Customise the Finder: Set a different default view, for different folders

The Finder is the main way you explore your Mac – it’s how you find folders, launch files and apps, and how you delete unwanted items.

To help you explore macOS’ file system, the Finder gives you several ways to view its contents. If you select “View” from the Finder menu bar, then you can choose to display its files, folders and apps as either Icons, Columns, Lists or as a Cover Flow. Each of these views is better suited to displaying a different kind of content, for example “Cover Flow” is perfect for viewing folders that contain images, as it displays a thumbnail preview of each image, whereas “List” is better suited to folders that contain a large number of files.

However, there’s one major drawback to Finder views: by default, your currently-selected view is a master setting that’s applied across every part of your file system. Just because you want to view your “Pictures” folder as a Cover Flow, doesn’t automatically mean you want to view the contents of your “Spreadsheets” and “Applications” folders as a Cover Flow, too.

Wouldn’t it be be easier, if you could apply a different default view, to each folder?

In this article, I’ll show how to set different Finder view preference for different folders, so that each folder is automatically displayed in the best view for its specific content.

Set the default Finder view

To start, let’s set a default view that’ll be used whenever you open a folder that doesn’t have a unique view assigned to it:

  • Open a new “Finder” window.
  • Navigate to any folder on your Mac.
  • Open the “View” dropdown and choose the view that you want to use as your default, such as “as Columns” or “as Cover Flow.”

  • Select “View > Show View Options” from the Finder toolbar.
  • Click the “Use as Defaults” button.

Assign a different view to each folder

Now we have our default, let’s take a look at how you assign a specific view, to a specific folder:

  • Open the folder in question.
  • Select “View” from the Finder’s menu bar, and then select the view that you want to assign to this particular folder.
  • Select “View > Show View options” from the Finder menu bar. This launches a new menu.
  • Find the “Always open in (this) view” checkbox, and select it.
  • Find the “Browse in (this) view” checkbox, and select it.

Now, every time you open this folder, Finder will display it in your chosen view.

Got carried away? Easily restore the Finder’s default settings

While assigning unique views to each of your folders can help you spot the items you want, it’s easy to get carried away. If it gets to the point where every folder is opening in a completely different view, then it can make for a jarring and confusing browsing experience.

Rather than going through each folder and changing the view manually, you can reset the folder settings across your entire file system, by deleting your Mac’s .DS_Store files. These files contain information about how each of your folders should be displayed, so deleting them will restore your Finder to its default settings. The .DS_Store files are hidden by default and will be re-generated automatically, so you should be able to delete them without encountering any issues.

To delete the .DS_Store files and restore the default settings for every folder across your Mac:

  • Open a Finder window and navigate to “Applications > Utilities.”
  • Launch the Terminal app.
  • Copy/paste the following command into the Terminal:

sudo find / -name .DS_Store -delete; killall Finder

  • Press the “Enter” key on your keyboard.
  • When prompted, enter your password. Press “Enter.”

The Terminal will now search for, and delete all of your Mac’s .DS_Store files, restoring your Finder settings to their default state.

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About the author

Jessica Thornsby

Jessica Thornsby is a technical writer based in Sheffield. She writes about Android, Java, Kotlin and all things Apple. She is the co-author of O'Reilly's "iWork: The Missing Manual," and the author of "Android UI Design," from Packt Publishing.

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