3 Super Simple Finder Keystroke Tips Every Mac User Must Know

Apr 16, 2014 - 8 Comments

Mac Finder

The Finder offers the primary means of navigating the file system of Mac OS X, and though most users will rely entirely on clicking, dragging, and dropping, there are no shortage of keyboard shortcuts to make things even better. If you’re not going to learn them all (and let’s face it, just about nobody does), then at least take the time to learn these three super simple keyboard shortcuts that will make your Mac life much easier when working within the file system.

Sure, advanced users may find these simple Finder keystroke tips to be basic, but and if you already know these tips, that’s fantastic, send the list along to someone who could use it instead! Otherwise, head to your Mac Finder and try them out yourself, and memorize them!

1: Undo a File Move or Trash Command + Z

Yes, the same Command+Z that will undo a text entry or deletion will also return a file to it’s origin location. Accidentally delete a file? Hit command+Z and it will jump back to where it was before it moved to the Trash. Accidentally drop a folder into the wrong subfolder? No sweat, just hit Command+Z and it’ll be back where it started. This is so incredibly useful if for no reason than letting you live a bit more stress free with less worry about precision dragging and dropping.

Undo a file or folder move / Trash by hitting Command-Z

Accidentally Trash a few files in a row? Or did you accidentally move several files into the wrong place? No sweat, Command+Z has a history for your active Finder session! Just keep hitting it until you find things in order again. Note this won’t work beyond a restart or relaunch of the Finder.

2: Rename a File / Folder with the Return Key

The easiest way to rename a file or folder within the Finder is by selecting that item and just hitting the Return key. This will instantly highlight the entire named text of the selected entity, where you can start typing in the new name. Done renaming? Hit return again and it’ll set the change. Want to rename it yet again? Just hit the return key again. So easy and convenient.

Return key will instantly rename a file or folder

And no, this is not the only way to rename files or folders in OS X, you can also use the title bar, command line, or a precise mouse click.

3: Get an Instant Preview of an Image or Document with Space Bar

The instant preview function built into the Mac OS X Finder is so handy that once you start using it you’ll probably learn to rely on it, and wonder how you ever lived without it. Usage is just a matter of selecting an item in the Finder and hitting the Spacebar. This will instantly open a special window with a preview of the image, PDF, text, or other file into a feature called Quick Look. Hitting the spacebar again will close this Quick Look window.

Preview a file instantly by hitting the Space bar

Based on my frequent experiences and conversations with many Mac users, not enough people use Quick Look. Everyone should, it’s really that useful. Oh, and it can also function as an instant slideshow of images and movies.

Ready to learn some more specific OS X tips? Check out these unexpected secrets of the Mac Command key or just browse our general Mac tip and trick pages for tons more.


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


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  1. soolme says:

    and how to make the return key functioning as enter key??

  2. Alberto says:

    “Get an Instant Preview of an Image”
    It is very very slow with Marvericks… a pain

  3. Old Guy says:

    Some other tricks while in text edit mode (as when renaming items) — after hitting Return:

    Up or left arrow – move cursor to start of field

    Down arrow – move cursor to end of field (after file extension, if one exists)

    Right arrow – move cursor to end of name, excluding file extension

    Muscle memory makes me use these often enough so that it drives me crazy when they don’t work while I’m using Windows!

    Command+option space will bring up the advanced Search dialog

  4. Mike says:

    My favs:
    Command space to bring up search.
    F4 to bring up all apps installed, type first letter of apps and enter to open.
    Command+shit+3 for screenshot.

  5. Tim says:

    CMD alt W to close all open windows. Ideal for when the Finder is getting a bit cluttered. And CMD U to go straight to the Utilities folder.

  6. One of my favorites is holding down the Option key while clicking on another app. This hides the first app I am in as it brings up the second app. You can also hold down the Option and Command keys at the same time to hide all other apps while clicking on the app you want to bring to the front. This function has existed since OS 9.

  7. Rodger says:

    Also for preview … press and HOLD the spacebar to quicklook an item, and once you let go the window closes. This way, you do not have to hit SPACE twice.

  8. iFXBR says:

    CMD+Q to quit app and CMD+W to close window. This must be included as the essential tip too.

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