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Summary:

Welcome to another installment of Tips and Tricks. These articles aim to teach you some handy things you might not know about your Apple stuff. Let’s continue the series by looking at Finder.

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Welcome to another installment of Tips and Tricks. These articles aim to teach you some handy things you might not know about your Apple stuff. Let’s continue the series by looking at Finder.

Dropping Files Onto Applications

If you have a bunch of files you want to open simultaneously with the same application, this trick will save a bit of time. Any files you drag and drop onto the icon of an application in a Finder window will be opened with that program, provided it supports the file type you’re dragging. You can drag and drop more than file at the same time, to help save time. Applications which support the files you’re dragging will be highlighted as you hover over them, and applications which don’t will stay the same. This trick also works the same way with applications in the Dock.

Changing Folder Icons

As some point, you might want to change the icon of a folder. For example, if you have a folder called ‘Movies’ on an external drive, you might want to replace the default folder icon with the same one as Movies in your Home folder. To do this is really easy. First, find the folder with the icon you want to use (in this case it’s Movies). Right- or Control-click it and choose Get Info, or hit Command-I (⌘I). This brings up the Get Info window for the item you had selected.

The part we’re interested in is the small icon in the top left, next to the folder’s name (not the smallest one in the title bar, the larger one below the ‘traffic light’ controls). Click on that to select it and it’ll be highlighted. Now simply press Command-C (⌘C) to copy the icon.

Now go back to the regular Finder window and locate the folder you want to change the icon of. Once again, open up the Get Info window and select the icon at the top. Now press Command-V (⌘V) to paste the icon from the other folder. The icon should change instantly to show the new one you’ve pasted. You can also remove any icon you’ve pasted onto a folder simply by selecting it in the Get Info window and hitting Delete. This sets the icon back to the default plain folder icon.

This trick also works for changing the icons of applications and other files, but it’s not recommended that you do it for those things. If you want to do that, I’d suggest looking into an application such as CandyBar for a safer way to do it.

Finding an Item’s Location

Spotlight, the Finder’s search tool, also has a few tricks up its sleeve. To get started with Spotlight, access the menubar item by pressing Command-Space, or access Spotlight via a Finder window by pressing Option-Command-Space.

If you know what you’re looking for, it’s easier to use the menubar item, but for a more advanced search, use the Spotlight window.

One of my favorite tricks in Spotlight is showing exactly where a file or folder is on my system. To do this, invoke the menu item, then search for a file or folder. Usually what you’re looking for will come up as the Top Hit, but sometimes it won’t. You can use the arrow keys to navigate up and down the list until you have what you want highlighted.

Now, instead of hitting Return to open the item you have highlighted, which would simply open it, press Command-Return. This will open a new Finder window showing you where the item you chose lives on your system. This is great if you have forgotten where you saved something, for example.

Definitions and Calculations

Another useful tip for Spotlight is the way it can give you dictionary definitions and perform calculations. To get a definition, type the word into the menu item. Most of the time the definition will be the topmost item in the list. There’s very little chance that the whole definition will fit in the Spotlight list, but to see the whole thing, highlight the definition and press Return. Dictionary.app will open and show you the definition for the word. You can also hover your mouse over the list item and the definition will be displayed in the yellow tooltip which appears.

It’s the same with performing calculations; type in what you want Spotlight to do and it will show you the answer at the top of the list. It supports powers as well, so things like 3^2 and sqrt(100) will work, too.

I hope you’ve learned something new, and don’t forget to contribute your tips in the comments!

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  1. You don’t need to go to the Get Info window to copy an icon. Just Command-C (⌘C) on the icon in the Finder for the source icon. You can then use the Get Info window on the destination folder to paste the icon. The copy/paste buffer is smart enough to have several alternatives for the source. This includes the folder name (text) and icon (icon). Paste uses the alternative that makes the most sense depending where you are pasting it.

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    1. Even easier, thank you!

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  2. Wow, who knew spotlight did calculations? I sure didn’t! Very helpful -thanks!

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  3. Very helpful. I have been wrestling with Spotlight for ages to help me locate files. Thanks for the simple tip. As always with Apple it is possible to do what I want and need but not always obvious how to do it.

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  4. Bye Blue Monday Friday, September 17, 2010

    Spotlight has always annoyed me by starting the search as I type. Anyone know how to prevent Spotlight from initiating the search until I press Return?

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