George Garside Blog

If you find something useful on here, it's probably an accident.

macOS Finder sidebar

Finder in OS X allows you to place favourite locations (volumes and folders) in the sidebar of every Finder window and other Finder dialog or sheet (such as the Finder sidebar shown in a Save or Open sheet). This isn’t a folder in Finder, but rather the Finder sidebar preferences simply stores a pointer to the item. Furthermore, Finder places volumes under Devices, as well as network locations under Shared and tags under Tags. The categories themselves can be re-ordered by dragging the section headers, a feature introduced in Mountain Lion to all standard OS X sidebars, and this order is also stored by the Finder sidebar preferences.

The Finder sidebar preferences are stored in two locations:

  • ~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.finder.plist
  • ~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.sidebarlists.plist

The order of the Finder sidebar’s sections is stored in the com.apple.finder.plist, under the SidebarZoneOrder pre-Mavericks and SidebarZoneOrder1 post-Mavericks.

Finder Sidebar Preferences Section Order SidebarZoneOrder1

The SidebarZoneOrder array stores strings with the name of the section, in order that it is displayed in Finder before OS X Mavericks. The sections are favorites, devices, shared and media_browser. With Mavericks, the Finder tags were introduced which added another section to the Finder sidebar. Therefore, SidebarZoneOrder1 is used instead which, along with the contents of SidebarZoneOrder, also introduces the tags section.

The contents of the Finder sidebar is stored in the com.apple.sidebarlists.plist, in dictionaries for each of the sections. Some of these sections are not shown in the sidebar, but are still stored and managed by this plist file.

  • finderprojects
    All the Finder tags, not just the ones shown in the sidebar. Tags shown in the sidebar have the kLSSharedTagFileListItemPinned boolean set to true, whilst those hidden behind All Tags… are set to false.
  • favoriteservers
    These aren’t shown in the sidebar, but rather in the Connect to Server dialog, shown by pressing ⌘K, or Go → Connect to Server….
  • favorites and systemitems
    This is the sidebar contents as shown in Finder preferences, under Sidebar. This includes options for showing certain certain types of volumes (for example: ShowRemovable, ShowHardDisks and ShowEjectables).
  • favoriteitems
    This is probably what you’re looking for. This dictionary contains the contents of the sidebar items that you have placed there for accessing.
    com.apple.sidebarlists.plist Finder Sidebar Preferences
  • savedsearches
    An archaic dictionary for when Finder used to show smart search folders such as Today and Yesterday. This isn’t shown anymore in the Finder sidebar.
  • networkbrowser
    Contains the preferences for the Network section of the Finder sidebar. For example, com.apple.NetworkBrowser.backToMyMacEnabled is a boolean for whether ‘Back to My Mac’ Macs show in the Network section.

In summary, the Finder sidebar favourites are stored in the favoriteitems dictionary in the aforementioned com.apple.sitebarlists.plist file, under the CustomListItems array. Each item is a dictionary with a Name and CustomItemProperties, as well as the Alias itself.