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Tech Tips: Creating Smart Folders on a Mac

Photo for The Union John Hart
Jorn Hart | The Union

On my Mac, I end up searching for the same types of files over and over. Is there some way to set up a saved search so I don’t have to repeat the same steps every time I want to find these specific types of files?

This is a common problem; it’s so common, in fact, Apple included the ability to create saved searches as part of the built-in behavior of Finder.

Imagine that you create Microsoft Word documents as part of your job, and you store them in multiple folders, based on the client you’re working for.



At some point, perhaps you want to find all the Microsoft Word documents, no matter what folder each is stored in.

Rather than dig through each of the folders where you might have stored a Word document, you can instead create a Smart Folder — that is, a saved search that displays all the files that meet the criteria you specify (in this case, files created by Microsoft Word).




To create a new Smart Folder, in Finder select File, then New Smart Folder from the menu. Specify a search criterion (you could use “.docx”, without the quotes, to search for Microsoft Word document files).

Click the Save button, give the saved search a name and the named search appears in the Finder sidebar. Selecting that Smart Folder displays all the files that match the criteria you specified, so next time you need to look at all the Word documents, you don’t need to take any extra steps.

The great part about a Smart Folder is that Finder shows you all the matching files as if they were all in the same folder, even though they’re not.

It’s easy to manipulate groups of the documents as if they were in the same folder, and it’s easy to find them all later. Using a Smart Folder, you can organize your files however you like, yet still find them as a group later.

Note that deleting the smart folder will not delete the files. Remember, a Smart Folder is simply a saved search, not an actual folder. You can, however, use a Smart Folder to delete multiple files; select all the files you want to delete (or move, or print) and you can act on those files, even though they’re stored in separate folders.

For more information about creating saved searches and Smart Folders, check out this link: http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/8-smart-folders-need-mac-set/.

Backup Windows Desktop online

I would like to have my computer’s important settings and data backed up online. What can I do so that my desktop, documents, music, and other important folders get backed up online?

I would like the files to be stored both on my computer and online, so that they’re available even if something happens to my computer.

There are many alternatives out there for backing up your computer online, and some work better than others. One thing’s for sure: There is simply no excuse for not having an online backup of your data, at this point, unless you don’t have a Broadband Internet connection.

Given that several options are free or nearly free, it’s definitely worth the time and effort to back up your important files.

If you can limit your backup to a small amount of data, you can use a free service, such as Microsoft OneDrive, DropBox, Barracuda’s CudaDrive (formerly known as Copy.com), Box.com, Apple’s iDrive, or one of many others.

Each of these services provides a free level, with limited storage, and a paid subscription that costs money, but gives you more space online.

Each of these services focuses on file sharing and synchronization, making it easy to share files with friends and family, and ensuring that documents are synchronized across computers on which you have the client applications installed.

You might also want to investigate dedicated backup services, such as Carbonite and (our favorite), Crashplan. These services don’t automatically synchronize files across multiple computers, but they do a great job at backing up your files to an online server.

We each use multiple of these services for backing up various kinds of files.

For example, Ken backs up all his computers completely with Crashplan, and synchronizes his important documents with DropBox, OneDrive, and CudaDrive (in addition to keeping a local backup).

One thing to note: If you’re using Windows 8 or later, you’ll find the integration with OneDrive enticing; it’s simple to incorporate OneDrive into your workflow on Windows 8, and even easier on Windows 10.

If you use a modern version of Microsoft Office, it’s trivial to store and retrieve documents on OneDrive, and doing so makes it possible to make use of Office Online (so you don’t need to install copies of Microsoft Office on your computers).

You may find that OneDrive is the best service for you. (As an incentive, subscribing to Microsoft’s Office 365 service provides you with 1TB of space on OneDrive. Most likely, you won’t want to backup more data than that online because of upload speed restrictions.) Make an action item immediately to look into various online backup options — sooner or later, you’ll wish you had. As long as you have a broadband connection, there’s no reason not to back up online, and it’s never been easier or cheaper to do so.

Doug Behl and Ken Getz spent years answering technical questions in private, and are minimizing the questions by pre-emptively publishing the answers. Hear Doug and Ken’s tech tips on KNCO radio weekdays at around 8:21 a.m. and 5:38 p.m.; find full write-ups including links to the products they mention at http://blog.techtipsguys.com. Submit your own technical questions to questions@techtipguys.com. You can meet the TechTipGuys at the gazebo at the Nevada County Fair 1-2 p.m. Aug 12, with KNCO 830AM’s Tom Fitzsimmons.


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