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Apple Mac OS X tips and tweaks

Date: 3rd November 2011     

Customise the sidebar in Mail and Finder

Updates to the operating system always bring welcome changes that improve the way that it works and how we interact with it, but inevitably there are a few changes we wish had not been made. OS X Lion is like that and there are some great new features, but also some irritations too. For example, is it my imagination or did the sidebar - the left-hand panel - in Finder windows and Mail get bigger?

Both the icons and the text appear to be larger in Lion and there is no need for it. It was fine as it was. Larger text and icons means that less information can be displayed in the sidebar and some items may be off the bottom of the window. This happens in Mail if you have lots of folders and inboxes, RSS feeds and so on. It also happens in Finder windows if you have added a lot of your own items to the Favorites list.

Fortunately, there is a way to change the size of the contents of the sidebar in Mail and Finder windows, but it may not be where you expect. It is hidden in System Preferences.

Click the Apple logo in the top left corner of the screen and select System Preferences from the menu. Click General in the Personal section at the top and you will see a setting half way down called Sidebar icon size. This pop-up menu offers Small, Medium and Large settings. Select Small and the contents of both Mail and Finder sidebars are reduced in size. This is more like it was in Snow Leopard.

This setting does not appear to affect any other apps and their sidebars stay the same no matter what setting is selected. It is strange how this setting only affects these two apps.