Folders on top with El Capitan

Published 01 Apr 2016 in Macintosh, Software, Usability by ZigPress

For the last three years I’ve been happily seeing folders at the top of all file lists in my Mac’s Finder windows, thanks to a wonderful little free utility called XtraFinder.

Then came El Capitan, with its extra security features, and boom! No more ExtraFinder. Well, if you disable the new security features, XtraFinder will still load, but the ‘Folders On Top’ option has disappeared.

What to do? Cue wailing and gnashing of teeth.

One option is to disable the new security features and then buy TotalFinder for about $12 and use it until its developer stops supporting it (which he says will be quite soon). Being a total freetard open source advocate, that didn’t satisfy me.

So I found a way of getting close to what I needed, and here it is.

  1. Disable the new El Capitan security features by booting into Recovery Mode (restart and then hold down CMD-R immediately until the recovery console comes up), starting a Terminal window and typing csrutil disable . This doesn’t make your Mac insecure, it just makes it no more secure than Yosemite. Once you’ve done this, restart your Mac normally.
  2. Open Terminal and paste this, then press Enter. You’ll be asked for your password, so enter it. Then close Terminal when done.
    sudo /usr/libexec/PlistBuddy -c "Set Folder \" Folder\"" /System/Library/CoreServices/; killall Finder
  3. Open a Finder window, press CMD-J and then select ‘Arrange by: None’ and ‘Sort by: Kind’. Bingo. Folders before files. This does mean that the files below the folders will be sorted by type, but if you can live with that, then you’re sorted.
  4. If you ever want to reverse it, use this Terminal command.
    sudo /usr/libexec/PlistBuddy -c "Set Folder \"Folder\"" /System/Library/CoreServices/; killall Finder


  1. On 04 Apr 2016 at 09:06, choi phom said:

    Thank you for sharing this article. Very good.

  2. On 08 Apr 2016 at 14:03, Ida said:

    One thing I hate about apple is that they seem to force products in your face, stuff you simple don’t want, this is no exception unfortunately…

  3. On 20 Apr 2016 at 14:23, Top IT services said:

    Thanks for Information about it. Your Article is impressive and very informative.

  4. On 20 Apr 2016 at 16:43, Giztimes said:

    That was an insightful article, thank you….

  5. On 11 Jun 2016 at 07:43, Kurt said:

    Thank you :))

  6. On 12 Jun 2016 at 21:42, Vak said:


    Thank you so much!. Working 200% perfect! I did re-enable the security by entering”scrutil enable” after the process and the folders are keeping on top!

    Awesome work. Keep it up! and thanks for share.

  7. On 15 Jul 2016 at 21:23, Royston said:

    Ha! I had the same problem but I add underscores on each folder and sort by name. I even add multiple underscores for topmost level folders. So far so good, only problematic to address them via command line (how many underscores were there?). Although I’m using ZSH shortcuts too, which coincide with topmost level (most underscored) folders.

  8. On 12 Aug 2016 at 12:41, Scott Flore said:

    Why the heck would you go through ALL those steps and trouble just to do something you can do from any new computer without messing with CSRUTIL or any terminal commands. In any finder window, you can sort by kind without any other intervention… I fail to see what more this article offers.

  9. On 12 Aug 2016 at 12:44, Scott Flore said:

    sort by “Kind” is the ONLY thing you need to do

  10. On 17 Aug 2016 at 21:51, ZigPress said:

    @Scott, sorting by kind without doing the plist edit will NOT put folders first if you have file types that start A to E.

  11. On 21 Nov 2016 at 16:33, Zhigang said:

    I directly tried step 3, arrange by “none” and sort by “kind”, it works. I was not know this before. With XtraFinder, the sidebar became colorful, the labeled folder and file with highlight colorful background, cool!!!

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