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Where are my Documents?

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Documents saved directly on the hard drive can become scattered or lost.  If you’re not sure of the file name they can be difficult to search for.  While I like to create specific folders for projects, events, people, etc., your Mac provides the basics for organizing your computer.

For each user ‘account’, the Mac creates a series of folders in which to store your files.  Let’s look at those.

Try this:

  • Switch to Finder.  
  • Choose Column View
  • In the Sidebar, click on your Home folder icon. (looks like a house)
  • In the column to the right, you’ll see a list of folders:
  • If you have saved a file to ‘Documents’, for example, this is where you will find it.
  • Click on ‘Documents’ to see the contents in the next column.
  • The same is true for something you saved to ‘Movies’ or ‘Pictures’, even ‘Desktop’.

Each user account has its own ‘Home’ folder containing Documents, Pictures, Music, etc. for that user.  This means your documents, photos and iTunes library is not intermixed with other user accounts. Other users can’t access your files, either. Not even your Desktop. If you want to share something, move it (or copy it) to the ‘Public’ folder where any user can open it.

You’ll notice that Applications are not in your User Home folder because the apps are generally shared by all users. Applications are saved on the Hard Drive in a folder called: Applications.

It’s a simple system and I recommend you save documents to ‘Documents’, pictures to ‘Pictures’, etc.

By default your iPhoto library is in the ‘Pictures’ folder and your iTunes library is in the ‘Music’ folder.  These are best accessed through the application, rather than Finder.


If you saved something directly to the hard drive, you would click on ‘Macintosh HD’ (the default name) in the Sidebar to find it.  But you can search by using Spotlight.

Spotlight is an app that is part of the Mac OS.  It could become your best friend.
It looks like a magnifying glass in the upper right corner of your screen.
Click once to open, then begin to type.  You will be shown a list of results.  Clicking will open files or show folders in Finder.  You can even find and open applications this way.

Review User Home Folders:

  • Switch to Finder (click Finder in the Dock)
  • Once you’re in Finder, if you don’t see a finder window click File>New Finder Window to open a new window.
  • Choose Column View. 
  • In the sidebar (the leftmost column), click your ‘Home’ folder.
  • In the column to the right you will see ‘Documents’, click it once.
  • Now click ‘Pictures’.
  • Then click ‘Desktop’.  You’ll see an alphabetized list of everything on your desktop.

Near your Home folder in the sidebar, you may notice some colorful icons labeled Documents, Pictures, perhaps Music.  Like the icons in the Dock, these are shortcuts.  They link to the folders we just talked about.  You create new icons in the Sidebar by dragging a folder, such as ‘Music’ from your Home folder to the Sidebar.  You delete a shortcut by dragging it out of the Sidebar, disappearing in a puff of smoke.

Hint: Any file or folder can be dragged to the Sidebar for quick and easy access.  And removed when no longer needed.

Dock Shortcut Folders
In newer Macs the doc contains, by default, a folder labeled Documents.  

Look to the left of your trash icon in the dock.  You may see three folders labeled Applications, Documents and Downloads.

Click once on the Documents folder and a window (or a list) appears that displays your documents. You can double click to open most documents.

These folders are shortcuts and may be dragged out of the Dock like any icon.  To replace one, drag it from it’s location in Finder to the Dock.

Find An Open Document in Finder

Once a document or photo is open, there is an easy way to find where it is saved.

Hold the Command key (next to the space bar) and click on the name of the file at the top of its window.
This file is titled San Fernando Valley.jpg.

A Finder window will open showing you where your file is saved.




Watch the video version of this lesson at:


Written by R

January 25th, 2010 at 6:30 pm

5 Responses to 'Where are my Documents?'

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