How to create and use Smart Folders in macOS

This guide will explain what Smart Folders are and then take you step by step through the process of creating your own Smart Folder in macOS.

What Are Smart Folders?

Apple describes Smart Folders as:

Smart Folders automatically gather files by type and subject matter. Smart Folders are updated as you change, add and remove files on your Mac.

So what does that mean exactly? You can create a new folder and assign it some ‘rules’ which will decide exactly what’s displayed inside of that folder. In our example (below) we’re going to make a Smart Folder that will always contain image files that have been created or modified in the last week.

How to Make a Smart Folder in macOS

  1. To create your first Smart Folder, start by selecting File and then New Smart Folder
  2. a Finder window with the New Smart Folder item highlighted

  3. Since I’m always saving, creating and editing images – and I’m not very good and keeping them organized – I’m going to use my first Smart Folder to help me locate recently modified images. First I’ll select the ‘top level’ location for my Smart Folder to look for files in. The default is This Mac – and since I store images in lots of different folders, I’ll keep that default. Next, click the + (plus sign) button to add a “rule” for this smart folder.
  4. creating a Smart Folder in macOS

  5. Select the Name item and change it to Kind and then select the matches item and change it to Image
  6. setting a rule for a Smart Folder

  7. So far the Smart Folder will search for the Kind of files that are Images and located in This Mac. Click the + (plus sign) button again to add another rule.
  8. an arrow pointing to a plus sign button

  9. This time select Last modified date and then within last and choose the number of days (I opted for 7).
  10. creating a second rule or a Smart Folder

  11. As illustrated in the screenshot below, my smart folder now contains all of the images on my Mac that have been modified in the last 7 days. To save this smart folder, click the Save button located in the upper-right corner of the Finder window.
  12. an example Smart Folder displaying image files modified in the last 7 days

  13. You can save this Smart Folder anywhere on your drive – the default location is in the Saved Searches folder found in your Library. If you want this Smart Folder to be listed in your Finders Sidebar, place a check in the Add to Sidebar box.
  14. a Save dialogue box in macOS

  15. If you opted to have the Smart Folder listed in your Sidebar, you can select it any time you want to get a list of all the images you’ve modified in the last week.
  16. a Finder window with a Smart Folder in the Sidebar

  17. Otherwise you can open the Smart Folder itself from wherever you saved it on your Mac.
  18. a Finder window displaying images

  19. That’s it – you’ve successfully created the first of what will perhaps be many Smart Folders in macOS! :)

If you want to create really custom folders that can save you all kinds of time and effort, take a look at Folder Actions for macOS.


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