What are Smart Folders on Mac and How to Use them

Automatically curate all the files you need in one place!

by: - Last updated on: September 16th, 2020

Let’s face it. One of the most strenuous tasks of all time using a computer is to organize all the different files on a machine to make it easier to locate them when required. And, in the process, prevent disarray and preserve sanity. If you are someone who likes to automate their daily, mundane tasks, to save some time and be more efficient, you would already have some sort of workflow in place — either using the native solutions or third-party services. However, if you are an average user struggling to manage files on your Mac, the best place to get started is Smart Folders.

Smart Folders Mac

Smart Folder is a built-in feature on Mac, and probably one of the most undervalued features in the operating system. It can come in handy to help you better organize your files to make the dependent tasks/operations easier. However, if you are completely oblivious to Smart Folders and have never used them, here’s a detailed guide on what Smart Folders are and how to use them on your Mac.

What are Smart Folders?

Smart Folders, irrespective of the name, are unlike regular folders on Mac or any other operating system. These folders are more like saved searches based on select criteria that help you curate similar kinds of files in one place. When creating a smart folder, you get to choose the properties that the folder must conform to while curating files. Besides, depending on what it is that you want to accomplish, you can select a criterion/property from a pool of different pre-defined criteria and have a smart folder with all the related files for the same.

Why should you use Smart Folders?

As already established in the previous paragraph, Smart Folders allow you to curate all the different files on your Mac in one place and organize them in a systematic manner that is easily accessible. By using this feature, you can have better control over the files you have on your machine, which can, in turn, help you get your work done in a fast and efficient manner. Thus, helping you stay organized, while also improving your productivity.

To give you an idea of how Smart Folders can prove to be helpful in regular, day-to-day tasks, consider a situation where you capture a lot of screenshots in a day. These screenshots are usually captured in the PNG format, but for your use-case scenario, you require them in JPEG. And therefore, you need to convert them from PNG to JPEG, for which you need to locate all the screenshots before starting with the conversion process. In such a situation, if you use a Smart Folder and set a criterion that curates all the files ending in the .png format, you can have all your screenshots collated in one place. Thus, saving the hassle of sifting through different folders and getting work done efficiently.

Smart Folder for curating screenshots

Similarly, you can also create Smart Folders to do things like filter out all the .dmg installers you have on your machine, view all the recently closed documents, get files ending in certain file extensions, or have all the files with specified tags in one place — the use-cases are limitless.

Note: a thing to keep in mind when using Smart Folders is that these folders curate the original files on your machine and do not create a copy of a file. So, in case you make any changes to a file on your Mac, that is also present in a Smart Folder, the changes reflect instantaneously.

How to create a Smart Folder?

Now that you know what Smart Folders are and how you can use them to your benefit, here is how to create a Smart Folder to get the most out of the feature.

1. Open Finder and go to File > New Smart Folder.

Create a Smart Folder

2. Click on This Mac next to Search to locate results for your search query on through the entire machine. [To create a Smart Folder in your preferred location, go to that location and select File > Smart Folder there.]

3. Tap on the search box on the right and enter your search term. From the suggestions that pop up, choose either Name matches or any other criteria you find fitting to filter your search.

Create a Smart Folder

4. If you need to breakdown your search further, tap on the plus (+) sign below the search box to select different criteria. When you do so, you get a few more properties to improve your search. [For eg: if you are looking for .png images, you can set the first criteria as Kind, the second one as Image, and the last one as PNG, to narrow your search down to fewer and relevant results]. Furthermore,  to create a nested rule set, add your first criteria and press and hold the option key and click on the plus (+) button.

Create a Smart Folder

5. Once you have the relevant results against your query, click Save and specify the name and location for the Smart Folder. Here, you can also select Add To Sidebar to place your Smart Folder on the sidebar for quick and easy access.

Create a Smart Folder

While the criteria listed in the menu right upfront should suffice to the needs of most users, for those, who are looking for more granular control over file curation, there is a way to further refine the results. To do this, click on the plus (+) icon below the search box and select Others from the dropdown menu.

You can do this in both situations: either when you create a new Smart Folder or when you want to edit and make changes to an existing Smart Folder (steps using the steps listed above). As soon as Others is selected, you will see a new window with a list of different attributes. Find the one that meets your requirement and add it to your curation criteria by simply selecting it and clicking OK. Moreover, to add to the convenience, you can also check the checkbox next to the attribute you expect to use often, to add it to the menu in the dropdown list. After this, the rest of the steps are pretty much the same.

How to edit/delete a Smart Folder?

Once you have created a Smart Folder using certain criteria, and after a while, you need to alter the curation criteria, you can edit an existing Smart Folder using the following steps.

1. Go to the location where you have saved your Smart Folder.

2. Right-click on it and choose Show Search Criteria.

Edit a Smart Folder

3. Once done, hit the Save button.

Similarly, if you wish to delete a Smart Folder, you need to first go to the location where you saved it initially, and from there, right-click on the folder and select Move to Bin.

Delete a Smart Folder

That’s it for this guide!

To reiterate, if you are new to Mac or are struggling to find ways to better manage files on your machine, you must use the Smart Folder feature to stay organized and establish quick and easy access to all your important files.

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