By Bob LeVitus

In addition to the Sidebar and some good old-fashioned double-clicking, the OS X Finder window offers additional navigation aids on the toolbar — namely, the Back and Forward buttons, as well as the extra-helpful view buttons. You can find other handy features on the Go menu.

In case you didn’t know, the toolbar is the light gray band at the top of the window, which (among other things) displays the window’s name. On the toolbar you’ll find buttons to navigate quickly and act on selected icons.

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To activate a toolbar button, click it once.

You say you don’t want to see the toolbar at the top of the window? Okay! Just choose View→Hide Toolbar or use its keyboard shortcut (Command+Option+T), and it’s gone. (If only life were always so easy!) Want it back? Choose View→Show Toolbar or use the same keyboard shortcut: Command+Option+T.

Alas, hiding the toolbar also hides the useful Sidebar. To make matters worse, View→Hide Sidebar (shortcut: Command+Option+S) lets you hide the Sidebar without hiding the toolbar. It’s been like this for a long time, and for whatever reason, you still can’t hide the toolbar while keeping the Sidebar visible! Boo. Hiss.

When you hide the toolbar, opening a folder spawns a new Finder window. The default, which is probably what you’re used to, is for folders to open “in place,” displaying their contents in the current window.

The toolbar’s default buttons are shown in the figure.

If you customized your toolbar by choosing View→Customize Toolbar, yours won’t look exactly like the one shown.

Here is the lowdown on the toolbar’s default buttons, from left to right:

  • Forward and Back buttons: Clicking the Forward and Back buttons displays the folders that you’ve viewed in this window in sequential order. If you’ve used a web browser, it’s a lot like that.

    Here’s an example of how the Back button works. Say you’re in your Home folder; you click the Favorites button, and a split-second later, you realize that you actually need something in the Home folder. Just a quick click of the Back button and — poof! — you’re back Home.

    As for the Forward button, well, it moves you in the opposite direction, through folders that you’ve visited in this window. Play around with them both; you’ll find them invaluable. The keyboard shortcuts Command+[ for Back and Command+] for Forward are even more useful than the buttons.

  • View buttons: The four view buttons change the way that the window displays its contents.

    You have four ways to view a window: Icon, List, Column, and Cover Flow. Some people like columns, some like icons, and others love lists or flows. To each her own. Play with the four Finder views to see which one works best for you.

    Don’t forget that each view also has a handy keyboard shortcut: Command+1 for Icon view, Command+2 for List view, Command+3 for Column view, and Command+4 for Cover Flow view.

  • Arrange: Click this button to see a pop-up menu with options for displaying this window’s contents, which also shows the View menu’s Arrange By submenu. Note that unlike the pop-up version, it displays useful keyboard shortcuts next to most commands.

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    One last thing: The Arrange By menu works in all four views.

  • Action: Click this button to see a pop-up menu of all the context-sensitive actions you can perform on selected icons.

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    If you see angle brackets (>>) at the right edge of the toolbar, at least one toolbar item is not visible (the Search box). Click the angle brackets to select a hidden item, or expand the window enough to make the angle brackets disappear.

  • Share: Click here to share the selected items with others. A pop-up menu lets you choose to share via Mail, Messages, or AirDrop for all files and folders, with Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr also appearing if the selected item is an image (.jpeg, .jpg, .tiff, .tif, .png, and so on).

    Yosemite’s new extensible architecture lets you add other services (such as Vimeo or LinkedIn) and apps (such as iPhoto and Aperture) to your Share menu. To manage these extensions, choose More from the Share pop-up menu. Alternatively, you can launch the System Preferences application, click the Extensions icon, and then click the Share Menu item on the left side of window.

  • Tags: Click here to assign one or more colored tags to selected items.

  • Search: The toolbar’s Search box is a nifty way to search for files or folders. Just type a word (or even just a few letters), and in a few seconds, the window fills with a list of files that match. You can also start a search by choosing File→Find (shortcut: Command+F).