What is Finder on Mac?

If you’ve used a Mac, you may have heard of Finder. But what is it, what do you need it for and how do you use it? We’ll explain.

Finder is how you interact with files on a Mac

The Finder is the basic way you interact with the file system on your Mac. It enables you to move, copy and delete files. It also helps you launch applications and connect to network resources. It is generally the same as File Explorer (formerly known as Windows Explorer) on Windows.

The Macintosh Finder developed early in the development of the Macintosh, first named by Bud Tribble. Early Finder co-author Bruce Horn speculated this finder got its name because it is used to find documents. Its forerunner on the Apple lisa, Filer, had a similar-sounding name with a similar purpose: to help you organize files and start programs with a graphical, mouse-based interface. Horn and others evolved the Finder into something similar to what we know today, but it has changed dramatically over time to accommodate new architectures and operating systems.

Deja Vu: A Brief History of Every Mac CPU Architecture

How to use the Finder

Finder is an app on your Mac, but one with special status and privileges in macOS. You can’t delete it, and it’s always available on your Dock. The easiest way to open Finder is to click the icon in your Dock that looks like a smiling blue face.

After clicking, you will see “Finder” in the top left corner of the screen and a Finder window will open. From this window, you can browse your files by double-clicking files or folders to open them.

A example Finder window in macOS.


You click and drag file or folder icons between windows to move or copy them. Generally, when you drag between two Finder windows on two different drives, a copy of the file is made and kept in both locations. If you drag a file or folder from one window to another on the same drive, Finder moves the item to the new location.

To delete a file using the Finder, drag its icon onto the trash can icon in your Dock.

By default, you will see a sidebar in every Finder window that contains shortcuts to important storage locations such as your desktop, documents, applications, or pictures folder. If you don’t see the sidebar, choose View> Show Sidebar from the menu at the top of the screen (or press Ctrl + Command + S).

In the Finder, use the sidebar for quick navigation.

While browsing the Finder, you can use the breadcrumbs in the path bar at the bottom of the screen to see where you are in the file path. If you don’t see the Path Bar, from the menu bar at the top of the screen, choose View> Show Path Bar (or press Option + Command + P).

What are computer files and folders?

In the Finder, use the Paths bar to view your current path location.

If you want to change how files are displayed in the Finder window, use the icons on the top toolbar, which look like groups of squares, to change the style of the view (from icons to lists, such as example) and how the files are sorted in the window.

And yes, you can also find things in the Finder using the search function. To do this, click the magnifying glass icon in the upper right corner of the Finder window (or press Command + F). Do a search and you’ll see the results below.

In the Finder, use the search bar to find files and folders.


There’s a lot more to explore, including ways to tidy up your desktop or color code your files, but now you know the basics.

As a final tip, know that you are not limited to using just one Finder window. Anytime you want to open a new (or additional) Finder window, choose File> New Finder Window from the menu bar or press Command + N on your keyboard. You can close any Finder window by clicking the red circle in the upper left corner of the window. Have fun and have fun finding!

PSA: You can color-code your Mac files with tags

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