Set the Path Bar to be Relative to Home Directory in Mac OS X Finder

Dec 3, 2011 - 6 Comments

Finder icon on the Mac

Finder on the Mac can show the path to the currently browsed folder (that is, something like Lion->Users->John->Music->MP3 collection). Just click View->Show Path Bar. However, there’s a slight problem—the path is listed from the root of the hard disk up to the current directory. I

f all you ever do is browse your home directory, then this information isn’t much use and the display can get bunched up very quickly.

Luckily there’s a secret setting you can use to cause the path bar to relate everything it shows to your home folder.

In other words, should you browse your Pictures folder, the path bar will read something like John->Pictures, rather than Lion->Users->John->Pictures. See the screenshot up top for a before and after example.

How to Set Path Bar to Be Relative to Home Directory in Mac OS

Open a Terminal window (Finder->Applications->Utilities->Terminal) and type the following:

defaults write PathBarRootAtHome -bool TRUE;killall Finder

The changes will take effect immediately.

This screenshot demonstrates the effect, before and after:

Finder Path Bar from the Home Folder

Note the Finder path bar becomes relative to the Home directory, rather than relative to the Macintosh HD root directory.

How to Restore Default Path Bar Relative to Macintosh HD

Should you wish at a later date to revert to the default path bar, open a Terminal window and type the following:

defaults delete PathBarRootAtHome;killall Finder

Bonus tip: Files can be dragged and dropped onto any entry within the path bar to move the file to that location (hold Option before releasing the mouse button to copy the file instead).

Note you can also display the full path in Finder windows titlebars.

This is another tip from Keir Thomas, author of Mac Kung Fu, a new book with over 300 tips, tricks, hints and hacks for Mac OS X Lion. It’s available from Amazon, and also in eBook form for all eReader devices, including Kindle.


Related articles:

Posted by: Keir Thomas in Mac OS, Tips & Tricks


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  1. james says:

    It doesn’t work for me can someone help me? i have os x 10.7.3. Please i really want this!

  2. nkaminakis says:

    Nice tip,
    but how do you copy the path to clipboard?

  3. esaruoho says:

    Neat! Got it working on Snow Leopard. I’d buy that book you mention if I was sure that at least 75%-95% of the tips in it would function with Snow Leopard. Can’t upgrade until there’s some tool which generates a virtual SL install so can run rosetta apps on it..

  4. Kazooey says:

    Anyone else amazed these aren’t options in a preference panel somewhere?

    • iGnome says:

      I suppose apple designers are having to balance making it simple with making it flexible and customisable. I consider myself to be mid range in that I help a lot of techno numpties with stuff that seems really simple to me. But I would never even think to go diving into the terminal without really precise instructions like this. I suppose in a way it’s good that it leaves space for keen people to learn more. But having said that I kind of agree that it’s strange we have to find out this kind of stuff from third parties.
      Anyway thanks to the author for this excellent tip

      • justathought says:

        I would have thought the same thing, but I recently worked with an Apple Designer at the director level and they do not try to balance anything. They design first on looks and second on functionality. I guarantee you, there are engineers at Apple that want this to be a setting and the designer say “no, it doesn’t look good”. The reason it is something you can change is because of engineering! configurable : engineering :: pretty : design

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