How to Change Text Size of Finder Fonts in Mac OS X

Feb 25, 2016 - 18 Comments

Change the font size of Finder text in Mac OS X

Many Mac users may like to adjust the font size of file names, folders, and other text found in the Finder of OS X. This is particularly helpful if you find the default text size of Finder fonts to be small and challenging to read when navigating in the Mac file system, where increasing the font size makes a notable difference in legibility, but it can also be used the other direction to decrease the text size of Finder items as well, thereby fitting more items on screen in list view. Whether you want to change the text to a larger size or smaller size is up to you.

For reference, the default text size for Finder items is size 12, and user options to change Finder text size range from size 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, or font size 16 as the largest. Changing the text size alone will have no impact on icon size, which can be changed separately.

Adjusting the Font Size of File / Folder Text in Finder of Mac OS X

In the example shown here we are changing the font size of Finder items shown in List view, but it works the same in Icon view, List view, Column view, and Cover Flow.

  1. Go to the Finder of OS X and open any folder that contains files within the file system
  2. Pull down the “View” menu from the top of the screen and choose “Show View Options”
  3. Change the text size of Finder items with VIew Options

  4. A Preferences hovering window will appear on screen, locate the “Text Size” option dropdown menu and change it to the font size you wish to use (we’re picking Text size “16” here)
  5. Change the font text size in Mac OS X Finder file system

  6. Optionally, to set the text size as the universal default font size in all other Finder windows, click on “Use as Default” – this is recommended if you want the newly selected font size to be the default with all other Finder windows viewed in this view mode
  7. Close the Finder view options Preferences window

Assuming you chose “Use as Default”, any new Finder window opened within the file system in that particular view mode (list, icon, column) will now always appear with that font size.

If you did not choose “Use as Default”, only this specific folder within Finder will show the new font size change.

For reference, here’s what the default font size of 12 looks like in the Mac OS X file system as shown with a preferences Finder window:

Small font size is default in Mac OS X Finder

And here’s what the largest text size of 16 looks like in the same Finder window, with text being notably larger and more legible:

Larger font size of Finder text increased in Mac OS X

Alternating between the two in this animated GIF really shows how much of a difference between text size 12 and text size 16 can make for reading files and folder names in the Finder:

Change the font size of Finder text in Mac OS X

Going further, you can also increase the size of Mac icons on the desktop and in Finder windows, as well as change the Finder sidebar text size in Mac OS X to better suit your preferences as well.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks


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  1. Tom says:

    There is no Set as Default option. In 10.11.3 El Capitan below Text Size there are 3 check boxes then its blank grey area.
    When you change the text size its a universal change throughout Finder.

    • Matt Keynes says:

      Tom, this setting is for Mac. It is labeled as “Use as Defaults”, it is a button in View Options for Finder windows.

      This is version agnostic. For example, I am in OS X El Capitan 10.11.3 and another Mac next door has OS X 10.11.4, the Use As Defaults option is there exactly like shown in the screenshot. In fact, every version of OS X ever made, since OS X 10.1, has had this option. I have been using the platform since OS X 10.1 and I always make this change because Apple is bent on making the font size as small as possible.

      If you don’t see the option, you either have it off screen from a small resolution, the window is off screen,, or you are not following the instructions that are articulated in the tutorial above. This option is not on an iPad or iPhone, it is on a Mac only. It is version agnostic for Mac.

    • Bev in TX says:

      I’m also at 10.11.3 and the Default option does not show up for the Columns option (it does for the other 3 options).

      • MacTech says:

        Open a folder or a volume, then Show View Options – you will see “Use as Default” button on the bottom. It will not show up if you are just on a Desktop.

  2. Bev in TX says:

    Thanks for the great tip, which helped me greatly.

    Do you know of any way in which to also change the font size in Finder’s Sidebar?

  3. Rick Camp says:

    The problem is that this does not affect windows opened using Open or Save. Those windows revert back to the system default font size.

  4. Wharf Xanadu says:

    Yes I use size 14 on MacBook Pro retina I had to after Yosemite and El Capitan came out with the new hard to read fonts. Before in Mavericks I kept at size 12. The new fonts are tough unless they’re bigger. Apple should give a bold and dark option too.

  5. Pippo says:

    The only working way to change the size of the font in the finder windows is to reset it.
    sudo find / -name “.DS_Store”  -exec rm {} \;

    Then restart and set one window as you want all the window to be (order of files, position of columns, etc), then using “Show View Options” set the font size (and anything else you want) and click on “Use as Defaults”

    • Chris says:

      Pippo I am able to change the font in Finder windows with the directions above, I did not need to use your sudo command

      Why delete every DS Store command in the file system? that makes no sense, choose the Use Defaults option and it applies everywhere in the same view style

      • Pippo says:

        All that you have previously changed will not be changed with the directions above (I think, but I am not sure because I did not try).

  6. Tom says:

    I reiterate. It does NOT work in Column view.

    • Ed says:

      It says pretty clearly that it works in List View, Icon View, and I just tried it in Column view and it works fine to increase the finder text size of all items in Column View too. So if I can change my font size in column view, why can’t you? Probably not following instructions.

  7. John Newberry says:

    Would like to change colour of type on desktop icons to suit desktop image. White type is of no use on my preferred light background. Can this be done?

  8. A says:

    «Use as Defaults» not working – other opened folders showing default font size instead of newly changed

  9. walterbyrd says:

    1) I have to go down the side bar and change the fonts for each directory. How stupid is that?

    2) If I use finder for another computer on the network, I have to change all the fonts there as well.

    How can I set the finder to also use the font I want?

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