In Snow Leopard, choosing “Arrange by Date” from the contextual menu in Finder would sort your icons by the date they were last modified. The arrangement would keep the same grid of icons that you started with, and just shuffle the icons around so they were sorted by the date modified.
In OS X Lion, this behavior has changed dramatically. Now, your icons are sort by date, but then organize into groups. You’ll have a group of files last modified (or created, added, or last opened, depending on which option you choose) today, a group of yesterday’s files, a group of the previous seven days’ files, the previous 30 days’ files, and a group of earlier files.
Icons Arranged by Date in OS X Lion
For me, this tends to be a bit too much organization. I just want a grid of files, sorted by the date the files were last modified.
Thankfully, there’s still a way to do that. New functionality has been added to the “Clean Up” function in the contextual menu. If you bring up the contextual menu for Finder now, you’ll see “Clean Up By.” In this submenu, you can clean up your icons by name, kind, size of file, label, date created, and date modified.
The New “Clean Up By” Contextual Menu Item in OS X Lion
Once you select the way you want to clean up your icons, your icons will shuffle around, sorting by the date, and you’ll still have the same grid appearance as before.
Icons Cleaned Up By Date Modified in OS X Lion
A last note: If you’ve used Arrange by Date, and decide you want to use Clean Up by Date for that folder instead, there’s one step you have to take first. Bring up the contextual menu, and choose “Arrange By Name.” The “Clean Up By” contextual menu option disappears when in the “Arrange By Date” view, and you have to revert to arranging by name to find it again.
Have fun rearranging your icons!