Using Smart Folders in Mac OS X
One of the underused and certainly under appreciated features of Mac OS X are Smart Folders. If you aren’t familiar with Smart Folders, they essentially let you create a virtual folder that uses search operators from Spotlight to let that virtual folder contain any and all files that match the search requirements. Sound confusing? It’s really not, here’s a practical example:
I download a lot of music from various new music blogs around the web, due to the nature of quickly downloading, some of these files end up in my Downloads folder and others on the Desktop. Instead of digging around in both locations for newly downloaded files, I just created a smart folder that searches for .mp3 files created within the past day. Suddenly all the new music is now contained within one folder which I can then use to directly import into iTunes and then delete the leftover files.
Creating a Smart Folder
The easiest way to create a new Smart Folder is to hit Command+Option+N in the Finder, once the New Smart Folder window is open it’s time to customize the virtual folder with some operators.
- Hit the + icon next to ‘Save’ to add generic operators like File type, File Creation Date, Modified Date, Name, Contents, or a slew of other possibilities in ‘Other’
- Use the Search box to use search operators from Spotlight, for specific file types you can type extensions like .mp3 .psd .mov, etc
- Once you have established some operators for the Smart Folder, hit “Save” in the upper right corner of the window
- Give the Smart Folder a name and choose to either add it to your Finder sidebar or save it to any location you’d like
You’ll now be able to access that Smart Folder like any other folder in the Finder and it will have saved the search operators. Note that Smart Folders icons are shaded purple and have a gear icon on them (see image to the right) so they are easy to identify in the future. Smart Folders update on their own, so anytime you open the folder it will change based on the factors you created it under. And remember, if you delete a Smart Folder, it will not effect the files within it.
If you want more ideas for Smart Folders, I would recommend testing out some of the search parameters and seeing what you get, it’s a great yet underused Mac OS X feature.