Folder Basics

Everything on your Mac – Documents, Pictures, Music, Apps, and more, is organized in folders. As you create documents, install apps, and do other work, you can create new folders to keep yourself organized.

See your files in the Finder

The Finder is the home base for your Mac. The Finder icon looks like a blue smiling face; click the icon in the Dock to open a Finder window.
Finder icon in Dock

You use Finder windows to organize and access almost everything on your Mac.

Example of a Finder window

See your stuff

Click items in the Finder sidebar to see your files, apps, downloads, and more. To make the sidebar even more useful, customize it.

Use folders … or don’t

If you like organizing your files in folders, you can do that. It’s easy to create new folders in your Documents folder, on the desktop, or in iCloud Drive. For more information about iCloud Drive, see Store documents with iCloud Drive.

If you’d rather avoid folders, use All My Files. All of the files on your Mac and in iCloud are there. You can also use tags to organize your files.

Choose your view

You can choose how you view the items in Finder windows. For example, you don’t have to view your items in a list—Cover Flow lets you flip through your files and folders visually.

Send it with AirDrop

You can send a file to a nearby iOS device or Mac right from the Finder. Click AirDrop in the sidebar to get started. For more information, see Use AirDrop to send files to devices near you.

You can also select a file in the Finder, then click the Share button  to share it using Mail, Messages, Twitter, Facebook, and more.

Create a folder

  1. Click the desktop if you want to create the folder on the desktop; otherwise, open a Finder window and navigate to where you want to create the folder.

  2. Choose File > New Folder, or press Shift-Command-N.

    If the New Folder command is dimmed, you can’t create a folder in the current location. For example, you can’t create a folder in the All My Files section of the Finder sidebar.

  3. Enter a name for the folder, then press Return.

Move items into folders

Do any of the following:

Put an item in a folder: Drag it to the folder.

Put several items in a folder: Select the items, then drag one of the items to the folder.

All selected items move to the folder.

Keep an item in its original location and put a copy in a folder: Hold down the Option key, then drag the item to the folder.

Keep an item in its original location and put an alias for it in a new folder: Hold down the Option and Command keys, then drag the item to the folder.

Make a copy of an item within the same folder: Select the item, then choose File > Duplicate or press Command-D.

Copy files to a different disk: Drag the files to the disk. To move files to a different disk without copying them, hold down the Command key, then drag the files to the disk.

Quickly group multiple items into a folder

You can quickly create a folder of items on the desktop or in a Finder window.

  1. Select all the items you want to group together.

  2. Control-click one of the selected items, then choose New Folder with Selection.

  3. Enter a name for the folder, then press Return.

Merge two folders with the same name

If you have two folders with identical names at two different locations, you can merge them into a single folder.

Hold down the Option key, then drag one folder to the location that contains a folder with the same name. In the dialog that appears, click Merge.

The Merge option appears only if one of the folders contains items that are not in the other folder. If the folders contain different versions of identically named files, the only options are Stop or Replace.

To organize your files automatically, use Smart Folders. Smart Folders automatically gather files by type and subject matter, and are instantly updated as you change, add, and remove files on your Mac.

Rename files, folders, and disks

You can change the name of most files, folders, and disks, including the internal hard disk (named Macintosh HD by default). If you change the name of your hard disk, it still appears with its original name on a network.

Rename one item

  1. Select the item in a Finder window or on the desktop, then press Return. Or force click the item’s name.

  2. Enter a new name.

    You can use numbers and most symbols. You can’t include a colon (:) or start the name with a period (.). Some apps may not allow you to use a slash (/) in a filename.

  3. Press Return.

Rename multiple items

  1. Select the items in a Finder window or on the desktop, then Control-click one of them.

  2. In the shortcut menu, select Rename Items.

  3. In the pop-up menu below Rename Finder Items, choose to replace text in the names, add text to the names, or change the name format.

    • Replace text: Enter the text you want to remove in the Find field, then enter the text you want to add in the “Replace with” field.

    • Add text: Enter the text you want to add in the field, then choose to add the text before or after the current name.

    • Format: Choose a name format for the files, then choose to put the index, counter, or date before or after the name. Enter a name in the Custom Format field, then enter the number you want to start with.

  4. Click Rename.

These are some items you should not rename:

  • App folders and any items that came with your system, such as the Library folder. (If you change the name of an item and experience problems, change the name back. If this doesn’t help, you may need to reinstall the software.)

  • Filename extensions—the period followed by a few letters or words that you see at the end of some filenames (for example, .jpg). If you change an extension, you may no longer be able to open the file with the app that was used to create it.

  • Your home folder—the one with your name on it.

Open folders in new Finder tabs or windows

When you open a folder in the Finder, the folder’s contents usually replace the current contents of the window. If you prefer, you can open a folder in a new tab or window.

Set folders to open in tabs or windows

  1. In the Finder, choose Finder > Preferences, then click General.

  2. Select or deselect “Open folders in tabs instead of new windows.”

Open folders in tabs or windows

Press the Command key while you double-click the folder.

The folder opens in a new tab or window, depending on your Finder preferences.

Tip:   If the Finder toolbar and sidebar are hidden, double-clicking a folder without pressing the Command key opens the folder in a new window.

To open a new Finder window without opening a specific folder, choose File > New Finder Window or press Command-N.

Work with tabs

If all of your tabs aren’t visible, scroll through them.

When two or more tabs are open, click the Add button  to open a new tab.

To close a tab, place the pointer over the tab, then click the Delete button .

Customize the Finder toolbar and sidebar

There are several ways to customize the Finder toolbar and Finder sidebar.

Before you start, open a Finder window by clicking the Finder icon at the left end of the Dock.

Finder icon in Dock

Customize the toolbar

Hide or show the toolbar: Choose View > Hide Toolbar, or View > Show Toolbar.

Hiding the toolbar also hides the sidebar, and moves the status bar from the bottom to the top of the window.

Resize the toolbar: If you see angle brackets  at the right end of the toolbar, it means the window is too small to show all of the toolbar items. Enlarge the window or click the brackets to see the rest of the items.

Change what’s in the toolbar: Choose View > Customize Toolbar. You can drag items into and out of the toolbar, add a space between items, and choose whether to show text with the icons.

Rearrange the items in the toolbar: Hold down the Command key, then drag an item to a new location.

Add a file or app: Hold down the Command key, then drag the item to the Finder toolbar until a green plus sign (+) appears.

Remove an item: Hold down the Command key, then drag the item out of the toolbar.

Customize the sidebar

Hide or show the sidebar: Choose View > Hide Sidebar or View > Show Sidebar. (If Show Sidebar is dimmed, choose View > Show Toolbar.)

Resize the sidebar: Drag the right side of the divider bar to the right or left.

Change what’s in the sidebar: Choose Finder > Preferences, click Sidebar, then select or deselect items.

Rearrange items in the sidebar: Drag an item to a new location. You can’t rearrange items in the Shared section.

Show or hide all the items in a section: Position the pointer over the section head until you see Hide or Show appear, then click the Hide or Show button. For example, to hide temporarily your Favorites, position the pointer over the Favorites heading in the sidebar and click the Hide button.

Add a file, folder, or disk: Hold down the Command key, then drag the item to the Favorites section.

If you don’t see the Favorites section, go to Finder > Preferences > Sidebar, then select at least one item in the section.

Add an app: Hold down the Command key, then drag its icon to the Favorites section.

Remove an item: Drag the item icon out of the sidebar until you see a gray remove sign (x).

The sidebar link disappears, but the original item is still on your Mac. You can’t remove items from the Shared section.

To change other Finder preferences, choose Finder > Preferences. For more information, see Finder preferences.

To set the scrolling behavior for Finder (and other) windows, choose Apple menu > System Preferences, then click General.


Window Basics

Most of the information on your Mac is displayed in windows, including Finder windows and app windows.

When you have multiple windows open, only one is active. When an app window is active, the menu bar contains the app’s name. Some windows that you open within apps, such as the Fonts window, always appear in front of other windows.

Example of a desktop with multiple windows open

Move, resize, and minimize windows

Move a window: Click the window’s title bar, then drag it where you want it.

Manually resize a window: Drag the window’s edges (top, bottom, and sides).

Maximize a window: Hold down the Option key while you click the green maximize button  in the top-left corner of an app window. To return to the previous window size, Option-click the button again.

You can also double-click an app’s title bar to maximize the window (as long as the option to do so is set to “zoom” in Dock preferences).

Minimize a window: Click the yellow minimize button  in the top-left corner of the window, or press Command-M.

You can set an option in Dock preferences to have a window minimize when you double-click its title bar.

Some windows can’t be moved or resized, and may require that you perform an action or answer a question before you can continue with a task.

Quickly switch between apps

If multiple apps are open, it may be difficult to find the one you want. Here are shortcuts you can use to move among apps.

Quickly switch to the previous app: Press Command-Tab.

Scroll through all open apps: Press Command-Tab, continue to hold the Command key, then press the Tab key repeatedly. When you get to the app you want, stop and release the keys.

You can also press Command-Tab, continue to hold down the Command key and use the mouse pointer or arrow keys to scroll.

Resume work without switching apps: Press Esc (Escape) or the period key.

Here are other tasks you can do after pressing Command-Tab and holding down the Command key:

  • Hide a selected app: Press H.

  • Quit a selected app: Press Q.

Close windows

Click the red close button  in the top-left corner of the window, or press Command-W.

When you click the close button in many apps, such as Photos or Notes, you quit the app. Other apps, such as Safari or Mail, remain open when you click the close button (only the window closes). To quit these apps, click the app’s name in the menu bar, then choose Quit [App]. For more information, see Quit apps.

With many apps, such as Calendar and Mail, you can work with the app in full screen—the app expands to fill the entire screen—or you can open a second app and use both apps side by side in Split View. For more information, see Focus on apps in full screen or Split View.


Screensaver Tips

When you’re not using your Mac, you can set it to display a screen saver or to turn off your display.

Choose a screen saver

OS X comes with several screen savers that display photos, messages, artwork from your iTunes library or photo library, and more.

To set your preferred screen saver:

  1. From the Apple menu, choose System Preferences.
  2. From the View menu, choose Desktop & Screen Saver.
  3. Click the Screen Saver tab. Available screen savers appear in the left side of the window and a preview of the selected screen saver appears on the right.
  4. Select one of the screen savers in the left pane. To see a full-screen preview, move your cursor over the right pane and click the Preview button.

To create a slideshow screen saver, do one of the following:

  1. In the preferences window, select a slideshow choice like Floating, Reflections, Origami, or Shifting Tiles.
  2. Change the source for your slideshow. OS X comes with collections like as National Geographic, Aerial, Cosmos, and Nature Patterns. You can also choose a folder of images on your computer, or an event from your photo library.

Set your preferences

You can tell OS X when to activate the screen saver by choosing an idle time from the “Start after:” menu at the bottom of the preferences window. For example, if you don’t touch your mouse, keyboard or trackpad for 20 minutes, the screen saver activates.

Clicking the Hot Corners button gives you options to activate or disable the screen saver when you move your pointer to one of the corners of the screen. Choose an option from the pop-up menu that corresponds to a specific corner.

Lock your screen

If you want to require a password to unlock your screen after the screen saver activates, you can set this option from Security & Privacy preferences.

  1. Choose System Preferences from the Apple menu.
  2. Click the Security & Privacy icon in the System Preferences window.
  3. Click the General tab.
  4. Choose an option from the menu “Require a password after sleep or screen saver begins.”

Save energy

Your Mac uses its processor, graphics chip, and display when it shows a screen saver. To save energy, you can tell your Mac to put the display to sleep when it’s left idle instead.

  1. Choose System Preferences from the Apple menu.
  2. Click the Energy Saver icon in the System Preferences window.
  3. Move the slider named “Turn display off after” or “Display Sleep” to power down the display after the idle time you set.

If your screen saver is set to come on after the display is powered down, the screen saver you selected isn’t shown. Instead, your computer conserves energy. If you’re using a notebook computer like a MacBook Pro, you can set different values for when you are using battery power or a power adapter.


Custom Lock Screen Message

To set a Mac lock screen message, head to System Preferences > Security & Privacy > General. Click the padlock icon in the lower-left section of the screen and authenticate as an administrative user.

Mac Lock Screen Message System Preferences

Find and check the box “Show a message when the screen is locked” and then clickSet Lock Message.

Mac Lock Screen Message Custom

In the text box that appears, type any information you wish to help return your Mac to you, such as a phone number, address, or email address. We’ve also found that the lock screen message is a handy way to quickly identify identical hardware. AtTekRevue, for example, we have two 15-inch MacBook Pros that look the same but run different software. We use the Mac lock screen message to label the first system “Alpha” and the second “Beta,” so that we can quickly tell which system we’ve got in hand.

You can enter as much text as you want in the Lock Message box. On the Mac lock screen, OS X will display the top three lines by default, with a scroll bar to view additional text. If you wish to enter line breaks, press Control-Enter. Otherwise, the text will format as a single paragraph.

Once you’ve set your message, log out of your user account or lock your screen to see it.

Mac Lock Screen Message

While our screenshots demonstrated this process using OS X Mavericks, users can set lock screen messages in any version of OS X starting with 10.7 Lion. To disable your Mac’s lock screen message, head back to the Security & Privacy preference pane and uncheck the box referenced above.


Menu Bar Tips

The menu bar at the top of your Mac’s display acts as a convenient tray on which Apple serves you menus of your current app to the left along with more static status icons to the right. In addition, many third-party apps — Dropbox and Skip Tunes to name but two — install icons in the menu bar for quick access. Should your menu bar begin to look cluttered, you have a handful of options at your disposal to clean things up.

Command-drag to remove or reorder
Apple includes a number of icons on the right side of the menu bar, from the time and battery life remaining (if you are on some flavor of MacBook) to Bluetooth and Wi-Fi indicators. You can go into System Preferences and drill down to the panel for each of these icons and uncheck a box to show its icon in the menu bar, but a quicker way to remove these icons is to hold down the Command key and drag them off the menu bar.

You can also use Command-drag to move these icons to a different spot on the menu bar should you want to change the order in which they appear. Be careful you don’t accidentally drag them off of the menu bar because they will go “poof!” and disappear, forcing you to open System Preferences, find the settings panel for the icon you just removed, and check the box to show it again in the menu bar.

You can use the Command-drag maneuver to reorder many third-party app icons on the menu bar. Also, you can’t drag to reorder the Spotlight and Notification Center icons; they remain next to one another in the right-hand corner.

Fast user switching icon options
You have three options for how the Fast User Switching icon is displayed in the menu bar.


To change how the fast user switching icon is displayed, click on it and select Users & Groups Preferences at the bottom of the drop-down menu. Next, click the lock in the lower-left corner of the Users & Groups window to make changes and enter your password. Then click on Login Options from the left panel and then make your pick from the pull-down menu to the right of the Show fast user switching menu as setting. And if you don’t want to display this icon in the menu bar, just uncheck its box.

Battery icon options
If you have a MacBook, then you likely use the battery icon in the menu bar to know when to retreat to a wall outlet. If you like to ballpark it at a glance, then you can hide the percentage of battery life remaining and just use the icon. To do so, click on the battery icon and select Show Percentage. (When hidden, you can do the same and again select Show Percentage.) And if you use a stationary MacBook that’s always plugged in, you can hide the battery icon by clicking on the icon, selecting Open Energy Saver Preferences, and unchecking the box for Show battery status in menu bar.

Date and time options
You have a number of options for how the date and time are displayed on the menu bar. Click on the time and choose Open Date & Time Preferences. If you have a crowded menu bar, you can choose to display the time as analog, which displays only a tiny but working clock icon while hiding the date.


Silence the volume icon
Use the volume keys to adjust my MacBook’s audio output, so you can banished the volume icon from the menu bar. To do so, open System Preferences, click Sound, and uncheck the box for Show volume in menu bar.

Paint it black
Yosemite introduced Dark Mode, which removes the bright colors of the menu bar, sub-menus and the application dock, replacing them with black.

Desktop Tips

macThere are several ways to give your desktop—the background area of your screen—a custom look.

Change your desktop picture

In Desktop & Screen Saver preferences, you can change the picture that’s displayed on your desktop. Your Mac comes with dozens of desktop pictures to choose from, but you can also use your own pictures, or choose a solid color.

Desktop pane of System Preferences
  1. Choose Apple menu > System Preferences, click Desktop & Screen Saver, then click Desktop.

    Open the Desktop pane for me

  2. Find the picture you want to use:

    • Use a picture that comes with your Mac: Select Desktop Pictures below Apple.

    • Use a solid color: Select Solid Colors below Apple.

    • Use your own picture: Select a location below iPhoto. You can also select Pictures below Folders, if the image you want is in your Pictures folder.

      If your image is in another folder, click Add , navigate to and select the folder, then click Choose.

  3. Click the picture you want on the right.

Use a screen saver

You can choose to have a screen saver start when you aren’t using your Mac. You might want to use a screen saver to hide the items on your desktop while you’re away.

Screen Saver pane of System Preferences
  1. Choose Apple menu > System Preferences, click Desktop & Screen Saver, then click Screen Saver.

    Open the Screen Saver pane for me

  2. Click the screen saver you want on the left.

    Previews are shown on the right.

  3. Set any screen saver settings below the screen saver preview on the right. If necessary, click Screen Saver Options.

    For example, click the Source pop-up menu to choose the location with the pictures you want to see in the screen saver.

  4. Click the “Start after” pop-up menu, then select an amount of time. The screen saver starts automatically after your Mac has been inactive for that amount of time.

  5. Select “Show with clock” to show the time when your screen saver is on.

  6. Click Hot Corners to set a shortcut for starting your screen saver.

To stop the screen saver and return to the desktop, press any key, move the mouse, or touch the trackpad.

If you want more security when you stop the screen saver, see Require a password after waking your Mac.

Make your menu bar and Dock dark

You can give your desktop a darker look by setting your menu bar and Dock to be dark.

  1. Choose Apple menu > System Preferences, then click General.

    Open General preferences for me

  2. Select “Use dark menu bar and Dock.”

Change button, menu, window, and highlight colors

Use the General pane of System Preferences to choose new colors for buttons, menus, windows, and highlighted text.

  1. Choose Apple menu > System Preferences, then click General.

    Open General preferences for me

  2. Click the Appearance pop-up menu, then choose the color you want.

  3. Click the “Highlight color” pop-up menu, then choose the color you want.


Get to know the desktop

At the top of your screen is the menu bar. At the bottom of your screen is the Dock. In between is the desktop.
Example of a desktop

Menu bar

The menu bar contains the Apple menu, app menus, status menus, Spotlight, and Notification Center. For more information, see What’s in the menu bar?

Menu bar


Your computer’s desktop takes up most of your screen, and it’s where you do most of your work. To customize the desktop, see Give your desktop a custom look. When you open apps, the app’s windows appear over the desktop. For information about working with app windows, see Window basics.

If you have files on your desktop, you can organize them at any time.


Use the Dock to quickly access apps, documents, and folders. To open items from the Dock, just click them. For example, to open the Finder—the home base for your Mac—just click the Finder icon (the icon with the smiling face). For more information about the Finder, see See your files in the Finder.

Finder icon in Dock

To easily open apps that aren’t in the Dock, use Launchpad.


The Dock on Multiple Displays


The Dock can automatically appear on a secondary display if you drag your mouse to the bottom of the screen on the secondary monitor (this will cause the Dock to switch displays from the primary display).

Unfortunately, this can get annoying if you’re not used to this behavior. A simple fix is to move your Dock on the primary display to one of the sides (left or right). When the Dock is positioned on the side of the screen, it will not jump between displays. You can change the positioning of the Dock in System Preferences > Dock.



Elements of the desktop

  1. Apple menu () – Access Software Update, System Preferences, Sleep, Shut Down, and more.
  2. Application menu – Contains menus for the application you’re currently using. The name of the application appears in bold next to the Apple menu.
  3. Menu bar – Contains the Apple menu, active application menu, status menus, menu bar extras and the Spotlight icon.
  4. Status menu – Shows the status of your computer or gives you quick access to certain features—for example, you can quickly turn on Wi-Fi, turn off Bluetooth, or mute your computer’s volume.
  5. Spotlight icon – Click it to bring up the Spotlight search field, where you can search for anything on your Mac.
  6. Desktop – This is where your applications’ windows will appear. You can add more desktops using Spaces, see this article.
  7. The Dock – Quick access to your most frequently used applications, folders, and files. With a single click the application, folder, or file opens.

Organize your desktop files and folder
If you download and create files on your desktop, it may become cluttered after some time. You can organize your desktop files by grouping them into folders on your desktop. Just select the items you want to group, Control-click one of the selected items, and then choose “New Folder with Selection” from the shortcut menu. Then enter a name for the folder. All of the selected files will be grouped in the new folder.

Customize your desktop
You can change the size of icons, arrange them in a grid, and set other preferences for items on your desktop by changing the view options on your desktop. To change your desktop view options, click the desktop, and then choose View > Show View Options from menu bar. You can try the different settings to see which ones you like—you will immediately see the effects of your changes.

Change your background
You can change the picture that’s displayed on your Mac’s desktop. You can choose one of the desktop pictures that comes with your Mac, a solid color, or one of your own pictures.

  1. Click the Launchpad icon (or System Preferences icon for Mac OS X v10.6) in the Dock.
  2. Click Desktop & Screen Saver, and then click Desktop.
  3. Select the picture you want in the box on the right.

To select the kind of desktop picture you want to use, do one of the following:

  1. To use an image that come with your Mac, select a folder under the Apple section.
  2. To use a solid color, select “Solid Colors” under the Apple section.
  3. To use your own picture, select the Picture folder under “Folders,” if the picture you want is stored in your Pictures folder. If your image is in another folder, click the Add button (+), then find and select the folder that your picture is in. Then click Choose.

Change what’s displayed on your desktop
You use Finder preferences to choose what type of items appear on your desktop.

  1. Click the desktop.
  2. Choose Finder > Preferences, and then click General.
  3. In the “Show these items on the desktop” section, select the items you want to appear on your desktop, such as hard disks and external disks.