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How come Dropbox gets a non-generic icon in Finder's sidebar, when other directories like Google Drive and Sites (native in OS X before Lion) all have the same generic one?

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How can I customise the icons used by the folders in the sidebar? OS X used to show individual icons of all folders there — not any longer.

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4 Answers 4

up vote 16 down vote accepted

As you've noticed, recent versions of OS X only display generic folder icons in the sidebar. So why does Dropbox get special treatment?

The short answer is that Dropbox uses undocumented API to accomplish this. In non-technical speak, it's a special hack that's installed by the Dropbox application.

Some curious folks on StackOverflow found the specific mechanism used by Dropbox: good ol' mach_inject. The same bundle provides both the toolbar item and the sidebar icon.

If you're curious, the resource files live here (at least, on my system):


Clearly, Dropbox goes to great lengths in order to integrate seamlessly into the Finder. Lacking similar treatment, other ordinary folders have only generic icons in the sidebar.

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Google should do the same with Drive :) –  Baumr Mar 13 '13 at 1:56

Install the latest Xtra Finder App from - http://www.trankynam.com/xtrafinder/

Turn on "Show Colorful Icons in the SideBar" It is located below a text box of "Max Width"

For Other Icons in Sidebar

Replace the files here : /System/Library/CoreServices/CoreTypes.bundle/Contents/Resources/ folder contains the used grey ICNS in addition to [unused] 1024x1024 color ICNS files. Each ICNS files must support the following sizes:

  • 16x16 72 DPI
  • 18x18 72 DPI
  • 32x32 144 and 72 DPI
  • 36x36 144 DPI
  • 64x64 144 DPI

If you have added a custom folder to the sidebar, you can change it's icon too. Let us say that the folder name is called "Softwares" Prepare an ICNS file with the name SidebarSoftwares.icns in the above mentioned directory.

Basically the icns file needs to be named SidebarFoldername.icns where Sidebar Remains constant and you input the relevant foldername.

For DropBox

Apply ICNS file to /Users/admin/Dropbox /Applications/Dropbox.app /Applications/Dropbox.app/Contents/Resources/box.icns (need to replace this file with the one you want)

DropBox Finder SideBar Icons

Navigate to /Library/DropboxHelperTools/Dropbox_u502/DropboxBundle.bundle/Contents/Resources

Here you need to replace the following: toolbar.tiff (32x32 pixels 72 DPI)

sidebar.tiff (64x64 pixels 72 DPI)

contextmenu.tiff (32x32 pixels 72 DPI)

toolbar_large.png (19x19 pixels 72 DPI)

sidebar_blue.png (16x16 pixels 72 DPI)

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Does the bit about adding custom sidebar icon for a folder require the app to be installed, or can it just be done on its own? Also, do you know if this will work with Yosemite when that gets released? –  D.Shah Jun 7 '14 at 22:58
I just tried this to add my own icon and it didn't work. I then installed SideEffect app which makes the icons colorful and my custom icon appeared. Uninstalled the app and my icon was gone. –  Pahnev Jan 25 at 2:43

The dropbox installer puts one there and the google drive installer does not.

Just drag a folder into the sidebar and it will stick, no installer necessary.

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I think the question is specifically about the icon. –  asmeurer Feb 23 '13 at 23:04
Yeah, this doesn't address the question –  Baumr Feb 26 '13 at 22:11
I'd give this another up-vote if I could. It's just code and the dropbox installer installs this feature when it runs in the background. It's like having a party and you invite two guests. One leaves their business card on your dresser, the other doesn't. It's not the owner that made the choice, it's the guests that behaved differently. –  bmike May 8 '13 at 12:20
@bmike, the second part of the question was: "How can I customise the icons used by the folders in the sidebar?" –  Baumr May 15 '13 at 10:50

Dropbox uses Finder code injection technique to customize sidebar icon (and add items to right-click menu, and add button to Finder's top bar). And there is no good way to customize sidebar icon since 10.7.

In Yosemite Apple added some APIs to be able to customize Finder's right click menu and toolbar item, but I'm not sure about the sidebar.

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Speaking of Yosemite, I believe that Dropbox now uses a Finder Sync extension to integrate with the Finder... but I don't see anything obvious in that feature's docs about providing a custom sidebar icon (custom toolbar icons are supported)... So the hack may still be in place. –  Dan J Nov 26 '14 at 21:27
Sure, that is called Finder sync extension. But it doesn't allow sidebar icon. However I read documentation diagonally, so probably missed something. –  Nickolay Olshevsky Nov 28 '14 at 10:30

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