HOWTO: Fix file sorting in Finder’s column view on Mac OS X Lion

I’ve been banging my head against this one for a week now: Finder just wouldn’t sort things alphabetically for me. I use column view, and it seemed that my old ^⌘1 and ^⌘2 keyboard shortcuts weren’t working.

Mac OS X Lion’s Finder introduces two ways to sort: Arrange By and Sort By.

Arrange By is more useful in icon view and list view. Setting Arrange by to something else, such as Kind or Last Opened, will have Finder ‘arrange’ the file listing into categories which are ‘sorted’.

If you go to the View menu you’ll see Arrange By. If you then hold down Option (⌥) you’ll get Sort By. Here’s where I got caught out. If you have the submenu open when you start holding Option, you’ll need to have the menu close and reopen before you get the right options.

When working correctly, in column view it seems that the Sort By menu will be disabled unless you have Arrange By set to None.

There’s also a “Arrange” button in the toolbar now, which will display the Sort By menu when you option-click it.

So, if your sorting isn’t working the way you want it, here’s how to reset it:

  • View > Arrange By > None (^⌘0)
  • Hold Option, View > Sort By > Name (^⌥⌘1)

I hope this helps you in your file management endeavours. I ❤️ Lion!

Hat Tip: Barney-15E on this thread at Apple Support Communities.

90 thoughts on “HOWTO: Fix file sorting in Finder’s column view on Mac OS X Lion

  1. Nick

    Thank you. This has been shitting me for a very long time.

  2. JustinTime

    Mucho Thankos!

  3. Hamish


    I was banging my head against the wall with this one.

  4. cat

    Thank you Thank You Thank you! I woulda killed myself trying to figure this out!

  5. THANK YOU!!!

  6. jo arch

    Thank you for the many suggestions, but I seem to still have an odd problem.

    My finder alphabetizes only part of the list. For example, a number of files will be in alphabetical order, then there will be a subgroup of files that are inserted that don’t belong. The subgroup itself is alphabetized. This happens several times as if there are subsets. So at first glance it appears that the finder is alphabetized, then on closer inspection, you notice all the files that are strangely out of place. I tried to replicate an example below with spaces just to emphasize the sections.

    a b c d e f g h c d e f i j k l m n o p b c d q r s t

    I am on mac os 10.7.5. Any light you can shed on this would be greatly appreciated. Mahalo!

  7. TK

    Thanks! ANother work-around is to do the first step as directed (View>Arrange by> None…… BUT the second step that worked for me in column view was Hold Option, *Action* (Drop down menu in the top of the window)>Sort by>Name

  8. And I add my thank you, thank you, thank you. I have been puzzling over this for over a year!

  9. Eliza


  10. stbo

    Funny thing is that in other languages (at least in Norwegian) both “arrange” and “sort” are called “sort by” (“sorter etter”). However, it is really two different things and the option-trick still works …

  11. Awesome mate!!!! Everyone’s already said it before me, but: Thanks so much for taking your valuable time to put this on the web for others’ benefit – I would’ve went crazy otherwise!!!….

    …ONLY ONE MORE QUESTION: I used your valuable tip to fix up my photo files (in a folder) to Sort-by “Date Created”. It worked well (except for a few “sub-groups” – as another commenter put it previously, which were different file types – not sure what to do there..??..) ANYWAY.. only problem now is the sorted files run backwards (i.e. from most recent –> least recent) …HOW DO I REVERSE THIS ORDER OF “DATE CREATED” within the folder view..??

    Thanks again, Mark

  12. …By the way, re: above comment: this was all done in the “Icon” view of Finder… not sure that changes anything? AND ALSO, my reason for wanting to order photos by “(earlier) date created” –> to “(later) date created”, is to select these files & upload (in chronological order) to Facebook…

  13. Thank you for posting this – as a recent Mac convert, I was really bothered that using column view / arrange by kind, that it was listing the items out of alphabetical order. Figures there would be a hidden option menu in the belly of the beast! Thanks again!

  14. joblufish

    Thank you for this suggestion, but unfortunately I still have a problem. Part of the list will sort alphabetically, while a few folders just randomly insert themselves where they wish. And they are consistent about it. Beyond the menu sorting, is there anything else that could cause this? The occasional glass of wine helps, but it sure would be better to figure this out. Even the numbers get jumbled. Thoughts? Thank you.

    for example – listed by name/none

  15. Wow! Yikes! Fixed a problem that’s been nagging me for a month. In my case sheet (for example, Save As …) showed items in my home directory in reverse alphabetical order (Z-A), but viewing the same directory in the Finder had them in normal order (A-Z). I recall that the problem started when I accidentally hit two keys instead of one while a Save sheet was open – perhaps Shift-Return instead of the intended Return, or maybe Option or even Control. In any event, the Z-A order sheet list stuck for a month even with the Finder’s view A-Z. Messing with Finder View didn’t help, deleting .DStore didn’t help. I’m still not clear on the mechanism or the impli9cations, but many thanks for making the post and solving the immediate problem.

  16. [[p.s Should have added … I have a suspicion that there’s some sort of Command sequence that’s active while a sheet is frontmost that changes the view parameters of the sheet.]]

  17. Belden

    Many thanks. This was driving me nuts!

  18. Bo

    Does anyone know how to “lock” in a view option to a individual folder without the view option on the parent folder changing also? For example I have a Document Folder, inside that Personal Folder, inside that Receipts 2013 Folder, inside that are all my receipts that have been named. I would like the Receipts 2013 to be sorted by (date created) when I open it not by name but when I change the View option it changes everything thats in the Document Folder and the Personal Folder as well. Can I set a rule that will only set view options for one folder?

  19. R

    Wow! That is messed up. I just got a massive headache trying to figure this one out. The strange thing is that I had it “sortable” and all of the sudden I lost it.

    Thank you,


  20. Paul van Nierop

    Another one, who just found out what was boggling me for so long. I hope Apple does not mind you doing their job?
    Thanks and all the best

  21. thankyou
    this was driving me nuts.
    i even bought forklift to see things in alphanumeric order again.

    so a gift of thanks

    another nuisance of osx is it can’t without severe pain or other utilities print out a list of files as shown in finder.
    simply drag the file to a firefox window (busy or not)

  22. Joyce

    I just this out.
    In order to sort items by Kind in Column View.
    While in Column View, right click>Show View Options>Sort By Kind. Voila!

  23. tdpark

    This was driving me nuts! Thank you inner.geek for publishing this, you have just been added as a bookmark. Funny how this just all of a sudden happened…

  24. Jane Manthorpe

    Thank you so much, I am so grateful for finding your post on this. This has been driving me crazy!! and thanks to you, I know now how to get things sorted in the order I want


  25. Andy

    This has been so frustrating, thanks for the advice!

  26. pweee

    thanks.! worked a charm! on 10.8.4

  27. samsam

    thanks man that really was bugging me!

  28. billinrio

    Great tip! I had struggled with this problem for so long without finding a solution that I was convinced that I should just chalk it up to another negative regarding Lion. But thanks to you, now I can sort in list view by clicking on the column headings. Just like in the good old (pre-Lion) days.

  29. JE

    Thanks so much!

  30. AJ

    Thank you so much! This was really helpful!

  31. Thanks to you I am again able to view Finder screen as I desire.

  32. chirco

    it worked, haha, thanks.

    I just updated my OS to Yosemite, and it was giving me the same problem, would not arrange by name ..

    your little trick worked!

  33. Nabeel

    Ahhh Brett u are my dude! Thanks man I’ve been so frustrated about this. I was avoiding doing a search because I’m so stubborn and never in a million years did I think something so simple would be left out of Finder’s options.

  34. Scott

    thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!!

  35. Scotty

    Thanks Apple has been trying for weeks to fix this and it even went to a second level engineer. You must be a third level at least !

    Is there any way to sort with the Folders at the Top?

    Thanks for your help

  36. daless14

    Just now finding this. Thanks so much! This has been annoying me for the last couple of months and this is the only with a solution that worked!

  37. Miah

    Thank you so much! This was driving me absolutely crazy.

  38. Cleo

    Thanks. Still a relevant tip in 2015!

  39. Just wanted to take the time to say thanks and note that this is still useful info 4 years on, in Yosemite.

  40. Chris

    I’ve putting up with this for over a year! Thank you so much for sharing this insight.

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