How-To: Get the Most From Get Info

If you’ve ever Control-clicked (also known as ‘right click’) a file, you’ve seen a listing of actions presented to you that can be carried out on that file. This menu is called a contextual menu, but that’s not the point of this exercise. What is the point, is the item called ‘Get Info’. Today, I’d like to show you some of the hidden gems that can be found within this screen.

Get Info is a function of the Finder, and displays properties about a file or folder. To follow along at home, open the Finder and simply right-click any file on your computer, and then choose ‘Get Info’. We’ll start from the top, and work our way down.

1: Title Bar (of Get Info Window)
If you Control-click the icon in the title bar of this window, you’ll see a hierarchy that represents the location of this file on your computer’s hard drive. If you then click on any of the higher level locations listed, a Finder window opens to that folder. This can be useful for files nested many folders deep in a hierarchy.

2: Change the File’s Icon
Below the Title Bar, is a larger icon which represents the file we’re looking at. If you click (just once) on that larger icon, you’ll notice a slight glow outlines it. This is a hint that you can do something with that icon. If you want to change the icon of this file, here’s what you do:

  1. Select the icon you want to duplicate and copy it. You can do this simply by locating it in the Finder, clicking it, and copying it with a Command+C keyboard shortcut.
  2. Click the large icon in the Get Info window of the file who’s icon you want to change. When the colored glow shows around the icon, use Command+V to paste the icon you copied in step 1. That’s it. Now the Finder will display this file’s new icon.

3: Spotlight Comments
I’ve covered this extensively in years past. Spotlight Comments are sort of keywords that you can manually add to a file. They are indexed by Spotlight for searching.

4: General
(If the arrow next to the name General is pointing to the right, click on it and it will drop down the contents of this section of the window.) There is some general information found here — hence the name. But below the information are two items with check boxes beside them: Stationary Pad, and Locked.

  • Stationary Pad – Checking this box makes the current file a template file. Once you’ve checked this box, and then open the file again, a duplicate of this file will be made and opened, so the original will be protected from edits. It’s a nice way to make a template, or keep a pristine version of any kind of file in OS X.
  • Locked – If you check the Locked box (I just got a flashback of an Al Gore skit on SNL), you are effectively protecting the file against deletion, or against being moved from its current location.

5: More Info
Brilliantly named, you get more info here. Document Author and a last opened date.

6: Name & Extension
You can alter the name here. Of course you can do that without opening Get Info, so you’re better off doing it from the file location in Finder. But you can also choose to show or hide the file’s extension using the check box here.

7: Open With
This one’s got some power under the hood. I’ll illustrate the usefulness of this part with a personal example:
I’ve got several Text Editors installed on my Mac. I prefer for .txt files to always open into TextMate. I can accomplish this by doing a Get Info on any .txt file, and choosing TextMate as the ‘open with’ option. Once I’ve done that, by clicking the “Change All…” button, all .txt files will automatically open with TextMate rather than any of the other apps that also handle .txt files. If the application you want to use doesn’t show in the drop down list, select ‘Other’ and browse to the application you want. This is a huge time saver for many folks.

8: Preview
Not much to see here. It’s a preview of the document file. But you can’t read it — although it is an exact replica of the actual document’s contents. You can drag the preview image and hold Option to create a copy of the file, if that’s something that’s exciting for you.

9: Sharing & Permissions
If you ever run into problems with being able to read or change a file — or someone else is — then you might check here. Though as fair warning, fiddling with permissions can have adverse affects, so unless you know what you’re changing, you may want to avoid changing these details.

So that concludes our tour. Some of the items within Get Info are obvious. But there are some gems worth knowing. My hope is that you found something you had been looking for, or had not previously known about.