The Finder's Arrange By menu has been around for a while, but a lot of users don't know it's there. In OS X Lion, it's become a really handy tool for organizing, managing, and navigating through your files and folders. Here's how it works and some tips for making the most of it.

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Show transcript

Hi, I’m Dan Miller, Editor at Macworld, and I wanted to talk to you today about the Arrange By menu in the Finder. It’s one of my favorite tools for managing and organizing files and folders in the Finder.

You go up to View -> Arrange By and you’ll see you have all these different options—Name, Kind, Date Last Opened, and so on. If you select Name, all it’s going to do is arrange files in alphabetical order by name. But if you go back up to the Arrange By menu and select Kind, it’s going to break everything out into these groups—Folders, Spreadsheets, etc. If you select Date Last Opened, it’s going to break everything into groups based on when you last opened that file or folder. So it’s a nice way to get control of the way the Finder presents your files.

If you hold down the Option key, notice what happens: Arrange By changes into Sort By. What that does is define how files and folders are sorted within each group. So you can sort all your folders by name or by the date they were last opened. So you can get even more granular control over the way files and folders are displayed.

There are roughly a jillion ways to access the Arrange By menu. You can go up to the View menu. There’s an Arrange By drop-down menu up here in the toolbar. In the Action menu on the toolbar, you can select Arrange By there. You can Control-click or right-click in the Finder window and select Arrange By from the contextual menu. Or you can hit Command-J and get the View Options palette and select Arrange By there.

I actually don’t like using any of those; I prefer to use the keyboard. So if you go back up to the View menu, you’ll see that there are keyboard shortcuts for all of these arrangements. I tend to use three of them: Name, Kind, and Date Last Opened, and I use keyboard shortcuts for all of them. I use Command-Control-1 to arrange by name; Command-Control-2 to arrange by kind; and Command-Control-3 to arrange by date last opened.

One thing about arranging by kind is that it puts all your folders up here at the top of the Finder window. That makes it really easy to move up and down a directory tree using nothing but the arrow keys. So I tend to use Arrange by Kind an awful lot. So I hope you’ll give the Arrange By menu a try, it’s really useful.

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