Use Smart Folders for These Important Files

Screenshot:  Khamosh Pathak
Screenshot: Khamosh Pathak

Smart Folders are a hidden gems of macOS, and have been since the days of Mac OS X. You can think of them as dynamic, always-updating folders that have the ability to pin down a particular search term so you always have a shortcut to access it.

But a Smart Folder isn’t actually a folder. It doesn’t contain files, and no files are moved in its creation. A Smart Folder is actually a saved search masquerading as a folder; it makes those saved searches are easier to find. Plainly speaking, Apple’s Smart Folder feature might be the handiest way to keep track of important files that are usually spread all across your computer. Think: invoices, bills, legal documents, schoolwork, and work documents.

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You can use the Smart Folders feature in a lot of different ways (and you should customize it for your needs) but allow me to explain how valuable it is via an example. Let’s say I want a Smart Folder that will list all the PDFs of invoices I have generated for all my clients, which are otherwise stored in different folders for each. Here’s how I would go about setting it up.

Screenshot:  Khamosh Pathak
Screenshot: Khamosh Pathak

Open the Finder app, and go to the Search field. Click on it, and make sure the search is set to “This Mac” as opposed to the current folder. Enter the search query, then go a step further by adding more layers to this search. Click the Plus icon, which reveals two drop-downs. I want to only filter PDFs, so in the first drop-down, I’ll select “Kind.” From the second drop-down I’ll limit my search to “PDF.”

Spend some time exploring these two drop-downs, because this is where the genius of the Smart Folder feature lies: You can filter the search term using the time (e.g. only see files that were created in the last month), the contents, the type file type, and more. In the “Other” menu, you’ll find a treasure trove of advanced options. From here, you should at least enable the “Tags” filter if it isn’t already. Once you’re satisfied with your filter, click the “Save” button.

From the popup, give it a name, choose the folder, make sure it’s added to the sidebar, and hit the “Save” button. Now, at any time, you can go back to the sidebar to instantly open the latest search results based on your chosen parameters.

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