Set Icon View Options in the Finder on Your MacBook

By Mark L. Chambers

You have a lot of control over how Mac OS X presents files and folders in the Finder on your MacBook. You can customize the way in which you view icons on your MacBook by working with the icon view options.

After a few hours of work, a Finder window in icon mode can look something like a teenager’s room: stuff strewn all over the place.


To restore order to your Desktop, right-click (by tapping two fingers on the trackpad) in any open area of the active window, choose Clean Up By, and then click Name. This command snaps the icons to an invisible grid so that they’re aligned and sorted by name.


After things are in alignment, work with the icon view options. (Naturally, you’ll want the active Finder window in icon view first, so choose View→As Icons or press Command+1.) From the Finder menu, choose View→Show View Options — or press that swingin’ Command+J shortcut — to display the View Options dialog. (Remember that these are the options available for icon view.)


Of course, Mac OS X remembers the changes that you make within the View Options dialog, no matter which view mode you’re configuring. Now, the changes that you can make from this dialog include

  • Always Open in Icon View: When you select this check box, each Finder window that you open automatically uses icon view. (If deselected, the new window uses the last view mode you used.)

  • Browse in Icon View: Select this check box, and Lion uses the current folder’s view settings as you browse through subfolders (no matter what the View settings are for those subfolders).

  • Arrange By: From this pop-up menu, you can automatically separate items within the window with dividers, sorted by one of the following criteria from its pop-up menu: by name; kind (item type); application (the default application that opens each file type); date last opened; date added; date modified; date created; size; or the icon label you’ve assigned.

  • Sort By: If the Arrange By pop-up menu is set to None, you can click this pop-up menu and automatically align icons to a grid within the window, just as if you had used the Clean Up menu command.

    You can also sort the display of icons in a window by choosing one of the following criteria: by name; kind (item type); application (the default application that opens each file type); date last opened; date added; date modified; date created; size; or icon label.

  • Resizing your icons: Click and drag the Icon Size slider to shrink or expand the icons within the window. The icon size is displayed in pixels above the slider.

    (Remember, however, that Lion offers an icon resizing slider at the right side of the status bar of any Finder window in icon view mode; it’s much easier and more convenient just to drag the slider to expand or reduce the size of icons in a window.)

  • Specifying grid spacing: Click and drag the Grid Spacing slider to shrink or expand the size of the grid used to align icons within the window. The larger the grid, the more white space between icons.

  • Resizing icon label text: Click the up and down arrows to the right of the Text Size pop-up menu to choose the font size (in points) for icon labels.

  • Moving icon label text: Select either the Bottom (default) or the Right radio button to choose between displaying the text under your Desktop icons or to the right of the icons.

  • Show Item Info: With this check box selected, Mac OS X displays the number of items within each folder in the window. Many filenames also display helpful information (such as the dimensions of a photo).

  • Show Icon Preview: If you select this check box, the Finder displays icons for image files using a miniature of the actual picture. (A cool feature for those with digital cameras; however, this does take extra processing time because Mac OS X has to load each image file and shrink it down to create the icon.)

  • Choosing a background: To select a background for the window, select one of three radio buttons here:

    • White: This is the default.

    • Color: Click a color choice from the color block that appears if you make this selection.

    • Picture: Select this radio button and then click the Select button to display a standard Open dialog. Navigate to the location where the desired image is stored, click it once to select it, and then click Open.

  • Use as Defaults: When you first open the View Options dialog, the changes you’re making apply only to the Finder window that opens when you open the selected item. In other words, the item that appears in the window’s title bar, such as a folder or drive.

    However, you can decide to apply the changes that you make to all Finder windows that you view in your current mode. Click the Use as Defaults button to make a global change.

After all your changes are made and you’re ready to return to work, click the dialog’s Close button to save your settings.