New in macOS Sierra: Keep Folders on Top When Sorting by Name in Finder

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| Quick Tip

macOS Sierra introduces many new features and refinements to Apple’s desktop operating system platform, but one will be particularly appreciated by Finder fans. As has been long offered in Windows, Sierra now lets users keep folders at the top of a Finder window when sorting files by name.

In OS X El Capitan and earlier, here’s what a typical directory in Finder looked like when sorted by name:

finder list sort by name el capitan

As you can see, Finder sorts everything by name, mixing files and folders together. In macOS Sierra, there’s a new option in the Finder Preferences. With Finder selected as the active application, head to Finder > Preferences in the menu bar, or press the keyboard shortcut Command + [comma] to open the Finder Preferences window. Click on the Advanced tab:

macos sierra folders on top

You’ll see a new option labeled Keep folders on top when sorting by name. When this option is checked, you’ll see this when you sort a Finder directory by name:

finder list sort by name sierra

Finder now sorts your folders by name separately at the top of the list and sorts your remaining files by name at the bottom. This is how File Explorer in Windows operates and, in this author’s opinion, is a better way to manage files in Finder. Pre-Sierra users could still separate files and folders by configuring Finder to sort files by “Kind,” but this method sorted all files by their file type and wasn’t always ideal.

For longtime Mac users who prefer the old sorting method of mixing everything together, Apple thankfully retains the option to switch back. Just uncheck the Keep folders on top when sorting by name box in Finder Preferences and file sorting in macOS Sierra will work like it used to in El Capitan and earlier.

A final note: the screenshots in this tip show Finder sorting with the “List” view type, but this new option in macOS Sierra also works with the other Finder view types.

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Dani Gómez Ortega

Does someone knows a blog site that could help me with little tricks and hacks in the macOS Sierra (I just bought a Mac…. I’ve been a windows user for decades). Thanks in advance!

dndgirl
Member
dndgirl

THIS! This is the most important change I could ever wish for!

Frank V
Member
Frank V

I’m also happy about this. I used a P-list hack under El Capitan to get the folders on top, because this was one of the things I really missed from TotalFinder.

Member
Robert Grimm

I’m glad you pointed this option out. I hate that Windows does that. Having the Mac do it too with no way to change it would make me very angry. I’ve always thought sorting by name meant alphanumeric priority, not type, then alphanumeric sorting.

aardman
Member
aardman

At last! This is one of the few things I missed when I switched from Windows to Mac many moons ago.

One thing I definitely didn’t miss: the godforsaken Windows Registry.

xmattingly
Member
xmattingly

Not a bad modest little tweak. The nice thing about sorting by “kind” is that you have a divider & header for each grouping of file type. In this case, you can stay in the traditional list view, and retain the ability to drill down into folders without leaving that specific directory. Seems like there’s pretty much something for everyone in the Finder, these days. 😊