Change Finder Windows View Style from the Command Line in Mac OS X

Jul 4, 2012 - 7 Comments

Finder window list view options

Unless it has been disabled, any Finder window in Mac OS X has the View option buttons in the windows toolbar. From left to right you can select icon view, list, columns, and coverflow. You may have noticed the window view style doesn’t always persist across Finder windows though, even if you selected “Always Open With _ View” in the View Options. One way to get around that is to change the Finder windows view style default through the command line with the help of defaults.

How to Set the Default Finder View Style to Column, Icon, List, or Cover Flow

Launch Terminal found in /Applications/Utilities/ and use the following defaults write command:

defaults write FXPreferredViewStyle xxxx

Change the four ‘xxxx’ letters at the end to the setting you wish to be the default. The Finder view choices are as follows:

  • Nlsv – List View
  • icnv – Icon View
  • clmv – Column View
  • Flwv – Cover Flow View

For example, to always use list view the defaults command would be as follows:

defaults write FXPreferredViewStyle Nlsv

Follow that up with a Finder restart for changes to take effect, achieved by killing the Finder process:

killall Finder

You can also combine the two into a single easy to use command as follows:

Set Icon View as default:
defaults write FXPreferredViewStyle icnv;killall Finder

List view as default:
defaults write FXPreferredViewStyle Nlsv;killall Finder

Column View as default:
defaults write FXPreferredViewStyle Nlsv;killall Finder

Cover Flow view as default:
defaults write FXPreferredViewStyle Nlsv;killall Finder

If you find these settings to not be consistent across Finder windows, you must remove .DS_Store files from the inconsistent directories. Because the .DS_Store files are prepended with a period they are hidden, making it generally easier to delete them through the command line.


Finder View type in OS X


Icon View finder type in OS X

Once this has been set, the defaults choice will be your new default view type for finder windows, and it’s quite sticky, persisting throughout reboots or new Finder window openings. Thanks to Rob for sending in this tip. If you have any other fancy tricks, do let us know.


Related articles:

Posted by: William Pearson in Command Line, Customize, Mac OS, Tips & Tricks


» Comments RSS Feed

  1. Florian says:

    Unfortunately …
    “defaults write FXPreferredViewStyle clmv; killall Finder”
    does not work under Mac OS 10.13.6
    the finder plist entry is changed but without effect on viewing new folders.
    Any hint for choosing column view as default?
    I’d like to add this setup in a startup script which already
    activates right-mouse-click etc.

  2. Patrick says:

    The commands under the section “You can also combine the two into a single easy to use command as follows” are incorrect. The column and cover flow example commands are setting to list view.

  3. Andy says:

    Is there a good solution to deleting every .DS_Store file on the Mac so that the setting will be universally accepted in all folders? Could use Spotlight maybe or?

  4. Alberto I says:

    I don’t want that all the windows open with the same view style. I want that any window open with the style I want for it.
    I want that by default the windows open with one style.
    But that some windows open with another style that I have chosen.
    – default is column view
    – but folders with images is Icon view with big icons
    – folder with music is list view
    – etc.

    I have never found a way to do this correctly. If I set a folder to open as Icon view, all the folders that I will open then will open in Icon view…

  5. Xavier says:

    You should have a section called Scripting for this kind of entry since this tip is quite useless while working with the Finder and enabling/expanding View Option is only one click away.

  6. James says:

    Set the style, Command+J, “Always open with view”

    Should be the same effect.

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