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Five Snow Leopard Tips in Five Days: Tip 1 - Using Smart Folders

By  Aug 31, 2009

Topics: Apple, Operating Systems

The new version of the Mac OS, Snow Leopard, has several very cool features that are not immediately apparent. This week, I’ll share several of them with you -- one per day.

The smart folders feature takes the Finder's Find command one step further. It enables you to save search criteria as a special folder. Opening the folder automatically performs a search and displays matching items. The smart folder’s contents always contain items that match search criteria, even if the files and folders on your computer change. It’s like having a live search feature.

To create a smart folder:

1. To create a smart folder that searches a specific location on your computer, open a Finder window for that location.

Figure 1: The Finder’s File menu.

2. Choose File > New Smart Folder (see Figure 1), or press Option-Command-N. A New Smart Folder window, which looks a lot like a Searching window, appears (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: A New Smart Folder window.

3. Enter a search word or phrase in the Search field.

4. Click a location button to choose one of the search locations.

5. Set up criteria filters by choosing an option from the Attribute pop-up menu and setting related criteria options. (You can click the + button in the search location row to add search filters.) The search results appear in the window, as in Figure 3.

Figure 3: This search example displays all Applications I’ve used in the past seven days.

6. Click the Save button near the top of the New Smart Folder window.

7. Set options in the dialog that appears. The Save As dialog can appear collapsed, as in Figure 4:

Figure 4: Save As, Collapsed

...or expanded, as in Figure 5.

Figure 5: Save As, expanded.

  • Save As is the name of the smart folder. Give it a name that describes what the folder will contain.
  • Where is the location in which the smart folder will be saved. You can use the Where menu to choose a location or click the disclosure triangle beside the Save As box to expand the dialog (Figure 5) and choose any location on disk.
  • Add To Sidebar instructs Mac OS X to add an alias of the folder to the Sidebar (Figure 6).

8. Click Save. The name you gave the smart folder appears in the window’s title bar (as you see in Figure 6), and the smart folder is saved for future use.

Figure 6: Here’s a smart folder saved to the sidebar.

Tip: You can create a smart folder by clicking the Save button in any search results window. It’s not necessary to use the New Smart Folder command.

To open a smart folder:

If the smart folder has been added to the Sidebar, click the name of the smart folder in the Sidebar, as you see in Figure 6.

Or: If the smart folder has not been added to the Sidebar, open the icon for the smart folder (Figure 7). The contents of the smart folder appear in a window like the one in Figure 6.

Tip: The Saved Searches folder, which is the default location for smart folder files, is in the Library folder in your Home folder (Figure 7).

Figure 7: Smart folders are files that can be opened to display search results. The default location for smart folders is in the Saved Searches folder in your Library folder.

For more tips and step-by-step, illustrated instructions for using Apple’s great new Snow Leopard operating system, please check out my Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard: Visual QuickStart GuideAnd be sure to check back here each day this week for more Mac OS X 10.6 tips.