Finder labels too subtle? Create garish folder icons instead

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Reader Ingrid Sorenson finds some elements of OS X a little too subtle. She writes:

In the past I used to assign labels to folders so that I could more easily find them in long list views and on the desktop. Now that OS X uses colored dots instead of coloring entire folders I have a lot of trouble finding labeled items. Is there anything you can think of that will help my folders stand out?

Yes. I’d suggest changing the icon on the folders that you want to easily identify. Like so.

Wander on over to somewhere like IconArchive and browse through its collection of icons. Download the ones you’d like to use on your Mac.

To change a folder icon, just double-click on one of these downloaded icons to open it in Preview. Press Command-C to copy it. Locate the folder whose icon you’d like to change, select it, and press Command-I to bring up its info window.

In that window click on the small icon in the top left corner and then press Command-V to paste in the new icon’s image. It will replace the old image and, hopefully, make it easier to identify.

change icon

Just copy and paste a custom icon from Preview to an item's Info window.

So far, so good. But what about Finder sidebars? You can drag these folders into the sidebar but once there, they’ll appear as plain gray icons rather than reflecting the new image you so painstakingly applied. In order to have them display their new look you’ll have to do a little fiddling.

If you’re running OS X Mavericks or earlier, that fiddling will come in the form of Simon Barnett’s SideEffects. In addition to turning Mavericks’ gray sidebar icons into something far more colorful, it will allow your custom icons to show their true colors. After installing it you may need to log out and then back into your account to see the change.

SideEffects hasn’t been updated for Yosemite so those running Apple’s latest version of OS X will have to turn to Tran Ky Nam’s XtraFinder. It boasts a load of cool customization features. If all you’re interested in is restoring the behavior of Finder labels under Mountain Lion, you can do that my enabling the Legacy label color painting option that appears within its Appearance preference. If you want to take the next step and also colorize sidebar icons, you can by enabling the Show colorful icons in the sidebar option that appears just below. Again, you may need to log out and then back in to see the changes.

xtrafinder snap

Among XtraFinder's many talents is the ability to change sidebar icons.

I’ve run XtraFinder without issue for a little while but I should point out that the developer places the warning “Sidebar-related options may cause crash” in plain sight. If you have problems as a result of switching on this option, you may wish to turn it off or uninstall XtraFinder (the option for which you’ll find by selecting its icon in the menu bar and choosing Tools > Uninstall XtraFinder.

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