Basics of Icons in OS X Mavericks - dummies

Basics of Icons in OS X Mavericks

By Bob LeVitus

There are several things you can do with icons in OS X Mavericks. Sometimes you want to move or copy several items into a single folder. The process is pretty much the same as it is when you copy one file or folder. But you need to select all the items you want before you can drag them en masse to their destination.

If you want to move all the files in a particular folder, simply choose Edit→Select All or press Command+A. This command selects all icons in the active window, regardless of whether you can see them onscreen. If no window is active, choosing Select All selects every icon on the Desktop.

But what if you want to select only some of the files in the active window or on the Desktop? Here’s the most convenient method:

  1. To select more than one icon in a folder, do one of the following:

    • Click once within the folder window (don’t click any one icon), and drag your mouse (or keypad) while continuing to hold down the mouse button. You see an outline of a box around the icons while you drag, and all icons within or touching the box become highlighted.


    • Click one icon and hold down the Shift key while you click others. As long as you hold down the Shift key, each new icon that you click is added to the selection. To deselect an icon, click it a second time while still holding down the Shift key.

    • Click one icon and hold down the Command key while you click others. The difference between using the Shift and Command keys is that the Command key doesn’t select everything between it and the first item selected when your window is in List, Cover Flow, or Column view. In Icon view, it really doesn’t make much difference.

    To deselect an icon, click it while holding down the Command key.

  2. After you select the icons, click one of them (clicking anywhere else deselects the icons) and drag them to the location where you want to move them (or Option-drag to copy them).

Be careful with multiple selections, especially when you drag icons to the Trash. You can easily — and accidentally — select more than one icon, so watch out that you don’t accidentally put the wrong icon in the Trash by not paying close attention.

If you have two or more icons you want to move to a new folder, select the items and choose File→New Folder with Selection, press Command+Control+N, or right-click or Control-click one of the selected items and choose New Folder with Selection. These techniques will create a new folder, move the selected icons into it, and select the name of the new folder so you can type its new name.

How to delete icons in OS X Mavericks

To get rid of an icon — any icon — merely drag it onto the Trash icon in your Dock.

Trashing an alias gets rid of only the alias, not the parent file. But trashing a document, folder, or application icon puts it in the Trash, where it will be deleted permanently the next time you empty the Trash. The Finder menu offers a couple of commands that help you manage the Trash:

  • Finder→Empty Trash: This command deletes all items in the Trash from your hard drive, period.

    Use this command with a modicum of caution. After a file is dragged into the Trash and the Trash is emptied, the file is gone, gone, gone unless you have a Time Machine or other backup.

  • Finder→Secure Empty Trash: Choosing this command makes the chance of recovery by even the most ardent hacker or expensive disk-recovery tool difficult to virtually impossible. Now the portion of the disk that held the files you’re deleting will be overwritten with randomly generated gibberish. You’re hosed unless you have a Time Machine or other backup.

If you put something in the Trash by accident, you can almost always return it from whence it came: Just invoke the magical Undo command. Choose Edit→Undo or press Command+Z. The accidentally trashed file returns to its original location. Unfortunately, Undo doesn’t work every time — and it remembers only the very last action that you performed when it does work — so don’t rely on it too much.

How to rename icons in OS X Mavericks

If an icon is locked or busy (the application is currently open), or if you don’t have the owner’s permission to rename that icon, you can’t rename it. Similarly, you should never rename certain reserved icons (such as the Library, System, and Desktop folders).

To rename an icon, you can either click the icon’s name directly (don’t click the icon itself because that selects the icon) or click the icon and press Return (or Enter) once.

Either way, the icon’s name is selected and surrounded with a box, and you can type a new name, as shown in. In addition, the cursor changes from a pointer to a text-editing I-beam. An I-beam cursor is the Mac’s way of telling you that you can type now.

At this point, if you click the I-beam cursor anywhere in the name box, you can edit the icon’s original name. If you don’t click the I-beam cursor in the name box but just begin typing, the icon’s original name is replaced by what you type.


If you’ve never changed an icon’s name, give it a try. And don’t forget: If you click the icon itself, the icon is selected, and you won’t be able to change its name. If you do accidentally select the icon, just press Return (or Enter) once to edit the name of the icon.