How to keep Mac hard drives tidy with the GrandPerspective app

If you require free space on a Mac, but you're having trouble deciding what to delete, the GrandPerspective app can identify long-unused files for less than the cost of a large latte.

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Erik Eckel

Contemporary Mac SSD drives often feature less storage than did their mechanical predecessors. Although cloud-computing and iCloud adoption rates have increased and shifted some of the burden for storing application data, documents, spreadsheets, presentations, photographs and videos to data centers, Mac users still commonly run short on disk space. With many Macs—including several popular models of iMacs, MacBook Airs, MacBook Pros and Mac minis—shipping with just 256GB SSDs, it's important to maintain tidy drives.

But just how should you free space when a Mac runs short on storage?

SEE: Apple iOS 14: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)

Using a trusted application uninstaller—Pocket Bits' App Uninstaller and MacPaw's CleanMyMac X are two options—to remove no longer needed programs is a smart first step. If, after running the macOS storage management utility—accessed by clicking the Apple logo from a Mac's menu bar, selecting About This Mac, highlighting the Storage tab and clicking the Manage button—to remove unwanted photos, movies and other unwanted files and finding still more free space is required, check out Erwin Bonsma's GrandPerspective app available within Apple's App Store for just $2.99. The compact 3MB app punches above its weight class and simplifies the challenge of locating various files of your choosing. Featuring an interactive interface that permits color-coding scan results based on creation date, extension, file type, last access date and last change date, among other options specified within the program's Preferences (Figure A), the tool generates an interactive, graphical view of the files you scan.

Figure A

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GrandPerspctive permits customizing a variety of scan parameters to better enable locating specific files that may no longer be needed on a Mac drive.

Erik Eckel

SEE: Want a new MacBook Pro? Answer these 6 questions before buying the Apple laptop (TechRepublic) 

Further simplifying storage cleaning efforts, GrandPerspective lets you perform scans by disk or individual folders. You can also scan iCloud and other cloud directories that integrate within Finder. It's up to you. The program begins as shown in Figure B.

Figure B

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The GrandPerspective interface requires specifying the disk or directory to scan.

Erik Eckel

The GrandPerspective interface requires specifying the disk or directory to scan.

After specifying scan parameters, including the disk or directory, the app generates a graphical representation of the results (Figure C).

Figure C

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GrandPerspective includes multiple color schemes to assist in interpreting scan results.

Erik Eckel

Each rectangle represents a file. Files stored within the same directory appear adjacent to one another within the GrandPerspective display and share the same color shade. The larger the rectangle, the larger the file's size. Thus, large files jump out and become easy to identify. When coloring by the Last Access parameter, the oldest files will be shaded the deepest color.

SEE: 5 Big Sur tips to enhance your Mac experience (TechRepublic)

When the cursor is placed on a rectangle, the corresponding file's filename, location and size are displayed at the window's bottom. Clicking the double-arrow icon opens an inspector window, from which you can click the Info, Display or Focus tabs. Selecting Display and choosing Last Access from the Color By drop-down menu permits color-coding the scan results and quickly identifying the oldest files by color (Figure D).

Figure D

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A variety of customizable features enable macOS users to locate specific kinds of files.

Erik Eckel

A variety of customizable features enable macOS users to locate specific kinds of files.

The app provides other convenient capabilities, too, directly within the scan results window. You can open files in Finder, perform Quick Looks, filter files and folders and even delete files directly from within GrandPerspective (Figure E).

Figure E

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GrandPerspective permits deleting files directly from within the app.

Erik Eckel

GrandPerspective permits deleting files directly from within the app.

Freeing disk space on a Mac need not be a time-consuming chore. Locating old, large and other unnecessary files is just a few clicks away thanks to GrandPerspective. 

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By Erik Eckel

Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...