The Finder is the default
A file manager or file browser is a computer program that provides a user interface to manage files and folders. The most common operations performed on files or groups of files include creating, opening (e.g. viewing, playing, editing or pr ...
graphical user interface
The GUI ( "UI" by itself is still usually pronounced . or ), graphical user interface, is a form of user interface that allows users to interact with electronic devices through graphical icons and audio indicator such as primary notation, inste ... shell
Shell may refer to:
Architecture and design
* Shell (structure), a thin structure
** Concrete shell, a thin shell of concrete, usually with no interior columns or exterior buttresses
** Thin-shell structure
* Seashell, a hard ...
used on all
Macintosh operating systems
Two major famlies of Mac operating systems were developed by Apple Inc.
In 1984, Apple debuted the operating system that is now known as the "Classic" Mac OS with its release of the original Macintosh System Software. The system, rebranded " ...
. Described in its "About" window as "The Macintosh Desktop Experience", it is responsible for the launching of other applications, and for the overall user management of files, disks, and network volumes. It was introduced with the first Macintosh computer, and also exists as part of GS/OS
on the Apple IIGS
. It was rewritten completely with the release of Mac OS X in 2001.
In a tradition dating back to the
Classic Mac OS
Mac OS (originally System Software; retronym: Classic Mac OS) is the series of operating systems developed for the Macintosh family of personal computers by Apple Computer from 1984 to 2001, starting with System 1 and ending with Mac OS 9 ...
of the 1980s and 1990s, the Finder icon is the smiling screen of a computer, known as the
The classic Macintosh startup sequence includes hardware tests which may trigger the startup chime, Happy Mac, Sad Mac, and Chimes of Death. On Macs running macOS Big Sur or later the startup sound is enabled by default, but can be disabled by ...
The Finder uses a view of the file system
that is rendered using a desktop metaphor
; that is, the files and folders
are represented as appropriate icons. It uses a similar interface to Apple's
Safari is a web browser developed by Apple. It is built into macOS, iOS, and iPadOS, and uses Apple's open-source browser engine, WebKit, which was derived from KHTML.
Safari was introduced in Mac OS X Panther in January 2003. It was includ ...
, where the user can click on a folder to move to it and move between locations using "back" and "forward" arrow buttons. Like Safari, the Finder uses tabs to allow the user to view multiple folders; these tabs can be pulled off the window to make them separate windows. There is a "favorites" sidebar of commonly used and important folders on the left of the Finder window.
The classic Mac OS Finder uses a spatial metaphor quite different from the more browser-like approach of the modern macOS Finder. In the classic Finder, opening a new folder opens the location in a new window: Finder windows are 'locked' so that they would only ever display the contents of one folder. It also allows extensive customization, with the user being able to give folders custom icons matching their content. This approach emphasizes the different locations of files within the operating system, but navigating to a folder nested inside multiple other folders fills the desktop with a large number of windows that the user may not wish to have open.
These must then be closed individually. Holding down the option key
when opening a folder would also close its parent, but this trick was not discoverable
and remained under the purview of power user
The modern Finder uses macOS graphics APIs to display previews of a range of files, such as images, applications and PDF files. The Quick Look feature allows users to quickly examine documents and images in more detail from the finder by pressing the space bar without opening them in a separate application. The user can choose how to view files, with options such as large icons showing previews of files, a list with details such as date of last creation or modification, a Gallery View (replacing the previous Cover flow
in macOS Mojave
), and a " column view
" influenced by macOS's direct ancestor NeXTSTEP
The modern Finder displays some aspects of the file system outside its windows. Mounted external volumes and disk image
files can be displayed on the desktop. There is a trash can on the
A dock (from Dutch ''dok'') is the area of water between or next to one or a group of human-made structures that are involved in the handling of boats or ships (usually on or near a shore) or such structures themselves. The exact meaning v ...
in macOS, to which files can be dragged to mark them for deletion, and to which drives can be dragged for ejection. When a volume icon is being dragged, the Trash icon in the Dock changes to an eject icon in order to indicate this functionality. Finder can record
In computing and optical disc recording technologies, an optical disc (OD) is a flat, usually circular disc that encodes binary data ( bits) in the form of pits and lands on a special material, often aluminum, on one of its flat surfaces ...
on the sidebar.
From Yosemite onwards, the Finder is updated to include a refreshed user interface with updated typography and translucency, along with a new icon. Functionally, it also contains official support for extensions, allowing synchronization and cloud storage applications such as
Dropbox is a file hosting service operated by the American company Dropbox, Inc., headquartered in San Francisco, California, U.S. that offers cloud storage, file synchronization, personal cloud, and client software. Dropbox was founded in 2 ...
to display sync status labels inside the Finder display.
macOS Big Sur
macOS Big Sur (version 11) is the seventeenth major release of macOS, Apple Inc.'s operating system for Macintosh computers. It was announced at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) on June 22, 2020, and was released to the publi ...
introduces a complete graphical redesign of the Finder, along with the rest of the user interface, sporting the removal of the brushed metal interface elements, a full height sidebar and all new iconography. Big Sur also slightly modifies the Finder icon with rounded corners.
Stewart Alsop II
in 1988 said "It is testimony to either the luck or vision of the original designers" of Finder that "the interface has been able to survive tremendous evolution without much essential damage" from 1984. He praised its spatial file manager
as "probably a more complete definition of a PC-based universe than any" competitor, with users able to seamlessly use floppies, local and remote hard disks, and large and small file servers. Alsop said that even if Apple had stolen Xerox's technology for Finder, it was now very different. While criticizing the lack of a right mouse button and MultiFinder
's clumsiness, he concluded that "Apple remains the king of user interfaces. Finder is the only interface with 1.5 million people sitting in front of it daily. Apple is spending tremendous amounts of money on both development and basic research to remain the leader".
Introducing Mac OS X in 2000, Steve Jobs
criticized the original Finder, saying that it "generates a ton of windows, and you get to be the janitor."
''Ars Technica'' is a website covering news and opinions in technology, science, politics, and society, created by Ken Fisher and Jon Stokes in 1998. It publishes news, reviews, and guides on issues such as computer hardware and software, sc ...
'' columnist John Siracusa has been a long-standing defender of the spatial interface of the classic Mac OS Finder and a critic of the new design.
John Gruber (born 1973) is a technology blogger, UI designer, and one of the inventors of the Markdown markup language.
Gruber is from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He received his Bachelor of Science in computer science from Drexel Univ ...
blog author John Gruber
has voiced similar criticisms. In a 2005 interview he said that the Finder in version 10.3 of Mac OS X had become "worse than in 10.0" and that "the fundamental problem with the OS X Finder is that it's trying to support two opposing paradigms at once – the browser metaphor
... and the spatial metaphor from the original Mac Finder ... and it ends up doing neither one very well." Reviewing the same version of Mac OS X, Siracusa comments that the Finder "provides exactly the same self-destructive combination of spatial and browser-style features as all of its Mac OS X predecessors".
Third party may refer to:
* Third-party source, a supplier company not owned by the buyer or seller
* Third-party beneficiary, a person who could sue on a contract, despite not being an active party
* Third-party insurance, such as a Veh ...
macOS software developers offer Finder replacements that run as stand-alone applications, such as
A forklift (also called lift truck, jitney, hi-lo, fork truck, fork hoist, and forklift truck) is a powered industrial truck used to lift and move materials over short distances. The forklift was developed in the early 20th century by various ...
, Path Finder
, and XtraFinder
. These replacements are shareware or freeware and aim to include and supersede the functionality of the Finder. After Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger
the UNIX command line file management tools understand resource fork
s and can be used for management of Mac files.
There are minor differences between Finder versions and Classic OS to System 7. From System 6 onward, the version numbers are unified.
Since the introduction of Mac OS X, the largest rewrite of the Finder was with the 2009 release of Mac OS X 10.6
, into the Cocoa API
, though little change was visible to the user.
* Spatial file manager
* Miller columns
* List of file managers
* Comparison of file managers
* File Explorer
Apple Macintosh before System 7Ars Technica: About the Finder...Ars Technica: Review of OS X 10.3
nbsp;– discussing the lack of fundamental changes to the Finder
Macintosh operating systems
Macintosh operating systems user interface