Taking photos with your iPhone is a snap. Finding the photos later on your Mac can be more work. But Apple's Photos for OS X offers a variety of ways to quickly hunt down and manage your photos.

Automatically organized

Photos for OS X automatically sorts your photographs by date and location. The first set is called Moments, such as photos from an afternoon ball game. Moments become part of Collections -- games you attended over a month, for example. And Collections roll up into Years.

By clicking the back and forth buttons on the left side of the toolbar, you can navigate through the photo groups.


If you click a Moments, Collections, or Years label, you can view a map for those photos that includes geotag information.

The sidebar

The sidebar gives you quick access to your photos. To view the sidebar, choose View, then Show Sidebar, or press Command-Option-S.

For those who miss iPhoto, the sidebar should look familiar: You can easily look through and organize your photos by dragging them into and out of folders. You can drag photos into albums or tap the + button in the toolbar to add them to a new or existing album.


Smart Albums

Along with the the regular folders you can drag image into and out of, you can create Smart Albums, which automatically gather photos based on rules you set. Click + in the toolbar and choose Smart Album, and set the rules for the folder. You can also tweak the rules by selecting the Smart Album and then choosing File and Edit Smart Album.

Favorites and keywords

When you find an image with special meaning, click the heart in the top-left of a photo thumbnail to make it a favorite and add it to the Favorites folder in the sidebar. You can also favorite a photo by double-clicking its thumbnail and then clicking the heart button in the toolbar. For images that span folders but share a common theme -- photos with flowers in them, for example -- you can tag them by adding keywords in their Info window (Command-+). Then search for keywords to bring up all images tagged with the same label.

Places and faces

If your photos contain GPS information, Photos for OS X can display them on a map. To add location information to photos without GPS tags, open the Info window for a photo, tap in the Assign a Location area at the bottom of that window, and enter the location of the photo. Then, to pinpoint the exact location of the snapshot, Command-click the pushpin and drag it to an area on the map.


The first time you open Photos, it scans your photos for faces. You can can open the Faces album in the sidebar and start assigning names to faces and confirm proposed matches.


For those who used iPhoto, Photos for OS X should feel both familiar and snappier and offer sensible ways of finding photos. If you are coming from the iOS version of the app, the learning path should be short, as the two apps look and behavior in a similar way.

Clifford Colby follows the Mac and Android markets for Download.com. He's been an editor at Peachpit Press and a handful of now-dead computer magazines, including MacWeek, MacUser, and Corporate Computing.