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Finder tips for navigating and managing files and windows

Through the years, Apple has refined the OS X Finder's interface and added a few hidden tricks, and I've found newer Finder revisions to be more and more appealing than previous versions. Here are some tricks I frequently use with OS X, and while most

Written by Topher Kessler

Through the years, Apple has refined the OS X Finder's interface and added a few hidden tricks, and I've found newer Finder revisions to be more and more appealing than previous versions. Here are some tricks I frequently use with OS X, and while most of these apply to Leopard (my current operating system), they may also work in Tiger and older versions of OS X.


Column resizing
Column view is my favorite, since I can quickly and easily navigate the filesystem with it; however, when viewing a folder in this view, the column widths are uniform and will truncate file names. This has always frustrated me and I hope that Apple will look into providing an option to automatically resize columns. However, until then a quick trick I've found is to double-click the column-resizing handle to fit the column to the contents. Pressing the Options key when double-clicking will make all visible columns the same size and will set the size so that the names of all visible files and folders can be seen in full. While this does not make for an optimal use of window real estate, it will prevent truncation of file names. If you would like to set the default size of the columns for a given window, press the Options key and drag the column resizing tab to the desired width.

Navigating with arrows
This may seem trivial, but using the arrows and the Command key to move and open files and folders is exceptionally useful, regardless of the current view type being used. In icon view, the Command key coupled with the up arrow will move the view to the parent directory. Using the down arrow in the same manner will open a file or folder. In this way, you can very quickly navigate the filesystem.

In list view, expand all folders and subfolders
Thanks to MacFixIt editor Joe Aimonetti's previous tip for this one, if you hold the Options key when clicking the triangle next to a folder, you will expand the whole folder tree of the selected folder.

Spring-loaded folders
While spring-loaded folders is a standard Finder feature, it can be useful and with a couple of tips it can be an exceptionally quick and convenient way to place files in a desired folder. Drag a file to a folder and hold it there with the folder highlighted. After a few seconds the folder will open and allow you to continue moving through folders; however, to speed things up you can press the space bar when a folder is highlighted to immediately open it. Pressing the Command key will spring open folders in a new window, allowing you to easily navigate backwards if necessary. Pressing the Escape key will cancel the drag-and drop session at any time.

Close, minimize, or zoom all windows
Closing and minimizing many windows can be a pain, so pressing the options key when clicking the red, yellow, or green buttons at the top-left of the window will apply the function to all open windows. As such, you can minimize or close all windows, and can also apply the "zoom" function to all windows as well.

Minimize a window by double-clicking on its title bar
Sometimes clicking the yellow button sandwiched between the zoom and close buttons can take a bit too much precision mouse movement, and the easiest way to minimize a window instead is to just double-click the title bar for it. This can be coupled with the options key to minimize all windows as well.

Duplicate files with Command-C and Command-V
A convenient way to duplicate files is to essentially copy and paste them either to the same location or to another one. This can be done by selecting a set of files and pressing Command-C to copy it. Then bring the desired destination folder into focus and press Command-V to copy the files to that location. Be sure to check the title bar of the destination to ensure the active folder is the expected one before pasting, since in some views (especially column and list view) the active folder may not be so apparent.

Navigate a folder tree by Command-clicking the title
A quick way to move up to a parent folder for the current Finder window is to Command-click the title. This will bring up the full folder path to the current window, and allow you to select any one of the path folders to navigate to.

Command-Options-T to hide the toolbar and sidebar
This hot key is available in the "Views" menu, but is a convenient way to minimize the look of a window (removing the sidebar, status bar, and toolbar). Sometimes Finder windows (especially those on installation disks and disk images) will be set by default to not show the toolbar and sidebar to reduce clutter, and this command can quickly make the window more functional again.

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Topher has been an avid Mac user for the past 10-15 years, and has been a contributing author to MacFixIt for just over a year now. One of his diehard passions has been troubleshooting Mac problems and making the best use of Macs and Apple hardware both for family and friends, as well as in the workplace. He and the newly formed MacFixIt team are hoping to bring enhanced and more personable content to our readers, and keep the MacFixIt community going here at CNET. If you have questions or comments for Topher or the other MacFixIt editors, feel free to contact us at

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