A lot of us, at some point in time, find ourselves in a situation where we struggle to manage the different files on our machine and have them organized in a manner that is easy to find and simplifies our workflow. However, for those who use a Mac, Apple has a built-in functionality called Smart Folders, which simplifies the equation to a certain degree and makes life easier.

essential smart folders for mac

A Smart Folder is unlike any regular folder on Mac. It allows you to save searches (based on specific criteria) in a folder to have all the files that meet the criteria organized in one place. Thus, making it convenient to locate them. However, unlike some of the other features, Smart Folders is not something that a lot of users are aware of or use. And, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that, probably, it is one of the undervalued features on Mac — just like Automator. But given its scope of use, there are various ways in which you can use Smart Folders to make the most out of the feature and improve your workflow. In this guide, we highlight 6 such instances where you can use the feature to get the most out of your Mac.

To begin with, first, to create a Smart Folder, open Finder, and go to File > New Smart Folder. Here, click the plus (+) button, located below the search box, to add a criterion. You can add multiple criteria at a time to filter out the results. Furthermore, you can also nest different criteria.

The steps listed above are common to all the Smart Folders that we list below. And therefore, you can refer to them before following the steps involved in creating the listed Smart Folders. [To learn more about what Smart Folders are and how to use them, check out our detailed guide on Smart Folders.]

Essential Smart Folders Mac

1. View downloaded DMGs (Disk Images)

DMGs or Disk Images are Windows’ executable (.exe) equivalent for macOS, used to distribute software packages on Mac. These are, essentially, packages that appear as virtual disk drives and allow you to directly install a program/software on your machine. If you have a Mac with base storage configuration, one of the ways to ensure the disk is not getting unnecessarily crowded, is to delete the DMGs that you no longer expect to require in the future. The best way to go about this is by using a Smart Folder — one that can organize all the DMGs in one place to make it easier to delete them in one go.

smart folder to view downloaded dmgs


i. Click on the plus (+) button and select File extension from the dropdown menu below it. If the attribute is not visible in the main menu, click Other and search for ‘File extension’ in the search box.

ii. Once done, tap on the text field to add in the other criterion, and enter ‘dmg’.

iii. Give the folder a name and location, and save it. Now, when you wish to clear your storage, you can open the folder and delete all the DMGs from there.

2. Find duplicate files

Similar to the previous use-case where you can have unnecessary downloads crowding your disk space, a duplicate file is another such culprit that can hog the storage space on your Mac. Here’s how to deal with this using Smart Folders.

smart folder to find duplicate files


i. Tap the plus (+) button to add a criterion.

ii. Here, select Name in the first tab and ends with in the second. And, in the text field next to it, enter ‘copy’. [You can also append numbers to copy to find specific items. Or, can also add the type of file to get more filtered results. ]

iii. Save the folder.

3. View folders created during a specific time

A lot of the times, when you search your Mac for old files and folders from back in the day, it can be quite a task to locate them amongst the mammoth of document collection on your machine. However, if you use Smart Folders, the process can be simplified to a greater degree. Here’s how.

smart folder to view folders created during a specific time


i. Tap the plus (+) button and select Kind from the dropdown menu. In the second dropdown menu, next to it, select Folder.

ii. Next, click and hold option and tap on the plus (+) button below the first criterion.

iii. Here, select Any from the conditional dropdown.

iv. Now, below it, select Created date from the first dropdown menu. Next, click on the second dropdown menu, and depending on your idea of when you think the folder (you are looking for) was created, select an option. [Further, based on what you select, you can also get a third criterion to filter the results. Make an entry for the same.]

vi. Save the Smart Folder.

4. Find PDF or any other file

Be it searching for a PDF, or any other file/document, if you have a lot of documents on your Mac, the process can sometimes get pretty challenging. But thanks to Smart Folders, you can have a folder with results specific to your search in one place, to save the excruciating pain you would otherwise have to go through. Here’s how.

smart folder to view pdf or any other file


i. Tap on the plus (+) button below the search box to add a criterion.

ii. Select File extension from the dropdown menu, and in the text field next to it, enter ‘pdf’. [In case you want to look for some other file or document, such as Word, Excel, or the likes, you can replace ‘pdf’ with the extension for that file/document.]

iii. Save the search by giving the Smart Folder a name and setting its location.

5. Find images captured on iPhone or any other device

If you use more than one device to shoot pictures, which you then transfer on to your Mac for further use, and wish you could filter images by the device they are captured on, you will notice that there is no easy way to get such results. Unless, of course, you use Smart Folders, which makes the whole process fairly straightforward. Here’s how to do it.

smart folder to find images captured on iphone or any other device


i. First things first, click on the plus (+) button to add the first criterion.

ii. Next, tap on the first dropdown button and select Other.

iii. Here, in the search box, find an attribute that says Device make, and double-tap to add it to the search filter.

iv. Once done, tap on the second dropdown menu and choose matches. In the text field, next to the dropdown menu, enter the device manufacturer. For our case, let’s say ‘Apple’. [You can also enter any other device manufacturer’s name like Samsung, Sony, etc., to find the images captured on those devices.]

6. View recently created documents

At times when you have overcrowded folders on your Mac — to a point where it is hard to find a document — Smart Folders offers the ability to allow you to find documents by the time they were created. This can prove to be very useful, and can, in turn, help you filter out the results to find the document you have been looking for quickly. Here’s how.

smart folder to view recently created documents


i. Click the plus (+) button below the search box.

ii. Select Kind from the first dropdown menu and Document in the second.

iii. Press and hold the option key and hit the plus (+) button to add a new criterion.

iv. Select All in the conditional, and in the dropdown below it, choose File extension. In the text field next to it, enter the file extension for the document you are looking for. For instance, let’s say ‘pdf’.

v. Now, again, press and hold the option key and hit the plus (+) button to add another criterion below the current one.

vi. Here, with Any/All selected in the conditional menu, select Created date in the first dropdown menu with any time frame (since when you want to filter the result for your required document). Depending on what you choose, you might get a third (text) field, wherein you need to enter the correct parameter to find the appropriate results. Let’s say you choose within last in the second dropdown, and input 7 in the text field, followed by days in the last dropdown. So, as an outcome, you would get all the pdf files that were created within the last 7 days.

vii. Finally, save the folder.

Those are some of the essential Smart Folders, with pretty common use-case scenarios, that you must use on your Mac to find the files, documents, or even folders with ease. And in turn, save the time you otherwise spend sifting through the mammoth of document heap on your machine and improve your workflow.

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