Defeat Default Settings: OS X Finder Preferences

October 28, 2010

Defeat Default Settings: OS X Finder Preferences

One of the greatest things about technology and software are well-considered preferences. Preferences are options that allow you to tell software the way in which the software will behave. Sometimes, preferences even allow you to remove features, interface clutter and warning prompts. Preferences that simplify the user experience are rare, so when they are available be sure to take advantage.

There are preferences in Mac OS X that will clean up the desktop, make folders behave faster and remove icons that you never click on. It may seem trivial, but removing the visual distraction of icons never used and disabling prompts to do something you already told the Finder to do (like empty the trash) will save you time over the course of a day and month. By the end of a year, you will be looking at days, or at least hours, saved.

One often forgotten preference set is the dedicated preference pane for the Mac OS X Finder. Because Mac OS X Finder preferences are not in the System Preferences, it's easy to forget about them. Open your OS X Finder window and go to Finder > Preferences in the Menu Bar at the top of the screen (or press Command and the comma (,) while in the Finder).

Mac OS X Finder Preferences Design

Here you will find default settings. Always question default settings, as they are often designed for a new user unfamiliar with the software or designed based on how software engineers think you think. The Mac OS X Finder settings default to showing Hard Disks and other drives and media on the desktop. These are always displayed in the Finder window, so adding to your Desktop clutter by default may be unnecessary. Consider shortening the time it takes for a spring-loaded folder to open when you hover a file over it in the Finder. If you want to drop it in that folder, and that's your intention, why should you wait for the Finder to acknowledge your request?

OS X Finder Default Settings

OS X Finder Setting Optimization

Now what about the Finder window's sidebar? Have you ever used iDisk? Will you? Have you ever used the "Search For" icons and folders? If you know where stuff is, why do you need to search for it? What else do you think you can remove? And what do you use that you can add? Below, I have added "Downloads", because I download things everyday and it's easy to access them from this icon in the sidebar.

OS X Finder Sidebar Window UI

If you want to optimize the Finder window, go back to Finder Preferences and click off all the items you never use.

OS X Finder Preferences for Sidebar

Doesn't it feel good to throw away some of the items you never use and streamline the user interface? It's like taking out the trash. Which leads us to the #1 OS X Finder Preferences time saver. How many times in a day or week do you see this prompt when emptying the trash?

OS X Empty Trash Warning

If you told the Finder to empty the trash, didn't you mean it? Save yourself hundreds of extra clicks and hours of your life by turning this warning prompt off in the OS X Finder Preferences under Advanced.

OS X Empty Trash Warning Preference

By taking control of these preferences, you will optimize your daily experience to what you do, not what the software thinks you should do. Soon, you'll be looking for more default settings and how you can change them. As designers and for all those who create we should always look for ways to use our tools better and question the usefulness and design of our tools.

Ward Andrews

Ward Andrews

Hi, I'm Ward Andrews. I started in 2009, you can read about why here. Thanks for participating in the Community. I also run an interactive agency called Drawbackwards. I love basketball, electronic music and creating experiences that improve daily life. You can follow me on Twitter @wardandrews.

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User Experience Design Lead / Minneapolis, MN, US

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