Get OS X Finder to sort files like Windows Explorer

Note: This post is out of date and does not include all of the original content. Please refer to the most recent version here: Sorting OS X in Yosemite.

One of the first things I hear when working with a recent Windows to Mac convert is how Finder sorts files.  In OS X, Finder treats a file and a folder as the same kind of object, so it sorts files and folders in alphabetical order together.  So in Finder you’ll see Adobe Acrobat files before any folder, regardless of what the folder is labeled.  Those from the Windows world normally see folders listed in alphabetical order and then files in alphabetical order.  To get Finder to sort folders and files like this, do the following steps.

  1. Locate package for the Finder application to edit the file that applies labels to objects shown in the Finder application. Even though you click a given icon to run an application (like Finder), an OS X application is actually a bunch of files in a special folder called a package.  The Finder app package is located at: /root –> System –> Library –> CoreServices –> Finder.
  2. Right click the Finder app and click ‘Show Package Content’.  This will open the actual files of the package that makes up the Finder app.
  3. Once the Finder app package is opened, you will need to find the file that actually applies the labels for objects listed in Finder.   Go to:  Contents -> Resources -> English.lproj. This applies to English OS X users, use your system’s native language if not English.
  4. After you locate the English.lproj file, locate the InfoPlist.strings file.  This is the file that applies label that shows up in Finder to objects listed in the Finder application – folders and file types.  You will need to set the file to be read/write to edit the file.  Right click the InfoPlist.strings file and click 'Get Info’.  Change the privilege setting for ‘Everyone’ to 'Read & Write’ and close the Info pop-up.
  5. After changing the read/write access rights, right click the InfoPlist.strings file again to edit the file.  You will need to choose a program to edit the file and an easy choice is the default TextEdit program.  When you open the file, look for the line listing ‘Folder’, just near the top.
  6. On the ‘Folder’ line, you want to add a space to the “Folder” = “Folder” listing.  The line should now read “Folder” = “ Folder”.  Notice the space before ‘Folder’ in the word after the equals sign.
  7. After making the changes to the InfoPlist.strings, save the changes and close the file.  Make sure to change the security settings back so that Everyone privileges to the file is read only.
  8. Either log out/log in of your current session or restart the by entering ‘sudo killall Finder’ from a Terminal command line.  Once you do, your files will be sorted by folders then files like this.  It’s hard to see, but if you look at the label for ‘Folders’, you will see there is an additional space now.

Now Finder will sort folders first in alphabetical order then by file type in alphabetical order.  Other 3rd party programs (like Pathfinder) can do the same thing, but this now gives you the control you want inside OS X’s core Finder application.

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