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How to use the Finder window toolbar to save time

Kirk McElhearn | March 29, 2016
Tweaking the Finder toolbar can help you become more productive.

Many of the apps on your Mac have a toolbar; that’s the gray section at the top of the window that contains a number of buttons and, perhaps, a search field. You see this in Safari, Mail, the iWork apps (Pages, Numbers, Keynote), and even in the Finder. The buttons available in these toolbars let you quickly access some of the most common functions of their apps.

Tweaking the Finder toolbar can help you become more productive. You can add buttons for functions you use often, ones that might be harder to access via menus. You can add a specific button that offers most of the same menu items as the Finder’s contextual menu; this is great if you’d rather click a button than right-click or Control-click. And you can use the back and forward buttons to move through windows or tabs you’ve viewed, and use the Finder view buttons to change Finder views.

Customize the Finder toolbar

To start with, you should check out which buttons are available in the Finder toolbar. By default, you see the Back and Forward buttons, the four View buttons, the Arrange button, the Action button, the Share button, the Edit Tags button, and a Search field.

default buttons
This is the default button set for the Finder toolbar.

If you simply want to thin out the toolbar, you can remove any of these buttons easily. Just press and hold the Command key, and then drag one of the buttons off the toolbar. And if you want to rearrange the buttons—you might prefer the Search field to be on the left, for example - press and hold the Command key and drag a button to where you want it.

But you can do a lot more than just move and remove buttons. You can add a number of other buttons and fields to the Finder toolbar. To see these, choose View > Customize Toolbar. You’ll find a number of buttons for actions that you may use frequently.

To add any of these items to the toolbar, just drag and then release them where you want them to live. You can move them around, and you can add spaces; you’ll see there are two types of space, a regular, fixed-width space, and a flexible space, that changes its size according to the amount of room there is.

customize toolbar
Click and drag the buttons you want from this window to the toolbar.

Here are a few of the buttons you may or may not want to use in the Finder toolbar:

  • Action: The Action button is part of the default button set. It’s the equivalent of the contextual menu, which you display by right-clicking or control clicking an item. The Action button’s menu changes according to what is selected, offering a range of actions you can perform on an item.
  • View: This button lets you change Finder views. However, you may never or rarely want to change your windows’ views. If so, you can remove this button, saving a lot of space. Just drag it off the toolbar and you can still change views from the Finder’s View menu or by using keyboard shortcuts.
  • Share: The Share button lets you quickly share items in the Finder, sending them via Mail or Messages, or sharing them on Twitter or Facebook, or to other apps or services. You can access this feature from the contextual menu (right-click an item and choose Share, then choose a service from the sub-menu), but if you share a lot, it’s good to have this button handy.
  • Edit Tags: If you use Finder tags, you’ll find that this button streamlines adding and changing tags.

 

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