Change Mavericks Finder app sort order

Update: Posted additional steps at bottom of post for those having problems with the original steps not taking hold. Apple has finally released the latest update to their OS X operating system - Mavericks. I’ve never been impressed that by default sorts folders and files with the same priority. My brain has been hardwired from years of working in Windows that folders should come first. OS X, including Mavericks, treats folders and files the same. So when you sort a folder by ‘type’, Folders show up just after Files and before Internet Locations (those are OS X’s default file type listings). Here is a recap of how to change in Mavericks to sort file and folders like Windows Explorer.

Required Tools

To make the changes described below, you’ll need a text editor beyond the default TextEdit application provided by Apple. Some common, and easy to obtain, applications include:

  • BBEdit - My default editor ($)
  • Plist Editor - Part of Apple’s Xcode tool set
  • Text Wrangler - BBEdit’s little brother, still very good
  • And a recent back up1

Update Steps

The steps to update OS X Mavericks install are pretty easy to follow.

  • Open Finder and navigate to /System/Library/Coreservices folder and locate the Finder application.
  • Once the folder is open, right click on the file and click on ‘Show Package Contents’. The package contents of the will open like it was a folder and show additional folders and files that make up the application.
  • Once the package contents are opened, navigate to “Contents/Resources/English.lproj” folder.2
  • Locate the file “InfoPlist.strings” file. This is the file that contains the structure on how sorts records.
  • Verify that you have write access to the “InfoPlist.strings” first. Right click the file and select “Get Info”. This will show if you have access to change the file. Change your access to “Read/Write” and save the changes. The easiest way to do this is change the ‘Everybody’ group to ‘Read/Write’ access. If you’re using BBEdit, it will manage the read access to the file as you open it.
  • Open the “InfoPlist.strings” file in one of the editors listed above. If you happen to use one that is not setup for editing a Plist string file, you’ll most likely end up with an error message when attempting to open it.
  • Locate the “Folder” entry in the “InfoPlist.strings” file and simple add a space to the following line (note the space has been added): Folder.
  • Save the changes to the “InfoPlist.strings” file.
  • Do another ‘Get Info’ on the “InfoPlist.strings” to remove your ‘Read/Write’ authority and save the file again.
  • Open a Terminal and run the following command - sudo killall Finder.

Now open the Finder app and look at how your folders and files are sorted by clicking on ‘Kind’. All of your folders will now be listed first, in alphabetical order, followed by the kind of file in alphabetical order.

Update: I’ve had some feedback that after following the steps above, the sort order was not changed. If the sort order doesn’t work for you, please try the following:

  • Make sure you have a good back-up of your system before beginning.
  • Verify you have admin rights on your Mac. If you don’t, you’ll need to work with the person that does.
  • Before beginning, make sure your language settings are US English. I’m working on another update to the post for non-US users.
  • Go to folder /System/Library/CoreServices and located the file.
  • Right click on file and open the file with “Show Package Contents”
  • One the package is opened, go to /Contents/Resources folder and find the English.lproj folder.
  • Select the English.lproj folder and hit Cmd-I (or right click the folder for ‘Get Info’) to bring up the permissions on the folder.
  • Unlock the permissions and add your user account to the list with Read & Write priveleges.
  • Now open the English.lproj folder and locate the InfoPlist.strings file and do the same thing to its permissions.
  • Make the change to the Folder string as described above and save the file.
  • Set the R/W access on the InfoPlist.strings file as they were originally found by removing your user accounts access to the file.
  • Set the R/W access to the English.lproj folder as they were originally found as well.
  • Close all applications.
  • Run the sudo killall Finder command.
  • Open Finder and verify that the new sort order is working.

If you’ve been having problems, please leave a comment and let me know if the updated steps worked for you.

Update 2013-11-25: I've posted a caveat to these steps here: Caveat to Sort Order. This should address the small percentage of users still having issues getting the sort order to work.

Update: 2014-01-17: I added a new post on Fixing InfoPlist.strings in the event your file is found to be corrupted. Add a comment if you run into any problems.

  1. Why? One, you should always have a good back-up of your computer, so here’s as good of an excuse as any to get your back-ups up to date. Two, the changes are to core system files. There’s always a remote chance that something could go wrong and you don’t want to have the prettiest door stop in neighborhood. 

  2. Note this assumes English is set as your primary language in the System Preferences -> Language & Region.