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What is a MacOS Smart Folder and how do you create one?

Smart Folders allow you to specify a set of criteria for items to be contained in the folder, to make keeping track of files even easier on a Mac or MacBook.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer

MacOS has a number of very handy features you might not know about. One such feature is called Smart Folders. You create these folders and configure exactly what you want to be housed in them, and MacOS will continuously update the folder as files are created or saved that match the criteria.

Let me explain by way of an example. Say, for instance, you create and save a lot of documents with different applications and you want a folder that makes it easy for you to quickly access those documents. 

Instead of you having to manually save those documents in a specific location, smart folders will automatically categorize and display those files.

You can even get more specific with smart folders. Say, for instance, you regularly create, save, or open documents that contain the word Recipe. You could create a smart folder specifically for that. Open the folder and you'll see all your documents that contain the word Recipe. That's pretty handy.

Also: Don't waste money on these Apple products, January 2023 edition

You can create smart folders based on:

  • Last opened date
  • Last modified date
  • Created date
  • Name
  • Contents
  • Authors
  • Author email address
  • City
  • Codecs
  • Color profile
  • Composer
  • Contact keywords
  • Duration
  • File size
  • Fonts
  • Full Name
  • Genre
  • Group
  • Headline
  • And much more

The list of attributes you can use for a Smart Folder is quite lengthy, which means you can get very creative and specific with what you create. Once created, the contents of the folder will be continuously and automatically updated.

Also: How to use the new Quick Look feature in MacOS Ventura

Let me show you how to create a new Smart Folder. 


The only thing you'll need for this is a MacOS device. I'll demonstrate on a MacBook Pro running MacOS Ventura. That's it, let's get smart.

Creating your first Smart Folder

1. Open Finder

Click the Finder icon in your MacOS dock to launch the Finder file manager.

2. Create a new Smart Folder

With Finder open, click File > New Smart Folder.

The Finder File menu.

Creating a new Smart Folder is done within Finder.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

3. Configure your new Smart Folder

Let's create a Smart Folder that will house files that contain the word "Recipe." In the resulting window, click + (the plus sign) near the top right of the window and, from the far left drop-down, select Contents and then type Recipe in the "contains" text field. You should see results automatically appear in the Finder window.

The Finder Smart Folder creation window.

Creating a new Smart Folder in Finder.

Image: Jack Wallen

4. Save the Smart Folder

Once you've set the criteria, click Save, and, in the new pop-up, give the Smart Folder a name and click Save. If you leave the checkbox checked for Add To Sidebar, that Smart Folder will be easily accessible from the Finder left sidebar.

The Smart Folder naming popup.

Naming and customizing your new Smart Folder.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

And that's all there is to creating a MacOS Smart Folder. If you want quick access to files that fall under specific criteria that are saved across your folders, this is the best way to make that happen.

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