Reclaiming the Finder in Lion

| Ted Landau's User Friendly View

Yes, OS X Lion still has the Finder. Although the latest update to the Mac operating system contains numerous iOS-like features, designed to encourage users to bypass the Finder, the venerable program remains active and even improved in Lion.

It’s true that if you dive head first into the major new features of Lion, such as Launchpad and Mission Control, you’ll wind up spending less time visiting the Finder and the Desktop (a topic I explored more in another column). Even while in the Finder, you can feel the winds of change. For example, the Finder’s new All My Files view organizes your documents by category (e.g., image, PDF, music) without any reference to the drive’s hierarchy or your folder locations.

Despite all of this, if you want Lion’s Finder to behave more or less the way it did in Snow Leopard, you can get it to do so. All that’s required is to modify a few settings. You may already be familiar with these options, as they are also present in Snow Leopard.

Change the All My Files default. In Snow Leopard (and older versions of OS X), if you select New Finder Window (Command-N), the default action is to open a window displaying the contents of the top level of your Home directory. With Lion, the same command opens to the new All New Files view. If you’d rather restore the Home directory view as the default, it’s easy to do: Go to the General tab of Finder Preferences and select the name of your Home directory (probably your username) from the “New Finder windows open” popup menu.

Restore missing sidebar items. In Snow Leopard, the sidebar in Finder windows has the Devices category at the top. Among the items listed in this category are your mounted hard disk(s) and your computer (clicking this opens the same top level view as you get by selecting Computer from the Finder’s Go menu). In Lion, the Devices category is relegated to the bottom of the sidebar. Further, mounted hard disks and computer are no longer displayed by default. This is consistent with Apple’s overall strategy of discouraging users from working with the drive’s hierarchical directory structure. Still, if you want those items back in your sidebars, you can restore them: Navigate to the Sidebar section of Finder Preferences and enable the desired items from the Devices listings.

• Return hard disk icons to the Desktop. Traditionally, an icon for your internal hard disk appears in the upper right corner of the Desktop by default. Other mounted drive icons may appear as well. Actually, I’m not certain this was a default in Snow Leopard. But it’s how my Desktop is setup. If you have drive icons on your Desktop, you may find them gone after updating to Lion. At least that’s what happened to me. Not to worry. You can get them back: Go to the aforementioned General tab of Finder Preferences and select “Hard disks” from the “Show these items of the desktop” options.

• See your Home Library folder. Lastly, in what is perhaps the most dramatic change to the Finder, the Library folder in your Home directory is no longer visible! The folder is still there. It’s just that Apple has hidden it from view. This is another consequence of Apple’s intent to keep mainstream users away from the more “technical” contents of a drive (similar to the UNIX folders which have always been invisible). It’s probably true that the majority of Mac users find the Library folder to be more a source of confusion and intimidation than of help. Still, there are good reasons for maintaining access to the folder’s contents (e.g., plist files, iTunes updates, Internet Plug-Ins, PreferencesPanes). If you’re among those who still want to get inside the Library folder, you have at least two solutions.

The first method is to navigate to the invisible folder. To do so, enter Command-Shift-G in the Finder. This drops down a Go to Folder sheet. From here, type: ~/Library. You’re in. [Update: Thanks to the reader comment below, I can offer an even easier solution: Hold down the Option key after selecting the Finder’s Go menu; the Library item will appear, directly below Home.]

While the first method works, the Library folder itself remains invisible. If you’d rather restore the folder’s visibility, you want the second method. Launch Terminal and type:

chflags nohidden ~/Library

Bingo. When you now view your Home directory in a Finder window, the Library folder will be visible, just as it always was before Lion.

Update added July 25:

More on Library. Yet another alternative of dealing with the invisible Library folder is to drag the Library folder icon (after you access it via one of the other methods) to the Favorites section of the Finder sidebar.

Status bar. To return the status bar to the bottom of Finder windows, go to the Finder’s View menu and select “Show Status Bar.”

Comments

ilikeimac

@Ted
This information sounds like it was gained from actually using Lion; if so then were you under NDA and has it lifted? If NDAs have been lifted then perhaps Lion’s release is, in fact, near.

cb50dc

Thanks for these pointers. I wonder about the possible deprecations, as you described in the earlier article.

So, whenever I do eventually get Lion, I wonder whether it’s better to ease the transition with these pointers, or just walk right up and hug the Lion, and do things its way. Even as I write this, I’m starting to lean toward the latter.

At least it seems like less of a learning curve than was needed for going from System 9 to OS X. Then I couldn’t imagine working without something like, say, the Font/DA Mover. Most of my present concerns will probably fade just as easily.

Lee Dronick

So, whenever I do eventually get Lion, I wonder whether it?s better to ease the transition with these pointers, or just walk right up and hug the Lion, and do things its way. Even as I write this, I?m starting to lean toward the latter.

That is what I am thinking. I may be an old dog, but I can still learn new tricks.

I am not sure how my wife will take to the new OS. I will probably let her mess around with Lion on my MacBook Pro before installing it on hers.

Maria

So, whenever I do eventually get Lion, I wonder whether it?s better to ease the transition with these pointers, or just walk right up and hug the Lion, and do things its way. Even as I write this, I?m starting to lean toward the latter.

Hug the Lion. I think you’ll find it cuddly.

And Ted, thanks for that code for Terminal. I suck at everything Unix and certainly don’t want to keep my Library folder hidden.

mlanger

I should add here that a quicker (perhaps) way to get in the Library folder is to hold down the Option key while displaying the Finder’s Go menu. You’ll find the Library folder magically (couldn’t resist) added to the menu.

Lee Dronick

I should add here that a quicker (perhaps) way to get in the Library folder is to hold down the Option key while displaying the Finder?s Go menu. You?ll find the Library folder magically (couldn?t resist) added to the menu.

I am not seeing that happen when I try it.

mlanger

I am not seeing that happen when I try it.

Just tried it again on my GM. Works like a charm. It’s been like that throughout the development process on three different Mac setups here.

Lee Dronick

Sir Harry Flashman said:I am not seeing that happen when I try it.
Just tried it again on my GM. Works like a charm. It?s been like that throughout the development process on three different Mac setups here.

D’oh! You mean in Lion! I haven’t been beta testing, but I will hang on to your tip.

rjackb

Hmm. Not sure what I’m missing but Finder looked exactly the same after upgrading as before. I didn’t have to change any Finder settings.

mlanger

D?oh! You mean in Lion! I haven?t been beta testing, but I will hang on to your tip.

Sorry. I thought we were talking about Lion.

DamenS

Hmm. Not sure what I?m missing but Finder looked exactly the same after upgrading as before. I didn?t have to change any Finder settings.

That would be normal when performing an incremental install (rather than a clean install).  All of your previous Finder settings should transfer over.  This would also explain why Mr Landau is unsure of Snow Leopard’s default behaviour for displaying disks (which is actually to not show them on the desktop) - presumably his old preference (to have the disks displayed) carried over (and assuming he actually installed SL and was not just speculating).

Lee Dronick

One thing I am missing in a Finder window is the number of items in a folder that used to be displayed on the bottom margin. Unless I am missing a setting somewhere, and I looked, you have to do a Get Info to get a file count.

Speaking of margins Finder windows no longer have bottom and right margins, to me it makes it look incomplete, like it is a badly formatted document or webpage.

warren

Hi

I was also looking for that. Open a finder window, go to view, select
“show Status Bar”

Lee Dronick

I was also looking for that. Open a finder window, go to view, select
?show Status Bar?

Thanks Warren, it has probably been years since I messed with that setting.

Signetmac

Brain dead, easiest way to expose your ~/Library folder is to hold down your ‘Option’ key while clicking on the Go… menu in the Finder.  There you will see a link to your Library folder between ‘Home’ and ‘Computer’.

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