What is Finder on a Mac?

If you’ve used a Mac, you may have heard of “Finder”. But what is it, why do you need it and how do you use it? We will explain.

The Finder is the way you interact with files on a Mac

The Finder is the basic way to interact with the file system on your Mac. It allows you to move, copy and delete files. It also helps you launch applications and connect to network resources. It is generally equivalent to File Explorer (formerly known as Windows Explorer) in Windows.

The Macintosh Finder was born early in the development of the Macintosh, first named by Bud Tribble. Early Finder co-author Bruce Horn speculate this Finder gets its name from the fact that it is used to search for documents. Its Apple precursor Lisa, Filer, had a similar sounding name with a similar purpose: to help you organize files and launch programs with a mouse-based graphical interface. Horn and others developed the Finder into something similar to what we know today, but it has changed dramatically over time to accommodate new architectures and operating systems.

RELATED: Already seen: a brief history of each Mac processor architecture

How to use the Finder

The Finder is an app on your Mac, but with special status and privileges in macOS. You can’t delete it, and it’s still available in your Dock. In fact, the easiest way to open Finder is to click on its icon in your dock, which looks like a smiling blue face.

After clicking, you will see “Finder” in the upper left corner of the screen and a Finder window will open. Using this window, you can browse your files by double clicking on files or folders to open them.

An example of a Finder window in macOS.

You click and drag file or folder icons between windows to move or copy them. Usually, if you drag between two Finder windows on two different drives, it will make a copy of the file and keep a copy in both locations. If you drag a file or folder from one window to another on the same drive, Finder will move the item to the new location.

To delete a file using Finder, drag its icon to the trash can icon on your dock.

By default, you’ll see a sidebar in every Finder window that contains shortcuts to important locations such as your Desktop, Documents, Applications, or Pictures folders. If you don’t see the sidebar, choose View> Show Sidebar from the menu at the top of the screen (or press Ctrl + Command + S).

In the Finder, use the sidebar for quick navigation.

While you are browsing the Finder, you can use the breadcrumb trail in the path bar at the bottom of the screen to see where you are in the file path. If you don’t see the path bar, choose View> Show Path Bar from the menu bar at the top of the screen (or press Option + Command + P).

RELATED: What are computer files and folders?

In Finder, use the path bar to see the current location of your path.

If you want to change the way you view files in the Finder window, use the icons that look like groups of squares in the topmost toolbar to change the style of the view (from icons to list, for example) and also how the files in the window are sorted.

And yes, you can also find things in Finder using the search feature. To do this, click the magnifying glass icon in the upper right corner of the Finder window (or press Command + F). Type in a search and you will see the results below.

In Finder, use the search bar to search for files and folders.

There’s a lot more to explore, including ways to tidy up your desk or color-code your files, but now you know the basics.

As a final tip, know that you are not limited to working with a single Finder window. Whenever you want to open a new (or additional) Finder window, choose File> New Finder Window from the menu bar or press Command + N on your keyboard. You can close any Finder window by clicking the red circle in the upper left corner of the window. Have fun and good discovery!

RELATED: PSA: you can color-code your Mac files with tags

Leave a Comment