Use Tab to Auto-Complete Paths at Go To Folder Screen in Mac OS X

Sep 15, 2010 - 5 Comments

Tab complete Go To Folder in Mac OS X

Tab key auto-completion is a feature that many command line users are familiar with, particularly those with a unix and linux background. Of course, the Mac OS X command line features tab completion as well, but much lesser known is that the excellent “Go To Folder” screens of the Mac also support tab completion.


Yes, the very same Go To Folder option that lets you jump anywhere in the OS X file system in a jiffy, also allows for you to start typing out a directory path and use the tab key to finish writing it for you.

This is best tested out yourself to understand how it works, particularly if you’re less familiar with Tab completion functionality. To try out tab completion in Go To Folder just do the following:

  1. Open the Go To Folder (Command+Shift+G in Finder) window and start typing the path to a folder, like ~/Library/Pre
  2. Stop there, then hit the tab key to complete the rest of “Pre” with “Preferences” – that’s tab completion!

autofill go folder finder

You must type out a folder or directory prefix to use the tab key to complete the folder path, so for example /e for tab completing to /etc/ or ~/Ap for tab completing to ~/Applications/

This is extremely useful when you are accessing lengthy paths in your filesystem.

Auto-completion should be familiar to anyone with a unix background, since it is regularly used within the command line interface. It works basically the exact same way here, and is supported in nearly all versions of OS X regardless of origin date.

You can use the tab key to autocomplete any path in the Finder Go To Folder window, so whether you’re trying to navigate to a local user directory, or some deeply embedded path in the file system, tab it out!

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks

5 Comments

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  1. JB says:

    I tried your suggestion with ‘~/Library/Pre’,
    but before I could hit the Tab key, OS X had already completed the path.
    Upon further testing with different and longer paths, OS X completed every path I started to type with no intervention from me.
    I would have to question the usefulness of this tip…

    OS X 10.6.4

  2. Paster says:

    I’m not really surprised by this functionality, nor am I surprised by the fact that Finder auto-completes the path. I’v never used go to folder in Finder though, contrary to tab completion in terminal which I use daily.

    After fiddling around with it I’ve found one major flaw:
    ~/Library/Pr[TAB] adds up to ~/Library/Printers/
    while Preferences/ and PreferencePanes/ is also available.
    This won’t happen in terminal, either it adds nothing or it shows the available options if you press TAB twice.

  3. adam says:

    Paster : Exactly, and and must open a new windows to run without take front oneā€¦ But nice twick so

  4. […] just a general Terminal tip, I would highly recommend using tab completion when entering in long directory strings and complex names, it’ll save you plenty of […]

  5. […] discussed tab completion a while ago but it’s worth mentioning again since it makes Command+Shift+G even speedier when […]

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