New to Mac? How to work with tabs in Finder

Finder Tab Overview

We’ve walked you through the basics of using Finder. For those new to Mac, it’s a key tool to become familiar with on macOS. One important aspect of using Finder is the tabs feature.

Just like working in Safari or another browser, you can use tabs for opening multiple sites rather than a new window for each, and Finder works the same way. By opening your different Finder folders in tabs instead of separate windows, you can make working between them easier. Plus, you can conserve some screen space.

Here we’re going to give you helpful tips and steps for working with tabs in Finder so that you can make the most of this all-important Mac tool.

Finder tabs

Opening a new tab

If you first open Finder using the icon in your Dock, rather than clicking a specific folder like Applications, you’ll likely know where you plan to go. Maybe it’s a folder in the sidebar, for instance. When you select that folder, it will replace the contents of the current Finder window.

But maybe that’s not what you want. Perhaps you want that folder open along with another.

Let’s use an example. Say you want to open your Downloads folder and move something from it, like an image, to another folder like Pictures. This is the perfect time to use tabs in Finder.

You could open the Downloads folder, click the plus sign in the tab bar to open a new tab, and then open your Pictures folder in that new tab.

Finder Open a New Tab

This way, you can simply drag the file from the Downloads folder tab to the Pictures folder tab.

You can continue to open new tabs for other folders the same way, by clicking the plus sign in the tab row. You can also click File > New Tab from the menu bar.

Double-clicking to open a new tab

Now let’s say that you want to open a subfolder in a new tab and have all three folders open at once. For instance, we’ll use Downloads, Pictures, and a subfolder called My Pictures.

Hold down your Command key as you double-click that subfolder. You’ll then see the My Pictures subfolder open in a new tab next to your other two.

Finder Tab Row Open Tabs Double-Click

You can use this same action to open a folder from your Finder sidebar in a new tab.

Related: How to customize the Finder Sidebar on your Mac

If you try this method of opening another tab, but it opens in a new window instead, it’s a simple setting change.

1) Open Finder > Preferences from the menu bar.

2) Click the General tab.

3) Check the box at the bottom for Open folders in tabs instead of new windows.

Finder Open Folders In Tabs

Navigating your tabs

There are different ways to move through your tabs aside from clicking the one you want to view. These methods are most useful when you have many tabs open at the same time.

Swipe to view tabs

If you continue to open new tabs in Finder and then realize you can’t see them all in the tab row, that doesn’t mean they’re gone or closed.

Put your cursor on the tab row and then swipe to scroll left and right to see your other tabs.

Finder Tab Row Swipe to Scroll

Use the Window view

You can also use the Window menu to navigate your tabs.

Click Window from the menu bar and then choose Show Previous Tab or Show Next Tab, or select the tab (folder) name at the bottom of the menu.

Finder Window Menu Tabs

Open tab overview

Another way to see or jump to another tab is with the tab overview. Similar to the same named feature in Safari, this view displays all open tabs. You can then select to view one, close a tab, or open a new one.

Click View > Show All Tabs from the menu bar, right-click a tab and pick Show All Tabs, or use the keyboard shortcut Shift + Command + \ (backslash).

Finder Tab Overview

Rearranging or moving tabs

If you have several tabs open and want two of them next to each other, you can rearrange your tabs easily. Select one, drag it to its new spot in the tab row, and release.

Finder Rearrange Tabs

If you prefer to move a tab to its own window, right-click or choose Window from the menu bar. Then pick Move Tab to New Window.

You can also move a tab to its own window by selecting it and then dragging it out of the Finder window onto your desktop.

Finder Move Tab New Window

Related: How to split and merge Finder windows on Mac

Closing tabs

You have a few ways to close a tab, so use the one that’s most convenient.

  • Put your cursor over the tab in the tab row or in the tab overview and click the X.
  • Click File > Close Tab from the menu bar.
  • Right-click the tab and choose Close Tab.

If you want to close all tabs except the one you’re currently using, right-click the tab you want to keep open and choose Close Other Tabs.

Finder Close Tabs

Related: How to quickly close all Finder windows on Mac

Wrapping it up

As you can see, you definitely have flexibility and options for working with tabs in Finder. Try to keep these tips in mind the next time you use more than one Finder folder at once.

Do you have any tips for Finder tabs you’d like to share? Feel free to comment below or hit us up on Twitter or Facebook!

For more, check out these useful Mac Finder preferences and settings.