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Apple Mac OS X tips and tweaks

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4 ways to show the path in Finder windows

Open a Finder window in OS X on the Mac and you'll see your files and applications displayed. For example, select Utilities on the Go menu and the Utilities folder opens in a Finder window. Where is it located on the hard disk drive though? Click the Documents link in the sidebar and you'll see your Documents folder, but where's that on the disk? Perform a Spotlight search and you can Command+click an item in the results to open a Finder window to show its location, but where is it? It could be on an internal disk, an external one, buried 10 folders deep and so on. Sometimes you want to know where exactly you are on the disk drive when you are browsing with Finder. Here's how to show your current location and navigate the disk, going to the parent folder, up two or three folders and so on. You just need to add a path display to Finder windows.

1. Click the title

One simple way to see the current location of a Finder window is to Command+click or Ctrl+click the title at the top. You'll see a pop-up list with the current folder at the top, then the parent folder, it's parent and so on all the way up to the root of the disk. Open the Utilities folder for example, and you'll see Utilities, Applications, the hard disk name, the Mac name. You can click any of these items to jump straight there.

2. Add a path button

The second thing you can do is to add a path button to the toolbar. Right click the toolbar in any Finder window and select Customise Toolbar. Click and drag the Path button to the toolbar and drop it wherever you want it. Click Done and try clicking the new Path button - it displays a drop-down list of the paths that is identical to Command+clicking the window title. You can select any item to jump straight to it.

3. Show the Path Bar

Another way to see the path to the current location in a Finder window is to show the Path Bar. Select it on the View menu and it is added to the bottom of the Finder window. It's the same as before, but this time it is displayed as a horizontal list instead of a vertical one. It doesn't seem to do anything if you click it, but if you double click any item in the path, you'll jump straight there. Option+double clicking also jumps straight there, but the history is lost and you can't click the Back button in the toolbar to return to the previous location. It's not clear what this function might be useful for.

If you Command+double click an item, a new Finder window will open and you'll then have the old location in one window and the new location in another window. This can be useful, for example, you can move items from one folder to another, or browse elsewhere without losing your current lcoation. If you Ctrl+click any item in the Path Bar a menu is displayed that enables you to Open, Open Enclosing Folder, Get Info and Folder Actions Setup.

4. Modify the title display

One final option is to change the title of Finder windows so that it always displays the full path and not just the current folder. The setting is stored in the Finder preferences, but don't bother looking for it. It's in the plist file, but it's not in the Finder Preferences pane. Open a Finder window and go to your home folder then Library and then Preferences. Double click com.apple.finder.plist and if you've got the developer tools installed (an optional extra on the OS X install DVD), it will open in the Plist Editor. Look for an item called _FXShowPosixPathInTitle and if it isn't there, select Edit, Add Item and name it _FXShowPosixPathInTitle. Set the type to Boolean and then click the value to tick the box. Select File, Save then quit and restart the Mac to see the effect in Finder windows.

What if you don't have the developer tools installed? You can perform the same task by entering the following command into a Terminal window (run Terminal in the Applications/Utilities folder):

defaults write com.apple.finder _FXShowPosixPathInTitle -bool YES

Changing the YES to NO would turn off the effect and put things back as they were.


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