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10 OS X Finder tips that still work with Yosemite

10 OS X Finder tips that still work with Yosemite

Greetings again Mac enthusiasts!

With the recent release of OS X Yosemite, I thought I would keep the excitement going with some useful tips that have been around on the Mac for a while and still work with Yosemite!

Over the last couple of months, I have noticed that whilst delivering a collection of Amsys OS X training courses, there are a number of navigational shortcuts and hidden tricks that many Mac users are unaware of.

Although there are way too many for me to document them all here, in celebration of the recent 10th update to OS X, I have picked out the 8 most common ones that I find myself showing Mac users – new and old.

I also find that the main questions I hear from Windows to Mac switchers are, “In Windows, I do this…” or “How can I do xyz like I do on my PC?”.

So, these are often my answers to those questions too!

Please Note: Even though these are documented for Yosemite (OS X v10.10), most of these have been available for some time on the Mac platform and, therefore, function in earlier versions of OS X.

1) Keyboard Shortcuts

In general, OS X keyboard shortcuts are displayed in all apps including the Finder itself, just to the right-hand side of all of the pull-down menus at the top of the screen:

keyboard shortcuts osx yosemite

All of these keyboard shortcuts rely on what we call ‘modifier keys’. A modifier key changes the way keystrokes or mouse/trackpad clicks are interpreted by OS X.

The main modifier keys in OS X are:

  • cmd/Command
  • Shift
  • Option/alt
  • ctrl’/Control
  • Caps Lock
  • fn/Function

These keys are often represented by special symbols on the keyboard and also in menus and other parts of OS X as follows:

= Caps Lock
= Shift Key
fn = Function Key
= Control/ctrl key
= Option/alt key
= Command key

To use a keyboard shortcut, simply press the modifier key specified at the same time as the character key.

For example, pressing the Command key and then the “c” key copies your currently selected data to the Clipboard.

For you Windows users out there, you will find that for most shortcut keys, which on a PC you would use the ‘ctrl/Control’ key and a character key, you would simply substitute the ‘ctrl/Control’ key for the ‘cmd/Control’ key. (‘ctrl’ + ‘c’ becomes ‘cmd’ + ‘c’, etc).

There is a comprehensive list of OS X keyboard shortcuts on our blog and on Apple’s support site, which is well worth referring to or even keeping a copy:

2) File system and hard drive storage location shortcuts.

The Finder in OS X is designed to give the user only the information required to do a specific job. Most users have no need to rummage around the file system. All you should need is access to your Apps and documents. Thus, the Finder gives you quick access to these and not much else.

The default way to use a Mac is, therefore, to use the Dock to access the default Apps and storage locations and to use Launchpad to view all installed Apps. Then within the Apps themselves, they will offer you access to your documents and data relating to that App.

All Apps will give you a limited view of the file system to save new documents to, predominantly offering you locations such as your Documents folder, Downloads folder, Desktop folder, etc.

One of the quickest ways to access all the data stored on your hard disks is to use the Finder’s ‘Go’ menu:

file system and hard drive storage location shortcuts

From here, you can quickly select to ‘Go to your Computer’. Selecting ‘Computer’ is effectively like ‘My Computer’ in Windows. It will give you a list of all the connected drives on your Mac. Both internally and externally connected drives as well as Network drives.

There is also quick access to your entire Home folder, Documents, Desktop and Downloads as well as the Applications and Utilities folders. Not only can you quickly access your Desktop by using the Finder’s ‘Go’ menu, you can also very quickly clear your screen of Apps and Documents and access your Desktop by using the ‘fn’ + ‘F11’ keys on your keyboard. (On some Macs, you may not even need to use the ‘fn’ key and can simply just use the ‘F11’ key).

The Finder’s ‘Go’ menu also has the very useful ‘Go to Folder…’ option. This allows you to enter the file system path to any folder and quickly switch the Finder to that location.

You will often find blogs and documentation online that describes the location of software on a Mac by using file system paths, such as: /Users/russ/Desktop, which will specify my Desktop folder as the location to go to, as my user account is named ‘russ’ and is located in the startup disc’s Users folder:

go to folder os x

Each ‘/’ denotes a double click of a folder with the initial ‘/’ being a double click on your startup disk, which is, by default titled ‘Macintosh HD’ on a Mac.

Here’s the result of the above entered ‘/Users/russ/Desktop’ request:

os x desktop tips

3) Where am I?

So, you’re now starting to get used to using a Mac but now and then you get confused about WHERE in the file system the document you are working on is stored. Or, you just need to go back quickly to the folder in which the open document is located to open a related document that is stored in the same folder.

For me, this is one of the most useful hidden shortcuts on a Mac, and it’s so simple, once you know about it!

Simply ‘cmd/command’ click the folder’s name at the top of the folder window and you will see a full file system representation of where that folder is located.

For example, if I now ‘cmd/command’ click on the word ‘Desktop’ at the top of the Desktop window I am viewing, I will see the following:

where am i os x

Here I can see that the Desktop folder I am viewing is located inside my Home folder, (named russ), which is located inside the Users folder of a hard drive titled ‘RussMBPro’. This hard drive is connected to a computer that is named ‘RussPresentationMac’.

I can not only use this to discover WHERE I am in the file system, but to also use this to traverse back through this file system path.

For example, if I need to go back to my home folder, once I have ‘cmd/command’ clicked on the word ‘Desktop’, I can then select the word ‘russ’ and the Finder window I am viewing will switch to my home folder:

home folder yosemite

What I love about this feature, is that it not only works with folders within the Finder, but also works within documents in OS X Apps!
Again, just ‘cmd/command’ click on the name of the document at the top of the App’s document window to view the document location and to traverse through that file system path:

osx file system path

So, I can easily now see where this ‘RussImportantStuff document is stored, and also quickly switch to the folder it’s located in to access other related files. Genius!

4) App switcher.

I often see Mac users fighting to switch from one App to another by dragging document windows out of the way, hiding windows or clicking the Dock icon to switch in-between open Apps.

There is a much easier way!

To cycle through all of the Apps open on your Mac, hold down the ‘cmd/command’ key and then tap the ‘Tab’ key to access the ‘App Switcher’:

os x app switcher

Make sure you keep the ‘cmd/command’ key held down at all times, then for each tap of the Tab key you will see the ‘App Switcher’ switch one at a time through the open Apps.

In the example image above the currently highlighted App is TextEdit and therefore if I let go of both the ‘cmd/command’ and ‘Tab’ keys, my Mac will switch to TextEdit.

You can use the Tab key to shift one App at a time through the list, or you can use the arrows keys or even the mouse/trackpad pointer.

5) Quick Spotlight searching

Certainly one of the most useful keyboard shortcuts is the ability to very quickly bring up the Spotlight search window. This allows you to search your entire file system for a specific document or app, and now in Yosemite, the internet and network content too!

Simply use the ‘cmd/Command’ + ‘Spacebar’ keys together to instantaneously call the Spotlight window:

yosemite quick spotlight search

I typically use this to quickly open an App by typing in the first couple of letters of the App:

yosemite terminal spotlight

6) Windows ‘Delete’ key

When I am training a PC user or a Windows to Mac switcher, many students ask me about how to perform the function of the delete key like in Windows. This seems strange at first, since the Mac keyboard has a Delete key too.

However, the Mac Delete key doesn’t work in the same way; the Mac default Delete key is a ‘Backspace’ key. There is a Delete key, if you have a full size external Mac keyboard. Otherwise, you are stuck with just this Backspace key on Apple portables and the standard USB and Wireless keyboards.

So, how do you perform a ‘Delete’ key function? Well, simply use the ‘Control’ + ‘D’ keys together to delete the next character after the flashing text cursor.

7) ‘Right click’

Another classic from the ‘How to make my Mac act like my PC’ collection is the Right Click. Apple doesn’t give you a right click by default.

In fact, they don’t even give you a right mouse button on their mice or 2 trackpad buttons. There is a good reason for this and it all boils down to Apple’s main goal of having a simple to use “Point and click” interface without the user needing to have to worry about accessing too much information.

However, in reality, most of us want a right click don’t we?

Well, there are options for this. One option is to just add the ‘secondary button’ feature in either the Mouse or Trackpad system preferences.

In the image below, you can see that on my MacBook Pro I can add a ‘secondary click’ to my trackpad in Trackpad system preferences and that there are 3 options. I can either tap with 2 fingers together, click the bottom right corner of the trackpad or bizarrely, I can have a right click by left clicking! 🙂

right click on os x mouse

The image below also shows the options within the Keyboard & Mouse system preferences for a Mighty Mouse and Mouse preferences for a Magic Mouse. Both have the option to configure a Secondary Button or Secondary Click (for the Mighty Mouse, just select the pull down menu on the right-hand side and change the option from ‘Primary Button’ to ‘Secondary Button’:

mouse options yosemite

os x mouse gestures

The built-in way on ALL Macs to have a right click is to perform a left click but with the ctrl/control key held down. (Commonly known within Apple as a ‘Control Click’. So, if you are using someone else’s Mac, you never need to configure the right click on a mouse or trackpad, just use the control key with the left click!

8) Bring back the Finder window status bar

Since OS X Lion (10.7), the status bar along the bottom of each window has been disabled by default.

Even though, I can understand the reason for this, which is that it took up some screen space providing information that is irrelevant or too technical to most users. However, as a technician, this is something I always want to have available to me. It is a great way to check quickly how much hard disk space is available or even how many files and folders are in the current viewed folder.

There are a few ways to bring this feature back. You can just select ‘Show Status Bar’ from the Finder’s View menu, and you’re done:

bring back finder in os x

Notice below that we now have on all Finder windows the bottom footer displaying the Status Bar:

see storage space in os x

There is an even a quicker way to do this with a keyboard shortcut. Just click ‘CMD/Command’ + ‘/’ keys together to quickly toggle the status bar on and off.

(Refer to the Apple’s support article and information back in Tip 1 for more info on keyboard shortcuts).

9) Show the Finder window path bar

Similar to tip 7, the Finder Path Bar has also been removed in default installations of OS X and the solution is, therefore, also similar. Being able to quickly view the file system path is really useful for navigation and file storage. It also saves having to perform tip 3!

You can just select ‘Show Path Bar’ from the Finder’s View menu, and you’re done:

show os x finder path

Notice below that we now have on all Finder windows the bottom footer displaying the Path Bar:

path finder os x

There is again an even a quicker way to do this with a keyboard shortcut. Just use the ‘Option/alt’, + ‘cmd/Command’ + ‘P’ keys together to quickly toggle the path bar on and off.

10) Show the Finder locations of Recent Items

Most people access the same Apps and Documents regularly, and therefore the Apple Menu’s ‘Recent Items’ feature is really useful:

show finder location of recent items in yosemite

What most people are not aware of, however, is that if you view these Recent Items whilst holding down the ‘cmd/Command’ key, the Finder will now allow you to navigate to the folder that these Recent Items are located in:

view recent items osx yosemite

So there you have it.

The main OS X navigation tips that I find myself showing people that improve their Mac experience and saves them time! I hope you have found this blog useful.

There are many more tips and tricks in the OS X Finder. If you would like to learn more about these or just the Mac in general, then take a look at our collection of introductory training courses. We also have a large collection of Mac and iOS support courses which you may also find useful.

Disclaimer:

While the author has taken care to provide our readers with accurate information, please use your discretion before acting upon information based on the blog post. Amsys will not compensate you in any way whatsoever if you ever happen to suffer a loss/inconvenience/damage because of/while making use of information in this blog.

This feature has been tested using OS X Yosemite v10.10.0 which was the latest Mac OS release at the time of writing.

12 Replies to "10 OS X Finder tips that still work with Yosemite"

  • Matt

    Found this article really useful thanks. After upgrading from leopard to yosemite (a big jump) I needed to know how to get the status bar back, I used that feature all the time and missed it dearly. Thanks!

  • Very helpful nuggets!

    One I’m wrestling with: shift + control + (up/down arrow). It shows all of the windows for the ‘top’ application (such as two files in MS Word), but it conflicts with a handy keyboard shortcut in MS Word (my primary application).

    What’s the name of this action, and how can I disable it? (I would change it in MS Word, but for some reason that doesn’t seem to be a possibility.)

    Thanks again (and in advance)!

  • Terry Davies

    I have been using the Command-Tab method for switching Apps but since using Yosemite I can no longer do this. How can I restore this?

  • Hi Mike, glad you enjoyed the tips.
    I cannot recreate your issue with the shift + control + (up/down arrow) keys, however this may be a Mission Control or Keyboard shortcut setting.
    Check the Mission Control System Preferences and also look in the Keyboard system preferences inside the ‘shortcuts’ tab. If there are any conflicts with shortcut keys there should be a yellow warning triangle and you can then modify which keys to use. Hope this helps.

  • Hi Terry.

    I’m afraid i haven’t experienced this issue myself, I can successfully use the App switcher using command and tab keys with both the original 10.10 Yosemite release and the recent 10.10.1 update.

    You could try logging into another user to see if it’s a user issue or system related but it seems that there is an issue with your computer and not the feature.

    If the issue still occurs, you can report to apple at: http://www.apple.com/feedback/macosx.html

    You may also find my colleagues in our dedicated Apple Mac Support Services Team can offer other solutions, (http://www.amsys.co.uk/mac-support/)

    Good luck!

    Russell.

  • Jen

    Hi,

    Really helpful top tips, thanks.

    I’ve just updated to Yosemite on my MBP but find it really irritating that the top menu bar with the clock on it has gone. Any way to permanently get this back so I can see the time at a glance instead of scrolling to it?

  • Hi Jen.

    That doesn’t sound right if you have not go the top menu bar after upgrading.

    Just double check the feature is enabled by opening System Preferences, selecting the Date & Time preferences, click on the Clock tab and ticking the ‘Show date and time in menu bar’ option.

    If this doesn’t help, you could try logging into another user to see if it’s a user issue or system related but it seems that there is an issue with your computer and not the feature.

    If the issue still occurs, you can report to apple at: http://www.apple.com/feedback/macosx.html

    You may also find my colleagues in our dedicated Apple Mac Support Services Team can offer other solutions, (http://www.amsys.co.uk/mac-support/)

    Best of luck!

    Russell.

  • Kevin Morris

    I have just migrated from Excel WIN7 to macbook pro / yosemite Numbers. I can’t get ctrl+arrow right or left to skip to next data cell. What am I doing wrong?
    Thanks
    Kevin

  • Hello Kevin.

    Even though i mentioned that most windows shortcuts using the ‘ctrl/Control’ key can be performed simply by using the ‘cmd/Command’ key instead, this is not always the case.

    Programs in Windows that have specific shortcut keys are unlikely to be the same on Applications on the Mac.

    From my own usage of Numbers, you ONLY need to use the arrow keys to move to the next cell. For example to move to the next cell on the right, just press the right arrow key.
    I hope this is what you are trying to achieve?

    If not, there is a native version of Excel for Mac should you wish to stick with the same Application and hopefully the functionality will be what you expect.

    However, If you wish to use Numbers instead, there will be differences in shortcut keys and therefore try my “1) Keyboard Shortcuts” tip to look in all the menu bars for what shortcuts use which keys.

    Failing that, try the Help menu located as the last menu item in the menu bar at the top of the Numbers Application.

    Good Luck!
    Russell.

  • Mike

    Handy post, cheers! Found it while trying to remember how to get the path bar back.
    There’s an app called “Cheatsheet” that anyone finding this page might find useful. Pretty sure it’s free, or at least very cheap. It allows you to hold down the cmd key (in any app) and after a second or two (user configurable) it pops up an overall showing you all available keyboard shortcuts. Very handy!

    For the record, I’m in no way affiliated

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