Using the Trash Folder in Mac OS X Lion

The Trash is a special container on the Mac Dock where you put the icons you no longer want to hang around on your hard drive(s). Got four copies of Letter to the Editor re: Bird Waste Issue on your hard drive? Drag three of them to the Trash. To put something in the Trash, just drag its icon onto the Trash icon and watch it disappear.

You know that you’ve connected with the Trash while dragging when the icon is highlighted, and as the Trash icon’s name appears when you move the cursor over the icon.

Two other ways to put items into the Trash are to select the items you want to dispose of and then choose File→Move to Trash or press Command+Delete.

If you accidentally drag something to the Trash and want it back right now, you can put it back where it came from, but only if you act quickly. Immediately after dragging the item(s) to the Trash, choose Edit→Undo or press Command+Z. The Undo command works only until you perform another action in the Finder. In other words, as soon as you do anything else in the Finder, you can no longer undo what you moved to the Trash.

Items sit in the Trash, waiting for you to empty it. The Trash basket shows you that it has files waiting for you there. As in real life, your unemptied Trash is full of crumpled papers.

  • To open the Trash and see what’s in there, click its icon in the Dock. A Finder window called Trash opens and display any files it contains.

  • To retrieve an item that’s already in the Trash, drag it back out, either onto the Desktop or back into the folder where it belongs.

    Or use the secret keyboard shortcut: Select the item(s) in the Trash that you wish to retrieve and press Command+Delete. This technique has the added benefit of also transporting the files or folders you select from the Trash back into the folder from which they came. Try it — it’s sweet.

  • To empty the Trash, when you put something in the Trash, it sits there until you choose Finder→Empty Trash or press Shift+Command+Delete.

    Or if the Trash window is open, you see an Empty button just below its toolbar on the right. Clicking the button also empties the Trash.

You can also empty the Trash from the Dock by pressing the mouse button and holding it down on the Trash icon for a second or two, or right- or Control-clicking the Trash icon. The Empty Trash menu item pops up. Then, move your cursor over it to select it and then release the mouse button.

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