Three ways to fix OS X Lion's Finder sidebar

Three ways to fix OS X Lion's Finder sidebar

Summary: Tired of boring gray icons, stuck sidebar items and the Devices section being relegated to the bottom of the list? Regain control of Lion's Finder sidebar with these three tips.

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Ever since OS X Lion came out (July 20, 2011) theres a couple of things that drive me nuts about its new Finder sidebar.

1. For starters, Apple changed from color icons to the lifeless gray ones pictured at right. If the gray is too drab for your taste, there's an easy way to turn them back to color.

  • Download and install SIMBL, which you can get here
  • Download the ColorfulSidebar SIMBL plugin
  • Move the ColorfulSidebar.bundle into the following SIMBL plugin folder:
  • ~/Library/Application Support/SIMBL/Plugins/
  • Either login and logout of Mac OS X, or just kill the Finder through the Terminal to relaunch it:
  • killall Finder

2. I really dislike the way Lion relegates the Devices area (where icons for hard drives, mounted servers, etc. appear) to the bottom of the Finder sidebar. In Snow Leopard (a.k.a. 10.6) Devices were at the top of the Finder sidebar and I'm just used to finding them there. What makes matters worse is that I store a lot of favorite folders in my Finder sidebar pushing the Devices area even further down the list, often requiring a scroll down to see my external drives.

MacNexus' Matt Christian sent me this tip on how to edit Lion's sidebarlists.plist file (via Ed Palma on the Customizing the Finder sidebar in Lion thread on Apple's discussion forums.) This example explains how to move Computer to the top of the list.

Convert the following plist to XML using terminal:

plutil -convert xml1 ~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.sidebarlists.plist

Edit the plist:

open ~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.sidebarlists.plist

Find in the hierarchy Favorites >> VolumeList and then look for:

<key>Name</key>

<string>Computer</string>

Look immediately below that for the visibility key and change the string from NeverVisible to AlwaysVisible:

<key>Visibility</key>

<string>AlwaysVisible</string>

Close and save

Convert the plist back to binary:

plutil -convert binary1 ~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.sidebarlists.plist

Relaunch the Finder:

killall Finder

Hold Command and drag the items in the Sidebar to get your computer on top, where it should be.

3. I've created several Finder sidebar shortcuts for some of my favorite folders, etc. only to have them become unresponsive when the target folder gets moved or deleted. If you suffer from phantom aliases which seemingly can't be removed from Lion's Finder sidebar, Hybridair at MacRumors Forums offers this fix which works like a charm:

  1. Click on the folder and drag it away from the sidebar
  2. Before you let go of the mouse button, hold down the Command (?) key
  3. Now that you’re holding down the Command (?) key, release the mouse button
  4. The icon should will finally disappear from your sidebar in a puff of smoke

Have you discovered any Lion Finder tips? Share them in the TalkBack.

Topics: Apple, Hardware, Operating Systems, Servers, Software

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34 comments
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  • RE: Three ways to fix OS X Lion's Finder sidebar

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the whole objective of Mac OS X is to avoid having to hack it to make it "Just Work?"

    Well then. First time I see my post gets flagged. And go figure, in an Apple thread.

    People in these sort of threads really do can't take criticism of their platform of choice. This would be even sadder if not for the fact that I am doing this on a Pro 13" running Lion.

    Yeah, after this some guy is going to come and say "naahhh, you are not!"
    madfry
    • RE: Three ways to fix OS X Lion's Finder sidebar

      @madfry Don't confuse this, the current Lion implementation isn't "broken", it is "different from Snow Leopard". Jason doesn't like the new less showy grey look (He likes the older colour icons) so the first part tells you how to go back to that. Apple have changed the order, so devices are at the bottom. Again Jason is so used to having this at the top that he wants to go back to that, there is the second part of the article.

      Now if you're just going to read the title and make a snarky comment then you're going to do what you just did. But really? Is reading the article too much trouble? Really?
      Jeremy-UK
      • RE: Three ways to fix OS X Lion's Finder sidebar

        @Jeremy-UK

        I guess you "corrected him". Well done. BTW, I found Jason's article quite informative. Although I have no need for his Finder modifications, they are nice to have available for us.
        kenosha77a
      • RE: Three ways to fix OS X Lion's Finder sidebar

        @Jeremy-UK <br><br>Madfry may have been referring to the use of terminal to fix something that you say wasn't broken... but Jason felt needed fixing.<br><br>I must admit that as I read through the article I started to wonder if the article was infact about a linux distro and there was a mix-up in the title.<br><br>I wager that if you replaced 'OS X Lion' with 'Linux' in the above article there'd be untold number of posters bleating on about how you have to use terminal and be a programmer to make anything work in Linux<br><br>:-D
        iTeaBoy
      • RE: Three ways to fix OS X Lion's Finder sidebar

        @Jeremy-UK

        What a rather idiotic way to defend your OS of choice. By saying its different from snow leopard basically says, "Yeah, they broke it all right."

        And you miss my whole sarcastic point. A well though UI shouldn't have to resort to a terminal hack to make it work. People criticize registry hacking with Windows but Mac OS gets a pass. No way.

        Stop being an Apple shill that couldn't take criticism.
        madfry
      • RE: Three ways to fix OS X Lion's Finder sidebar

        @madfry I think you're definition of "broken" is rather broader than mine. I'd say broken is "doesn't conform to the specifications" OR "the specification is unreasonable". Neither seems to apply here.

        Apple's thinking about the colour (or lack of) is that too much colour in the UI is distracting. Jason's view is the use of colour makes things easier to find. Both are true. If you think about it one is the flip side of the other.

        The sort ordering; that's a change of emphasis on Apple's part, drives are an implementation detail and as such are being de-emphasises. Jason is used to the old way, and finds the new ordering somewhat jarring.

        However I do not see change as "broken". If this were true then Windows should look like Windows 1.0, and we'd still use the MS-DOS Executive. Changed is not broken (well not always).

        I totally reject the assertion that Mac OS X "get's a pass".

        I use Mac OS X, Windows and Linux on a regular basis, you'll find I'm pretty even handed. You brought up Windows, not me. Each OS has its strengths, and weaknesses. I think it's your bias that's showing.
        Jeremy-UK
      • RE: Three ways to fix OS X Lion's Finder sidebar

        @iTeaBoy Well "broken" is the wrong word here. Jason was "customising" the OS to his taste - he wasn't "fixing" anything.

        However, I think the article is quite good as others will doubtless want to roll back some of the changes too - and this gives them the ability to do so.

        But no, the Finder sidebar isn't "broken" it's just "changed".
        Jeremy-UK
    • RE: Three ways to fix OS X Lion's Finder sidebar

      @madfry

      Gee, and I thought the problem with OS X is that it can't be configured to individual taste.
      msalzberg
      • Can you provide reference to someone saying this?

        @msalzberg: [i]Gee, and I thought the problem with OS X is that it can't be configured to individual taste.[/i]

        I can't recall having read something to this effect.
        ye
      • RE: Three ways to fix OS X Lion's Finder sidebar

        @ye

        Really? You've never read anyone posting about Apple's "my way or the highway" overbearing attitude towards users? Really?

        http://www.macobserver.com/tmo/article/discontent_with_lions_my_way_or_the_highway_approach/

        Even better, here's a link to a reply to you: http://www.zdnet.com/blog/hardware/can-apple-survive-without-jobs/10976

        http://www.zdnet.com/blog/hardware/microsoft-sued-in-italy-over-windows-tax/11086
        msalzberg
      • Seems like ...

        @msalzberg ... this is yet another "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situations.

        Windows lovers say OSX is too limiting and that you can't change it to suit your taste. But when someone points out that you can, they ask "What? You mean it doesn't 'just work'?!"

        Granted ... these should be preferences, and the colored icons could potentially be part of Apple's underutilized OSX Appearance "themes" ("Blue" or "Graphite"), for example ... or a Finder preference.
        jscott69
      • Still not seeing it.

        @msalzberg:

        The first link doesn't state OS X can't be configured to individual tastes.

        The second link takes me to an article and not a specific reply. Can you point to which of the 67 posts you're referring to?

        The third link, like the second, takes me to an article and not a specific reply. Can you clarify what part of the article / responses demonstrate your point?
        ye
      • RE: Three ways to fix OS X Lion's Finder sidebar

        @ye

        Open the link. Click on Edit | Find. Use search term "my way or the highway."
        msalzberg
      • Again, I'm not seeing it.

        @msalzberg: <i>Open the link. Click on Edit | Find. Use search term "my way or the highway."</i><br><br>I found the post but it's nothing more to a reference to the afore mentioned article. Which doesn't provide support for your claim:<br><br>"Gee, and I thought the problem with OS X is that it can't be configured to individual taste."<br><br>You're going to have to do better than a single article which doesn't even support your claim.
        ye
      • RE: Three ways to fix OS X Lion's Finder sidebar

        @ye

        If you've never read any comments here stating that the beauty of Linux, or Android, or Windows vis a vis OS X is that they are so configurable, and OS X isn't, then you haven't been reading very much of what's said here.

        Anyway, I'm done arguing semantics with you; I know you'll keep going.
        msalzberg
      • I've read statements to the effect they're both more configurable.

        @msalzberg: [i]If you've never read any comments here stating that the beauty of Linux, or Android, or Windows vis a vis OS X is that they are so configurable, and OS X isn't, then you haven't been reading very much of what's said here.[/i]

        But I've never read any comments to the effect that OS X "...can't be configured to individual taste." (your exact words, not mine). There's a big difference.

        [i]Anyway, I'm done arguing semantics with you; I know you'll keep going.[/i]

        In this case the semantics are important. You made a claim which you cannot support. Just admit you made a mistake.
        ye
    • To be specific...

      'Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the whole objective of Mac OS X is to avoid having to hack it to make it "Just Work?"'

      Bear in mind, there are a lot of things I don't like about Mac and Apple products. IMO they've been going downhill for several generations of OS.

      But... on a point of technicality: the objective of Mac OSX is to make _certain routine tasks "just work"_ Customization has never been part of that; it's always been difficult, even when OSX was much better and day-to-day usage did "just work" better than on Windows (note the tense).

      This difficulty in customization has always peeved me, but I've never seen it as falling under the "it just works" objective.
      public@...
  • RE: Three ways to fix OS X Lion's Finder sidebar

    It works. It is so that you can add bells and whistles to the default desktop. Please read the article
    Jen8
  • RE: Three ways to fix OS X Lion's Finder sidebar

    For moving computer to the top of the list I have a much easier way than all of that mumbo jumbo. Just drag the icon in the window to the top and voila its done!

    Edit: You can also rearrange your icons this way!
    AlexisDayton
    • RE: Three ways to fix OS X Lion's Finder sidebar

      @AlexisDayton Just tried that. I can move computer to the top of the devices list, but not move devices to the top of the sidebar, which Jason stated was where he preferred it.
      DJL64