How to Use the Finder Sidebar

The Finder Sidebar in OS X is a pane on the left-hand side of every Finder window that allows you to quickly access different locations on your Mac and perform certain operations without having to dive into a variety of menus. Getting to know the functionality of the Finder Sidebar and how to use it is one of the easiest ways to speed up your workflow in Mac OS X.

In this tutorial, we’ll take a look at the Finder Sidebar and guide you through its different functions:

1.) Open a Finder window by clicking on the Finder icon in your Dock:

Opening Finder from the Dock.png

2.) When first opened, your Finder window will appear similar to this one:

Finder Window with Sidebar.png

The Finder Sidebar is on the left-hand side of the Finder window. Note that the contents of your Finder Sidebar will probably vary a little from the examples in the screenshots.

3.) To hide or show your Sidebar and the Finder toolbar, click on the lozenge-shaped button in the top-right corner of the Finder window:

Finder Window with Hidden Sidebar.png

You can also show or hide the Sidebar by going to View, then selecting Show Sidebar or Hide Sidebar respectively, and vary its width by clicking on the divider and dragging in either horizontal direction.

4.) The Sidebar is split up into multiple section. From the top, these are Devices, which includes any disks attached to your Mac, be they internal hard drives, external firewire or USB drives or Internet-based such as iDisk. CD and DVD discs will also appear in this section. Clicking on any of these will instantly show you their contents:

Finder Sidebar Devices Section.png

5.) Next down will be Shared, which includes networked computers, storage devices and printers (not visible in these screenshots). Below this is Places. These are the most commonly accessed folders on your hard drive. By default, Mac OS X will list your Desktop, Home, Applications, Documents and various media folders here. Again, clicking on the name of any one will bring up its contents in the Finder window:

Finder Sidebar Places Section.png

6.) Finally, there are Searches. These are Smart Folders, whose creation we have covered before on Switching to Mac, and clicking on them will display the result of those searches:

Finder Sidebar Searches Section.png

7.) To add any folder, file or application to the Places section of your Sidebar for easy access, simply select it in the Finder window and then drag it over the Places section till a blue line appears, then let go of the mouse button. Here, we’re adding our Downloads folder to the Sidebar:

Adding a Folder to the Finder Sidebar Places.png

8.) To remove an item, simply click on it, drag it from the Finder window and let go of the mouse button. Note this does not delete the original item the Sidebar entry pointed to:

Removing a Place from the Finder Sidebar.png

9.) To move or copy files to Devices or Places, simply click on the item in the Finder window, then drag it over the desired location until a blue border surrounds its name before letting go of the mouse button:

Moving and Copying Files using the Finder Sidebar.png

10.) To eject a CD, DVD or external hard drive, simply press the Eject icon next to its name in the Sidebar:

Ejecting a Disk from the Finder Sidebar.png

11.) To burn a CD or DVD from the Sidebar, insert a blank media disc, drag the desired files or folders onto it and then click the Burn icon (resembling a radiation warning sign) next to its name:

Burning a Disc from the Finder Sidebar.png

The Finder Sidebar is immensely useful in Mac OS X and allows you to accomplish many common computer management tasks directly from a single Finder window instead of having to open a multitude of them. Once you have an understanding of its capabilities, you’ll soon find that it makes navigating around the various locations and drives of your Mac a simple task.

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Comments [1]

  1. John DeFlumeri says:

    I am trying to remove a document from the places sidebar in finder. I followed directions on line without success. That is, I clicked the mouse on the item and dragged out of sidebar. It didn't work

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