What is the iMac Sidebar and how do I use it?

What is the iMac Sidebar and how do I use it?
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What is the iMac sidebar?

Have you noticed the little icons and folders on the left side of a window when you open it on your Mac? This is called the sidebar. The sidebar is a place where you can quickly access files, websites, folders, and more. It is almost like having a dock on the side of any open window.

To access items in your sidebar just click them. You can also drag and drop items to folder in your sidebar instead of having to hunt and peck for that folder in your drive. Have a folder you are always using? Put it in the sidebar using the directions below.

Items in the sidebar fall into four categories (and they are displayed this way). These categories are “Devices,” “Shared,” “Places,” and “Search For.” Let’s take each of these categories one by one.

iMac Sidebar Categories


Devices are any storage media or drive that you have available on your iMac. This includes hard drives, cds and dvds, flash drives, and even your iDisk. Clicking on any of these devices from the sidebar will open a folder with the contents of that drive.


Shared is where you will see shared devices such as a network drive that your iMac can see. It is also where you can access the MobileMe feature of “Back To My Mac,” if you use it. I do not use this feature, so I cannot discuss it any further.


Places is the area of the sidebar I use the most. Places will display and allow quick access to any folder, application, or file you have on your Mac. To add an item to the sidebar simply click and drag it over to the “Places” area. As you drag a blue line will appear showing you the different spaces you can drop the file. When you find a space you like, unclick the mouse and it fits right into place.

While I am on the topic of adding to the sidebar I might as well also talk about removing items from the sidebar. This is as easy as removing something from the dock. Just click and drag it off the sidebar, let go, and await your cloud poof.

You can also rearrange items in the sidebar. To do this click and drag to the space you want it in. You can even drag files and folders into items on the sidebar. Just click and drag the file to the proper icon and let go.

Search For

This part of the sidebar is like having customized searches that are always on. It keeps track of recently used files and it also has a folder for images, movies, and documents. These items are in smart folders and will constantly seek out the above mentioned file. You can also change the parameters of what these folders are searching for by right clicking them or control clicking and choosing “Show Search Criteria.”

Modify Your iMac Sidebar

sidebar prefs

As I mentioned above you can add and remove items from the sidebar. You can also choose what default items you would like to be in the sidebar by going to the Finder menu and choosing “Preferences.” You’ll notice a button to click for the sidebar.

In this window you can check and uncheck items you want to have or remove from the sidebar. There are preset items like the desktop or your user folder. Unchecking these items removes them from the sidebar and checking them brings them back.

You can’t remove or hide a category The best you can do for that is remove all of the items from a category or collapse the category by clicking the little arrow to the left of the category name in the side bar.

Don’t see the sidebar?

On occasion a window will open without the sidebar.To make the sidebar appear go to the “View” menu in the Finder and pick “Show Sidebar.” Of course, you can make it go away by choosing “Hide Sidebar.”

While you might not use the sidebar now, I think you’ll find it is well worth trying out. I use it all of the time and can’t work without it. It is present on every Mac running OSX not just the iMac.