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Apple Mac OS X tips and tweaks

Date: 28th December 2010

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Access and use hidden Finder features

We use Finder every day and all the time, but how well do you actually know it? There may be features in it that you never realised and it is easy to miss some of the more subtle ones. Get to know Finder a little better and it might enable you to work faster and more efficiently on your Apple Mac.

In this short article the effect of pressing the Shift, Ctrl, Option and Command keys is examined and these can modify the normal behaviour of Finder to produce slightly different effects to the ones you are normally used to. It's worth learning them because they can be quite useful.

To start with, open a Finder window and select a file. Click the File menu and then leave it on the screen. You can now press the Shift, Ctrl, Option and Command keys and see what happens to the File menu. It's quite interesting and it is useful to know.

Normal menu


Ctrl pressed


Shift pressed


Option pressed



You can see that when Ctrl is pressed the Get Info menu becomes Get Summary Info. What is the difference? With one file selected there is none, but if you select a group of files then the information displayed is different. Select several files and click Get Info and a window is opened for each one to display the file information, but choose Get Summary Info and there's just one window that shows a smaller list of items - just ones common to each. Some information is dropped, such as name and extension and open with because they don't apply when different types of file are selected. At the top of the information window is the total size of all the files selected and this is useful for checking whether they will fit on a CD-R or a USB flash memory drive for example.

Another change when Ctrl is pressed is that Open becomes Open in New Window. This is useful when a folder is selected in a Finder window. You can open it in the same window or hold down Ctrl and open it in a new window so you have both side by side. That's useful for moving and copying files.

The last change is Add to Sidebar and this becomes Add to Favorites. Go to your home folder and then Library and you'll see the Favorites folder. When you Add to Favorites a link is placed in this folder to the item. Use it to store your favourite files or folders so that they are easier to access than trying to find them in Finder windows. You can drag the Favorites folder to the Sidebar on the left of Finder windows and then your Favorites are just a mouse click away in any Finder window.


The Add to Sidebar menu becomes Add to Dock when the Shift key is held down and this is useful for adding applications, folders or files to the Dock so they are easier to access.

The Find menu becomes Find by Name. Click File, Find and you get a clear Finder window with a search bar at the top. You can either search the contents of files for a word or phrase or you can search filenames for it. Choose Find and the default selected is contents, but choose Find by Name and the default selected is filename. You aren't stuck with the type of search initially selected and you can change the option after selecting the Find function anyway.


Hold down the Option key and Open becomes Open and Close Window. This might seem like an odd command, but it does actually makes sense. If you select an image like a photo for example, and select Open and Close Window then the file is opened in the default application, such as Preview, and the Finder window is closed. So the menu us actually Open the file and close the Finder window.

You can select a file and choose File, Open With and select what application you want to open it with. Double clicking a .jpg image will open it in Preview, but you might want to open it in a photo editor, for example, so you would use File, Open With and select the application. If you always want to use a particular application to open a file type then click File, hold down Option and click Always Open With. It sets the application as the default so that in future you just double click the file to open it.

For some reason Get Info becomes Show Inspector, but they seem to have the same effect.

Go to Apple Mac and OS X tips and tweaks index...