Read Me First: A Take Control Crash Course
by Tonya Engst

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Managing the Downloads Folder

Directions that tell you to download something are a commonplace, but they seldom explain where your Downloads folder is—or what to do about it. Let’s take a look. First, when I refer to “your Downloads folder,” I mean the one in your home folder—read the previous chapter, The Point of the Home Folder, if you aren’t sure where your home folder is.

There are lots of ways to open the Downloads folder in the Finder, so if you don’t already have a favorite way, choose Go > Downloads. A Finder window opens, showing the contents of the Downloads folder .

① 	The Downloads folder in list view. Your folder may look considerably different, especially if the list view button isn’t selected (red oval). The rest of this chapter assumes that the Downloads folder is in list view. The Date Added column (red arrow) is particularly useful for determining when an item was downloaded.

① The Downloads folder in list view. Your folder may look considerably different, especially if the list view button isn’t selected (red oval). The rest of this chapter assumes that the Downloads folder is in list view. The Date Added column (red arrow) is particularly useful for determining when an item was downloaded.

Finding a Recent Download

  1. Open the Downloads folder in a Finder window in list view (as shown above).
  2. Click the header of the Date Added column (red arrow in the figure above) to sort the list so the most recently added download is first (if that doesn’t happen, click again to reverse the sort).

Note: If you don’t see a Date Added column, first try scrolling right in the window. If that doesn’t reveal the column, Control-click the header bar that contains the names of the columns and choose Date Added.

Telling Your Browser

Unless you have a special reason not to send downloaded files to your Downloads folder, you should set your Web browser to use your Downloads folder. For example, here’s how to specify this preference in Apple’s Safari browser:

  1. In Safari, choose Safari > Preferences.
  2. In the Preferences window, in the toolbar at the top of the window, make certain that the General button is selected.
  3. From the “Save downloaded files to” pop-up menu, choose Downloads.
  4. Click the red close button at the upper left of the window to close it.

Managing Big Files

  1. Open a Downloads window in list view (as shown above).
  2. Click the Size column to sort the list so the largest files are at the top (if the smallest files come to the top, click Size again).

You can now see what’s eating all that space on your drive, and toss items that you no longer need, such as installers or disk images for apps that you’ve already installed, or photos that you enjoyed seeing but don’t need to keep.

Managing Old Files

  1. Open a Downloads window in list view (as shown above).
  2. Click the Date Added column to sort the list by date. You may need to click twice to make the oldest files appear first.

If you have files kicking around from years ago, it might be time to file or trash them.

Note: To learn more about the many things you can do in this—or any—list-like view on the Mac, flip ahead to Sorting by List—and Why You’d Want To.

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“To manage your Downloads folder, choose Go > Downloads in the Finder, work in list view, and click the column headers.”

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