The Finder’s icon view presents a Mac’s files and folders as icons, either on the desktop or within a Finder window. Apple provides sets of generic icons for drives, files, and folders. These generic icons are used if no specific icon is assigned to an item. In Leopard (OS X 10.5), a thumbnail image derived directly from a file’s content may serve as the icon. For instance, a PDF file may display the first page as a thumbnail; if the file is a photo, the icon may be a thumbnail of the photo.
Selecting Icon View
Icon view is the default Finder view, but if you have changed views you can return to icon view by either clicking the ‘Icon View’ button (the left-most button in the group of four view buttons) at the top of a Finder window, or selecting ‘View, as Icons’ from the Finder menu.
Icon View Advantages
You can arrange icons in a Finder window by clicking and dragging them around the window. This lets you customize how a Finder window looks. Your Mac will remember the locations of the icons and display them in the same locations the next time you open that folder in the Finder.
You can customize icon view in other ways besides just dragging icons around. You can control icon size, grid spacing, text size, and background color. You can even select an image to be used as the background.
Icon View Disadvantages
Icon view can become messy. As you move icons around, they can overlap and end up piled on top of each other. Icon view also lacks detailed information about each file or folder. For instance, at a glance, you can’t see the size of a file or folder, when a file was created, or other attributes of an item.
Best Use of Icon View
With the advent of Leopard, and the ability to show thumbnails, icon view can be handy for viewing folders of images, music, or other multimedia files.