Sidebar in Lion

Having got the Lion machines to actually log onto our network, the task was to tweak away the preferences using Workgroup Manager on our Snow Leopard server.

One of my aims for the Macs in the school is that they should be just as easy to use for everyday tasks as a PC was before; it’s no good it being super simple to make a video in iMovie if it’s a complete pain to access the school shared drive.  Putting a shortcut to the ‘school’ shared drive in the Finder sidebar was therefore a priority for me.  I managed to get this to work in Snow Leopard because a mounted network drive appears under ‘devices’ rather than ‘places’ so I just managed those preferences with Workgroup Manager.

Toucan set up our Macs with a log script that renames the ~/Documents folder to something called ‘MacDocuments’ and then creates a shortcut to the user’s network home (i.e. Tim.Lings$ in my case) called ‘Documents’. Without any further trickery, Finder then puts this link to the network home in the sidebar instead of the normal link to the user’s Documents folder.  This is remarkably handy, as default folder for saving files automatically becomes the network home folder rather than a local documents folder.  This is much easier than having to train children and teachers to always save to the network drives.

Now the problem with Lion and the sidebar is that it puts any extra shared drives under the ‘favourites’ heading on the sidebar, along with ‘Pictures’, ‘Movies’, ‘Desktop’ etc.  The clever hack mentioned earlier still works, meaning that my network home folder appears in the sidebar instead of the local ‘Documents’ folder.  Normally to manage the preferences of a feature in OSX, you just set it how you want it, find the relevant .plist file in ~/Library/Preferences (i.e. com.apple.sidebarlists.plist), make a copy of the file, open it with Property List Editor, remove all the XML keys you don’t want to manage, and then import it into Workgroup Manager.  However, this then means that every user would have ‘Tim.Lings$’ in their sidebar, as well as the ‘school’ shared drive as they all lived under that ‘Favourites’ heading in the sidebar.  What to do?

It then struck me that maybe if I changed the key in the preference file to go back to just showing the default ~/Documents shortcut, Finder would swap in the relevant network home drive, as before.  I copied that key from a blank Lion login account and it seemed to work.  Hurrah!

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8 comments on “Sidebar in Lion

  1. Hi Tim, Many thanks much appreciated, I have just started to deploy some Student iMacs around the school but would love to implement the configuration you have. Is the login script and sidebar configuration something you could help me with? I am new to Apple and would really appreciate any help. Many thanks Paul

    • Hi Tim, I would like to have the network home drive and 2 mounts to Windows file servers. These mounts currently appear on the desktop but I really need them to be in the finder sidebar so pupils don’t save work locally. Thank you.

      • The preference you need to control is com.apple.sidebarlists.plist. You can use Xcode to edit it.

        The first thing to do is to set up the sidebar in Finder just the way you want it, e.g. with the shared drives in the list and going to Finder>Preferences to decide which other things you want visible. To add a shared drive to the Finder sidebar, just drag it in.

        Secondly you need to edit that .plist file to get rid of things that aren’t essential. Make a copy of it first before editing.

        Last of all, upload that preference file to Casper (which I know nothing about I’m afraid!) and test it to see if it does what you want.

        Does that help?

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