How to Find Files in OS X El Capitan

By Bob LeVitus

Losing files on a Mac is pretty common. Before you even look at organizing your files in OS X El Capitan, look at the problem organizing files and folders can solve. Ask any longtime Mac user; the old lament is pretty common: “Well, I saved the file, but I don’t know where I saved it.” It happens all the time with new users (and occasionally with long-time users).

If they don’t master these essential techniques, they often become confused about where files are located on their hard drives. Sure, the Sidebar has an item called All My Files that displays all your files, and Spotlight can find files in milliseconds — but if you have thousands or tens of thousands of files, both can be more of a curse than a blessing.

All My Files (in the Sidebar of Finder windows) is a fast and easy way to find a file or folder (although the sheer number of files it displays may overwhelm you, no matter how you sort or arrange them).

All My Files is especially handy when you know you either created or worked on the file recently. Just use List view sorted or arranged by Date Last Opened and the most recently used files will be at or near the top of the list.

Furthermore, although you can often find files or folders by using Spotlight, you have to remember enough details about the file or its contents for Spotlight to find it.

At the end of the day, all the aforementioned techniques are useful and good to know, but it’s often faster and easier if you know exactly where a file or folder is than to hunt for it.

Spotlight is OS X’s built-in search mechanism. It’s available just about everywhere you look in El Capitan: The magnifying glass on the menu bar, the toolbar of Finder windows, and Open dialogs and Save sheets. The point is, if you can’t find a file or folder manually, try Spotlight.