OS X Lion: Using Finder’s “All My Files” Feature

The “All My Files” Smart Folder in Lion’s Finder is a unique way to check out your data. Using its options, you can figure out where your largest files are, what programs have the most documents associated with them, and all sort of other interesting tidbits. Read on to see my breakdown of this neat new Finder feature, and I promise to even tell you how to turn “All My Files” off if you still hate it after we have our little discussion.

To see what “All My Files” can do for you, open a new Finder window by clicking on the familiar blue smiley face icon in your Dock or by using the keyboard shortcut for a new window (it’s Command-N). After you’ve done so, choose “All My Files” from the Sidebar. Just like any other Finder window, you can change how its items appear by selecting the different view icons in the toolbar. I’m going to be mostly referring to Icon View within this tip.

To reorganize the way that “All My Files” shows you your stuff, click on the weird…boxes icon. OK, just check out the screenshot below to see what the “Arrange By” button looks like. 

This will change the order of all your items at once, so if you select “Name,” they’ll be alphabetized regardless of file type or any other criteria. If you select “Application,” though, things start to get interesting. 

As you can see, Finder will then break down your documents by their default programs, with a pretty new Cover Flow–like design. Nifty! Within Icon View, you can even use trackpad gestures to move back and forth to see files to the right or the left, or you can click on the “Show All” option in the upper-right of each category to see everything at once.

Another very helpful choice is to organize by size. When you do that, your files will be divided into easy-to-understand size ranges, so you can quickly tell how much hard drive space your My Little Pony videos take up.

Once you’ve gotten the hang of organizing your files this way, you can decide how you want them to be further ordered underneath the category you’ve just chosen. To do so, hold down Option and click the gear icon on your toolbar. As you do, “Arrange By” will change to “Sort By,” and you’re off to the races. 

You can also hold down Option and click on the “Arrange By” boxes icon mentioned above to access the same choices.

So for example, in the screenshot below, I’ve told Finder to arrange my files by application but then sort by size underneath that category, so I can easily discover what my largest Numbers or Pages file is. This is within List View instead of Icon View; you can still sort by size within Icon View, of course, but it’s handy to be able to see your columns to glean as much information as possible. 

Of course, these options for arranging and sorting aren’t only available for the “All My Files” window. You can take advantage of their awesomeness from any Finder view of any folder. But it is awfully nice to be able to see everything you own, sorted and categorized any way you’d like, from within one window. I’d insert a “hooray Apple” sentence here, but I don’t want you to think I’m TOO much of a fangirl.

Finally, you can customize the way you’d like your Sidebar to look (and even take “All My Files” completely out, as I promised you could). To do so, choose Finder > Preferences and then click on the “Sidebar” tab. From there, you can toggle anything on or off, and your wish will be Finder’s command.


If you don’t like this method, you can also Command-drag items out of the Sidebar itself (you rebel, you). 


After you’ve done that, spend some time poking around in the rest of the Finder preferences if you never have—there’s a ton of useful stuff in there!