How to Set Finder Preferences on Your MacBook - dummies

How to Set Finder Preferences on Your MacBook

By Mark L. Chambers

You can change a number of settings to customize the Finder itself on your MacBook. From the Finder menu, click Finder and choose the Preferences menu item to display the Finder Preferences dialog.


In the General section, the preference settings include

  • Show These Items on the Desktop: Select these check boxes to display your internal hard disks, external hard drives, removable volumes (including CDs, DVDs, and iPods), and connected network servers.

  • New Finder Windows Show: Click the pop-up menu to specify the spot where a new Finder window should open. By default, a new window displays the contents of the All My Files location.

  • Always Open Folders in a New Window: When this check box is selected, double-clicking a folder will open it in a new Finder window, as did earlier versions of Mac OS. (If deselected, the contents of the folder appear in the same Finder window, which makes it easier to focus on just the folder you need at the moment.)

  • Spring-Loaded Folders and Windows: It sounds a little wacky, but using this feature can definitely speed up file copying! If this check box is selected, you can drag an item on top of a folder — without releasing the trackpad — and after a preset time (controlled by the Delay slider), a spring-loaded window appears to show you the folder’s contents.

    At that point, you can either lift your finger from the trackpad to drop the file inside the folder (upon which the window disappears), or you can drag the icon on top of another subfolder to spring it forth and drill even deeper.

The Labels preference pane is a simple one: Just click next to each label color to type your own text for that label.

From the Sidebar preferences pane, you can choose which default items should appear in the Finder window Sidebar column. Your choices include locations (such as your Home and Applications folders), network servers, removable media, the Desktop itself, and — naturally — your hard drives. To add a default item to the Sidebar column, click the corresponding check box to select it, or deselect the check box to banish that item forthwith.

The Advanced preference settings include

  • Show All Filename Extensions: If this check box is selected, the Finder displays the file extensions at the end of filenames. This comes in handy for some applications, where everything from a document to a preference file to the application itself all share the same icon.

  • Show Warning before Changing an Extension: Also on by default, this setting forces Lion to display a confirmation dialog before allowing you to change the extension on a filename. Why? Well, changing an extension usually results in a “broken” file association, so the file’s corresponding application may not launch automatically any longer when you double-click the item.

    Double-clicking a Word document, for example, might not launch Word automatically as it used to do. If you show file extensions and you often change them, click this check box to disable the warning.

  • Show Warning before Emptying the Trash: By default, this check box is selected, and Mac OS X displays a confirmation dialog before allowing you to — in the words of Mac OS X patrons around the world — toss the Bit Bucket. If you’re interested in speed and trust your judgment (and your trackpad finger), you can disable this setting.

  • Empty Trash Securely: If you’d prefer to use the more secure method of emptying your Trash — where deleted items are far harder for anyone to recover — select this check box.

  • When Performing a Search: Click this pop-up menu to specify whether the text you enter in the Finder window Search box should match everything on your Mac or be limited to the current folder only. Choose Use the Previous Search Scope to use the scope setting you used during your last search.

After you make the desired changes to the Finder Preferences, click the dialog’s Close button to save your settings and return to the Finder.