Add the trash can to the Finder’s Sidebar in OS X Leopard

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Editor's note: This how-to is about OS X 10.5 Leopard, an old verion of the Mac operating system. It is not relevant to the current version of macOS.

While OS X makes it really easy to put a file in the trash—you can drag to the Dock’s trash can, use the Delete button in the Finder’s toolbar, or press Command-Delete, for instance—some people are always looking for more options. So here’s one more to add to your bag of file-trashing tricks: put your user’s trash can in the Finder’s Sidebar.

At the most basic level, this is very simple to do. In the Finder, first set a window to column view mode (Command-3), then press Shift-Command-G (the shortcut for Go -> Go to Folder). In the drop-down sheet that appears, enter ~/.Trash and press Return. This will open a window showing the contents of your user’s trash can. If your machine has only one hard drive or partition on its hard drive, this folder reflects the contents of the actual trash can.

If you’ve got multiple drives or partitions, then the folder shows only those files you’ve placed in the trash from the drive that contains your user’s folder. While the following simple solution works best for single one-partition drives, read on for an alternative that works regardless of how many drives and/or partitions you may have.

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In the Finder window, you should see the contents of the .Trash folder in one column, and the actual .Trash folder in the column immediately to the left, along with your usual user’s folders (Documents, Movies, etc.). You’ll notice that the .Trash folder is grayed out; that’s because it’s normally invisible.

You might think you can add the folder to your Sidebar by dragging, but you can’t—the Finder won’t let you drag the .Trash folder. It will, however, react to the File -> Add to Sidebar menu item (or its Command-T keyboard equivalent), so choose that menu item or press Command-T. Presto; if all you want is your trash can in the Sidebar, you’re done. But if you look at the icon, you’ll see that it’s a standard folder; that’s boring, and potentially more than a little dangerous. Here’s how to put the actual trash can icon on your Sidebar trash.

Open a new Finder window, leaving your .Trash window open as well. Then click on the Trash icon in the Dock to open the actual trash can folder. Make sure the Finder’s Path Bar is visible (View -> Show Path Bar). The Path Bar will appear at the bottom of the Finder window, showing the current folder and its icon—which just happens to be the Trash folder and the trash can icon. Control-click on Trash in the Path Bar and select Get Info from the pop-up menu.

Get the trash's icon from the trash

In the .Trash Finder window, select the .Trash folder and press Command-I (or select File -> Get Info). You should now have two Get Info windows open, something like what’s seen in the image at right. Click on the small trash can icon next to the word Trash in the Dock Trash Can’s Get Info window, then press Command-C to copy the icon. Select the small icon in the Sidebar trash can’s Get Info window, and press Command-V to paste the icon.

(Alternatively, you can just grab a trash can icon from one of the collections on The Icon Factory or InterfaceLIFT, and paste it into the Get Info window.)

If everything worked right, your Sidebar trash now has a nice trash can icon. If you’re still seeing the folder icon, try removing the Sidebar trash folder (just drag it off so it goes “poof” like any other Sidebar item), and then adding it back again. I had to do this on one Mac, but not another.

Now when you want to put anything in the trash, you can just drag it to your Sidebar’s trash can. But if you’ve got multiple drives or partitions, you’ll quickly see this doesn’t work right—the OS will actually copy your file into the trash, not move the original. To solve that problem, you can use this hint from TUAW. The super-simple AppleScript shown there emulates a trash can. Save the AppleScript as an application, and drag it into your sidebar. To put something in the trash, just drag-and-drop it onto that item in the Sidebar, and it will be moved to the trash—regardless of that item’s starting disk or partition.

You can use the same icon trick as above, too, to make your script look like the actual trash can. Note that running an AppleScript will be a bit slower than using the actual trash folder, but the advantage is that it works across drives and partitions.

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