The Desktop and OS X Yosemite Finder - dummies

The Desktop and OS X Yosemite Finder

By Bob LeVitus

The Desktop is the backdrop for the Finder — everything you see behind the Dock and any open windows. The Desktop is always available and is where you can usually find your hard drive icon(s).

This will be a whole lot easier with a picture for reference, so take a gander at the following figure, which is a glorious depiction of a typical OS X Yosemite Finder.


If you’re not familiar with the Finder and its Desktop, here are a few tips that will come in handy as you become familiar with the icons that hang out there:

  • Icons on the Desktop behave the same as icons in a window. You move them and copy them just as you would icons in a window. The only difference is that icons on the Desktop aren’t in a window. Because they’re on the Desktop, they’re more convenient to use.

  • The first icon you need to get to know is the icon for your hard drive. You used to be able to find it on the top-right side of the Desktop. Yours probably has the name Macintosh HD unless you’ve already renamed it. (Renamed Yosemite SSD in the figure.) You can see how selected and deselected hard drive icons look.


    Yosemite does not display optical disc and hard drive icons on the Desktop by default. If you don’t see your hard drive icon on the Desktop and you’d like to, select the check box for hard drives in Finder Preferences.

  • Other disc or hard drive icons appear on the Desktop by default. When you insert a CD or DVD or connect an external hard drive, the disc or drive icon appears on the Desktop just below your startup hard-drive icon (space permitting).

  • You can move an item to the Desktop so you can find it right away. Simply click its icon in any window and then, without releasing the mouse button, drag it out of the window and onto the Desktop. Then release the mouse button. This will move it from wherever it was to the Desktop.

If you drag an item from an external volume to the Desktop (or any location on your startup disk for that matter), the item is copied, not moved. Put another way, the item is moved if it’s on the same disk or volume, or copied if it’s on any other disk or volume.

Volume is the generic term for any storage container — a hard disk, solid-state drive, CD, DVD, disk image, or remote disk.

At the bottom of the Finder window are two optional bars. The lower of the two is called the status bar; it tells you how many items are in each window and, if any are selected, how many you’ve selected out of the total, as well as how much space is available on the hard drive containing this window.

And just above the status bar is the path bar, which shows the path from the top level of your hard drive to the selected folder (which is Sample File). You can show or hide the status bar by choosing View→Hide/Show Status Bar and show or hide the path bar by choosing View→Hide/Show Path Bar.

Finally, when the toolbar is hidden, the status bar moves to the top of the window (the path bar remains at the bottom of the window no matter what).