Show Preview Column.


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