How to Use Finder Views with Mac OS X Snow Leopard

By default, Mac OS X Snow Leopard uses the familiar large-icon format in the Finder. In addition to the Finder’s icon view, Snow Leopard offers three other window view modes: list, column, and flow. To switch between the four modes, click one of the four view mode buttons on the Finder window toolbar (the current view is highlighted) or click the View menu and choose As Icons, As List, As Columns, or As Cover Flow. Mac OS X places a helpful check mark next to the current view mode. (Keyboard lovers can hold down the Command key and press the 1, 2, 3, or 4 keys to switch views.)

A Finder window in icon view mode.
A Finder window in icon view mode.

The List view displays the folders on the volume hierarchically. To display the contents of a folder, you can either click the small right-facing triangle next to the folder name — it rotates downward to indicate that you’ve expanded the folder — or you can double-click the folder icon to display the contents in a Finder window. To collapse the contents of the folder, click the small triangle again; it rotates back to face the right.

The contents of a Finder window in list view mode.
The contents of a Finder window in list view mode.

You can resize a column by dragging the right edge of the column heading.

In column view, the volumes on your Mac OS X system are displayed on the left. Each column on the right represents a lower level of subfolders. Click the volume in the Devices list and then click the desired folder in the first column on the right to display its contents, and so forth. When you drill deeper, the columns shift automatically to the left. When you click an item (instead of a folder), the Finder displays a preview and a quick summary of the selected item in the rightmost column.

Snow Leopard’s column view requires very little scrolling.
Snow Leopard’s column view requires very little scrolling.

Each column has its own scroll bar (for those really, really big folders), and you can drag the column handle at the bottom of the separators to resize the column width to the left. When you hold down Option and drag a column handle, all the columns are adjusted at once.

Flow view displays the sidebar, but each document or item is showcased in a preview pane (and with an accurate thumbnail, if possible). You can resize the preview pane by dragging the three-line handle on the bottom edge of the pane. The remainder of the Finder window in Flow view works very similarly to list view, complete with the rotating triangles. However, if you like, you can click the scroll buttons or drag the scroll bar under the preview pane to move through the contents of your drive in a very classy visual display!

Check out the Flow view for Snow Leopard’s Finder windows!
Check out the Flow view for Snow Leopard’s Finder windows!
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