How to reveal items in the OS X Finder

Various OS X interfaces and services offer quick ways to open items on disk, but if needed, these can also be revealed in the Finder.

Topher Kessler MacFixIt Editor
Topher, an avid Mac user for the past 15 years, has been a contributing author to MacFixIt since the spring of 2008. One of his passions is troubleshooting Mac problems and making the best use of Macs and Apple hardware at home and in the workplace.
Topher Kessler
3 min read

OS X is filled with a number of links to documents, programs, and other items that may be regularly accessed. For instance, programs you place in the Dock are all simply links to the application files in your Macintosh HD > Applications folder. Likewise, items in the Finder sidebar are links to respective folders and documents you have placed there.

For all such locations (customizable or otherwise), if you click a link directly then, as expected, the system will open the targeted file, folder, or application. This may be the desired action in most cases, but you may instead wish to reveal the item in the Finder, for tasks such as managing its location, renaming it, or accessing other files that might be in its parent folder.

Luckily, there is a convenient way to do this in OS X, which sometimes simply involves a single press of the Command key, or a right-click to get the contextual menu.

  • The Dock
    Items in the Dock are just references to those on disk. Simply hold the command key and click any item in the Dock, and you will see a Finder window pop up with it as the highlighted item. This can also be done by right-clicking the item, and choosing Show in Finder from the Options submenu.
  • Dock contextual menu in OS X
    The "Show in Finder" option is in the Dock's contextual menu, but you can also Command-click the item. Screenshot by Topher Kessler/CNET
  • The Finder sidebar
    Unlike the Dock, the Finder sidebar items will not be revealed with the use of the Command key, but instead require you to right-click them and choose "Show in Enclosing Folder."
  • Finder sidebar contextual menu in OS X
    Right-clicking the Finder sidebar items is the way to reveal the item's original location. Screenshot by Topher Kessler/CNET
  • Spotlight searches
    Similar to the Dock, holding the Command key when opening an item in the Spotlight menu will reveal it in the Finder. The Spotlight menu does not support a contextual menu so this is the only option to use here.
  • Spotlight menu in OS X
    The spotlight menu does not support a right-click option. Screenshot by Topher Kessler/CNET
  • Finder searches
    If you use Finder search windows instead of the Spotlight menu, you can reveal located items by right-clicking them and choosing "Show in Enclosing Folder." Since these search results are shown in Finder windows, the Command key is used to add and remove items from a selection.
  • Document titles
    For most user-created documents that are saved to disk and presented in a window by a program (such as a Word or Pages document you have saved), the title bar for it will include a small icon of the document. This icon is actually a link to the document, which can be dragged to locations to copy the document or embed it in other programs (like attaching it to an email), but in addition you can either right-click or hold the Command key while clicking this link, to reveal the folder tree menu for it. Selecting any item in the menu (including the document itself) will reveal that item in the Finder.
  • Document title menu in OS X
    The titles of saved documents can be right- or command-clicked to access as a path menu. Screenshot by Topher Kessler/CNET
  • Aliases
    Finder aliases link to items in different locations on disk, which are convenient ways to collect items together. Accessing them through Finder windows treats them similar to Finder search results, where the Command key will only add or remove them from the current selection; however, you can right-click them to choose Show Original from the contextual menu.
  • Alias contextual menu in OS X
    Right-clicking aliases will reveal a "Show Original" option. Screenshot by Topher Kessler/CNET

These are just some examples of how to reveal the original item for links and aliases in OS X; however, most others will likely be treated in similar ways, where either holding the Command key or right-clicking the item should present some option to reveal it in the Finder.

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