Smart Folders – Manage Files On Your Mac The Smart Way

Steve Jobs and company have spent a lot of time in making Mac OS X the easiest and most feature rich operating system available. Most people might not even realise it, but it is those little touches and small features that make using a Mac that much more enjoyable. For example, have you ever used the expose feature? Isn’t it a simple idea? I agree most operating systems have a “Show Desktop” kind of feature but when you combine that with the multi touch keypad, you really do get Magic. Swipe four fingers on the keypad and you’re there. No click required !

Expose is just one example. One of my favorite features, though, is the Smart Folders features that is integrated into the Finder. Infact, the way Apple has integrated and designed Smart Folders is so brilliant that it’s almost too easy to miss it.

For those who are not aware, a Smart Folder is a folder that contains a dynamically generated list of files.

Create Your Own Smart Folder

So, now that we know what exactly a Smart Folder is, let’s try and create one of our own.

Open the Finder and click on “File -> New Smart Folder“. Finder will open a new Window with the title of the Window set to “New Smart Folder”. Now, type in a search term in the Spotlight text box. All the files that match your search term will now be displayed. When you’re satisfied with your search term, click the Save button and give your new smart folder a name. You can even choose to add the folder to the sidebar if you want. That way it is always just a couple of clicks away.

Smart Folders

The next time you want to see all the files related to “Canon 500d” on your computer. Just open this smart folder and you’ll have the latest list of files, without ever having to manually change anything in this folder. Now, tell me if this isn’t magical?

Create Complex Rules With Smart Folders

The above example was a pretty simple rule but smart folders can do much more. Let’s create a slightly more complex rule and you’ll understand what I mean.

Complex rules with Smart Folders

Click on the “+” sign next to the save button and a new row of options will pop-up. Click the “+” sign again and you get another row of options for even more fine grained control. In the image above, I’ve set my smart folder to only show me JPEG images that have been opened in the last 5 days. Imagine a folder that gives you a list of all the documents that you’ve worked on over the last, say, 3 days. Isn’t that Magical ?

I know I’m overdoing the magical part here but the truth is that Smart Folders are a very powerful and, often, underused feature of Mac OS X.

Do you guys use Smart Folders in your regular workflow ?


Sharninder is a programmer, blogger and a geek making a living writing software to change the world. His tech blog, Geeky Ninja, is where he shares his wisdom, for free !

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