Using Finder Effectively

Programmers should typically use Terminal to manage files and directories, but it can be convenient to use a graphical user interface tool like Finder at times. Most programmers use Finder enough to justify learning its capabilities and shortcuts.

The default Finder view is cluttered with a sidebar and file previews that aren’t important when shortcuts are used. Finder doesn’t take up as much screen real estate when the settings are adjusted as follows:
– hide the sidebar by typing the following command in Terminal:

defaults write com.apple.finder ShowSidebar -bool false; killall Finder

– Show the path bar: View -> Show Path Bar
– Get into column view (Command + 3) and hide the file preview: View -> Show View Options -> uncheck “Show preview column”
– Set the default directory for new Finder windows to the home directory: Finder -> Preferences in the General tab, set “New Finder windows show” to your home directory.

In column view, the right arrow key navigates to subdirectories and the left arrow key navigates to the parent directory. The up and down arrow keys scroll through files and directories in the current directory. Typing the first few letters of a file name will navigate directly to a file.

Column view (Command + 3) is the best, but list view (Command + 2) is sometimes useful to display information like Date Modified, Date Created, Date Added, etc. Pressing Command + i in column view is an easy way to get this same metadata for one file at a time. I find the other two views (icon view and cover flow) to be useless.

Command + Shift + h navigates to the home directory and Command + Shift + o navigates to the Documents directory. Command + Shift + g opens up a dialog box to navigate directly to a given folder, similar to Terminal. Pressing Command + Shift + g, typing ~/Dropbox/ and pressing Enter will route you to the Dropbox directory (tab completion is supported, similar to Terminal). If you follow a directory organization system like this its only important to have shortcuts to navigate to the Documents and Dropbox directories.

Opening Finder from Terminal is quite easy with the open command. To open the Documents directory in Finder from Terminal, just type $ open ~/Documents/. Absolute directory paths can be copied to your clipboard from Finder with Command + c. To open the directory in Terminal, type cd followed by a space and press Command + v to paste the directory path.

Command + Shift + n creates a new folder. While a folder is highlighted, press enter and type a new name to rename the folder. Files can be opened when they are highlighted by pressing Command + o.

Finder shares several shortcuts with other applications. Command + n opens a new Finder window, Command + t opens a new Finder tab, Command + , opens Finder’s settings, Command + m minimizes finder, Command + h hides Finder, Command + Shift + [ switches to a tab on the left and Command + Shift + ] shifts to the tab on the right. It’s definitely worthwhile to learn all the shortcuts that are common across Mac applications since they can be reused so easily.

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