How to Create a Smart Folder On a Mac

Setting up folders helps keep your Mac tidy. But when you have too many, it’s like having piles of stuff everywhere—messy and hard to find what you need. If you’re drowning in folders on your Mac, consider creating Smart Folders instead! Creating Smart Folders is easy, and they simplify finding similar files. Here, we’ll guide you through building your own Smart Folders and customizing them to suit your needs.

What is a Smart Folder on a Mac?

A Smart Folder on a Mac acts as a dynamic repository, constantly updating itself based on predefined criteria. This feature is particularly handy for users dealing with large volumes of files and struggling to keep track of their organization. By setting up Smart Folders, users can automate the categorization process, ensuring that relevant files are always readily accessible without manual intervention.

The versatility of Smart Folders lies in their customizable criteria. Users can tailor these criteria to suit their specific needs, whether it’s filtering files based on creation date, file type, keyword, or any combination thereof. This flexibility empowers users to create Smart Folders tailored to their workflow, enhancing efficiency and productivity.

Furthermore, the non-destructive nature of Smart Folders distinguishes them from traditional folders. Unlike conventional folders, which physically relocate files upon organization, Smart Folders act as virtual containers, providing a dynamic view of files without altering their original location. This functionality not only streamlines file management but also preserves the integrity of the file system.

In essence, Smart Folders represent a sophisticated yet user-friendly solution for organizing and accessing files on a Mac. By harnessing the power of automation and customization, users can streamline their workflow, reduce clutter, and enhance their overall computing experience.

Benefits of Smart Folder

Smart folders on macOS offer several benefits that streamline file organization, enhance productivity, and simplify file management tasks:

  • Automatic Organization: Smart folders automatically gather files based on predefined criteria, such as file type, creation date, or specific keywords. This eliminates the need for manual sorting and allows users to quickly access files without searching through multiple folders.
  • Efficient File Retrieval: With smart folders, users can easily locate files by applying search criteria, saving time and effort. Whether searching for documents, images, or media files, smart folders provide a convenient way to retrieve files without navigating through complex folder structures.
  • Dynamic Updating: Smart folders dynamically update their contents as new files that meet the defined criteria are added or existing files are modified. This ensures that the folder always contains the most up-to-date files without manual intervention.

It has even more benefits, check them out:

  • Customizable Criteria: Users can customize the criteria for smart folders to suit their specific needs and preferences. Whether organizing files by file type, date, or other attributes, smart folders offer flexibility in defining search criteria.
  • Enhanced Productivity: By automating file organization tasks, smart folders help improve productivity by reducing the time spent on manual file management. Users can focus on more important tasks knowing that their files are automatically organized and readily accessible.
  • Integration with Finder: Smart folders seamlessly integrate with the Finder app, providing a familiar interface for accessing and managing files. Users can easily create, edit, and delete smart folders directly within Finder, enhancing the overall user experience.
  • Cross-Device Syncing: With iCloud integration, smart folders created on macOS can sync across all Apple devices, including Macs, iPhones, and iPads. This ensures consistent file organization and access across multiple devices, promoting seamless workflow continuity.
  • Improved File Accessibility: Smart folders make it easier to access files by grouping them based on specific criteria. Whether organizing work-related documents, personal photos, or media files, smart folders provide a centralized location for accessing files quickly and efficiently.

Overall, smart folders on macOS offer a range of benefits that simplify file organization, improve productivity, and enhance the user experience. By leveraging the dynamic capabilities of smart folders, users can efficiently manage their files and streamline their workflow on macOS.

Creating a Smart Folder on a Mac

To initiate a Smart Folder creation process on your Mac, begin by accessing Finder, the central hub for navigating files and folders on your device. The starting location within Finder is inconsequential unless you have a specific folder in mind to search.

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Next, proceed with the following steps:

  • Step 1: Navigate to the menu bar and select “File.” From the dropdown menu, opt for “New Smart Folder.”
  • Step 2: Upon selecting “New Smart Folder,” a blank folder interface will materialize within Finder. At this juncture, consider the scope of your search. If you intend to scour your entire computer for files, ensure “This Mac” is selected next to the “Search” bar at the top left corner of the window. This broadens the search beyond the confines of the current folder, encompassing all files across your Mac’s storage.
  • Step 3: Utilize the Search box located at the top right corner of the Smart Folder window. Here, you can input keywords, categories, file types, or dates to establish the initial rule for filtering the Smart Folder’s contents. As you type, the drop-down list will display suggestions matching your input. Select the relevant suggestion from the list to refine your search criteria effectively.
  • Step 4: Upon viewing the search results, you’ll notice the option to enhance your search parameters further. To do so, locate the Plus sign situated on the right-hand side, adjacent to the Save button.

    Clicking on the Plus sign allows you to append additional rules, refining the search criteria to obtain more precise results tailored to your preferences.

  • Step 5: Proceed by utilizing the first drop-down box positioned on the left side. Here, you can select the parameter you wish to focus on within your search criteria. Options include the name, contents, creation date, file type, and more.
  • Step 6: Move on to the next drop-down box and accompanying field to specify the corresponding attribute. These options dynamically adjust based on your selection in the first drop-down box.
  • Step 7: As you add criteria, observe the results in real time to ensure they align with your expectations. This allows you to validate that you’re obtaining the desired outcomes. Once satisfied with your criteria, proceed to the top right corner and select “Save” to preserve your Smart Folder configuration.
  • Step 8: Provide a name for your Smart Folder in the pop-up window. By default, Smart Folders are stored in “Saved Searches” on your Mac. However, you have the option to choose a different location. Optionally, for convenient access, consider adding the folder to the Finder sidebar by checking the box labeled “Add to sidebar.”
  • Step 9: Once you’ve completed the setup, click “Save” to finalize your Smart Folder.
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To access your Smart Folder, navigate to its designated location.

Optional: Locating Saved Searches on Mac

If you’ve opted to store your Smart Folder in the default location of “Saved Searches” on your Mac, follow these steps:

  • Step 1: Open Finder and select “Go” > “Go to folder” from the menu bar.
  • Step 2: In the pop-up window, enter the following into the Search box at the top: ~/Library/Saved Searches.
  • Step 3: Press the “Return” key.

Subsequently, the Smart Searches folder will open, revealing your newly created Smart Folder inside.

Edit A Smart Folder

To refine or modify a Smart Folder, you can easily adjust its search criteria. Here’s how:

  • Step 1: Begin by opening the Smart Folder you want to edit. This action allows you to access its settings and make necessary adjustments.
  • Step 2: Next, navigate to the Finder toolbar located at the top of the window. From here, click on the Action drop-down menu, providing a range of options for managing your Smart Folder.
  • Step 3: Select “Show search criteria” from the drop-down menu. This action reveals the specific search parameters currently applied to your Smart Folder.

By following these steps, you gain access to the inner workings of your Smart Folder, enabling you to add, remove, or modify rules as needed to tailor its functionality to your preferences. This user-friendly approach empowers you to fine-tune your Smart Folder’s behavior, ensuring it remains aligned with your evolving organizational needs.


Smart folders on macOS revolutionize file organization, offering dynamic and efficient ways to manage files on Mac computers. By automatically gathering files based on predefined criteria, smart folders streamline file retrieval. Moreover, it enhances productivity, and simplifies file management tasks.

With customizable criteria, seamless integration with Finder, and cross-device syncing via iCloud, smart folders provide a centralized and dynamic approach to organizing files. As a result, users can enjoy improved accessibility, increased productivity, and a more streamlined workflow, making smart folders an invaluable tool for macOS users.

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