Customize Your MacBook Finder Toolbar - dummies

By Mark L. Chambers

On your MacBook, you can customize that strip of icons across the top of the Finder window that’s affectionately called the toolbar. You can toggle the display of the toolbar in an active Finder window in one of three ways:

  • By right-clicking the toolbar and choosing Hide Toolbar

  • By pressing Command+Option+T

  • By choosing View from the Finder menu and then choosing Hide (or Show) Toolbar

Hiding the toolbar also hides the Sidebar.

The default icons on the toolbar include

  • Back and Forward: As with a web browser, clicking the Back button moves you to the previous window’s contents. If you use the Back button, the Forward button is enabled. Click this to return to the contents that you had before clicking the Back button.

  • View: Click this control to toggle between the four view modes (icon, list, column, or flow).

  • Action: Click this pop-up menu to display context-sensitive commands for the selected items. You’ll see the commands that you’d see if you right-clicked the selection.

  • Arrange: The items on this pop-up menu allow you to sort the items in the Finder window by a number of different criteria, including everything from the filename to the size and the date it was last opened or modified.

  • Search: Okay, technically an icon, the Search box is a member of the default toolbar family nonetheless. You can search for a file or folder using this box.

Adding or deleting items from the toolbar is a great way to customize Mac OS X. Follow these steps:

  1. From the active Finder window menu, choose View→Customize Toolbar (or right-click the toolbar and choose Customize Toolbar) to display the sheet shown here.


    Along with controls such as Back, Forward, and View, you find a number of system functions, such as Eject and Burn, and features you’d normally see on a contextual (right-click) menu, such as Get Info, Delete, and Quick Look.

  2. To add items to the toolbar, drag them from the Customize Toolbar dialog up to the toolbar at the top of the window.

    To add an item between existing buttons, drop it between the buttons, and they obligingly move aside. If you get exuberant about your toolbar and you add more icons than it can hold, a double-right arrow appears at the right side of the toolbar. A click of the arrow displays a pop-up menu with the icons that won’t fit.

    In fact, the Customize Toolbar dialog isn’t necessary for some toolbar modifications: You can also drag files, folders, and disk volumes directly from the Desktop or other Finder windows and add them to your toolbar at any time.

    To remove a file, folder, or disk volume from the toolbar, right-click the icon on the toolbar and choose Customize Toolbar; then drag the icon off the toolbar — it vanishes like a CEO’s ethics.

    You can also hold down Command and drag any item off the toolbar, or hold down Command and drag toolbar items to reorder them.

    You can always drag a file or folder into the Sidebar column at the left of the Finder window.

  3. To remove an item from the toolbar, drag it off to the center of the window, amongst the other icons.

  4. Naturally, you can swap item positions. Just click an item, drag it to its new spot, and then lift your finger from the trackpad.

  5. To choose the default toolbar configuration or to start over, drag the default bar at the bottom of the dialog to the toolbar at the top.

    This is the toolbar equivalent of tapping your ruby slippers together three times and repeating, “There’s no place like home.”

  6. To toggle between displaying the icons with accompanying text (the default), the icon only, or a text button only, click the Show pop-up menu at the bottom of the Customize Toolbar dialog.

    You can also right-click the toolbar and make the same changes.

  7. After you arrange your toolbar as you like, click the Done button.