Friday Q&A: Taming OS X Folders

Q. I’ve just bought a Mac and so far, so good, but I’ve run into a problem with Finder. I want all folders on my Mac to use the same view settings. I change the view settings of the open folder, then choose Show View Options and click the Use as Defaults button. Now when I open a different folder in Finder two things can happen:
1. If I have never visited/opened the folder before, it has the correct default settings.
2. If I have visited/opened the folder before, it keeps its former settings, effectively bypassing the new default I set.
How do I set all folders on my Mac to use the same view settings in Finder? In Windows Explorer, I only need four mouse clicks to achieve this.
Karel Jindra, Czech Republic

A. With a Mac, you can do it in three. But first, let’s consider why OS X behaves in this way. When you open a folder, Finder looks in /Desktop/.DS_Store for the view settings. If there isn’t an entry there for that folder Finder will use the default settings. If you find a layout that you like, you can make it into the new default by clicking the cog icon on the Finder toolbar (or right-clicking the icon for the folder itself) and selecting Show View Options. The Use as Defaults button only appears if the current folder settings have been changed from the defaults and clicking the button makes these settings into the new defaults. But, as you’ve discovered, this doesn’t override the settings for any folder that you’ve already changed. In my view, this is the correct behaviour. If you’ve changed a folder’s view settings manually, this is presumably because you want that folder to display in a different way. If the default view settings overrode all the custom settings then it would be difficult to have some folders with their own unique settings because every time you changed the default view, all the customised folders would get their view reset as well.

So the default settings only apply to default folders. How, then, do you revert a customised folder to the defaults so that it will once again inherit the default view and all subsequent changes to that default? Simple: select Show View Options as before and hold down the å key. The Use as Defaults button now changes to Restore to Defaults.

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This question originally appeared in issue 233 of MacFormat, the UK’s best selling Apple magazine.
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