Open Folders as New Windows Instead of Tabs in Finder of Mac OS X

May 28, 2014 - 20 Comments

Open folders into new windows rather than tabs in Mac OS X

The Mac file system received tabbed window support in OS X Mavericks, which also caused opening new Finder windows into launching new tabs rather than an actual new Finder window. While this helps to cut down on window clutter when browsing the file system, it can also be kind of frustrating if you want to actually open a specific directory into a separate Finder window. Fortunately, there are a few workarounds to this, and you can open new windows instead of tabs in the OS X Finder by using a specific trick or by changing the default window behavior. We’ll cover both methods, so you can use whichever is most appropriate for your situations.

A quick reminder; you can always open a completely new Finder window by hitting Command+N anywhere in the Finder, this will default to launching a new window at your home folder unless you change that. The tricks below are aimed at opening specific folders into new windows.

1: Option + Right-Click for a New Finder Window of the Folder

The simplest option to open a specific folder into a new window is to use the Option key as a keyboard modifier and right-click the folder. While holding Option you’ll see the “Open in New Tab” transforms to “Open in New Window”, so just select that and it will launch the chosen folder into a new Finder window.

Open folder in New Window through the Finder in Mac OS X

This is quick, easy, can be done anywhere, and doesn’t require any settings changed to the Mac Finder.

2a: Make New Windows the Default Rather Than Tabs

Another option is to disable the default Tab behavior and switch back to how things worked in OS X prior to Mavericks. To use this to open folders into new Folders is really a two part trick, the first of which requires a quick settings adjustment:

  • From the Finder, go to the ‘Finder menu’ and choose “Preferences”
  • Under the “General” tab uncheck the box for “Open folders in tabs instead of new windows”

Open folders into windows rather than tabs in Mac OS X

Close out of the Finder preferences and now you can use a keyboard modifier to open a specific folders into new windows, the next part of this trick:

2b: Command + Double-Click to Open New Window

Just as it sounds, once you’ve disabled the “Open folders in tabs instead of new windows” behavior, hold down the Command key and then double-click to open a folder as usual this will instantly launch it into a new window, rather than a new tab.

Command+Double Click to open a folder into a new window

It’s essential to perform the 2a settings change first, otherwise this will just open the folder into a tab instead.

Bonus Option 3: Use Simplified Finder Windows

Finally, you can also choose to hide the Finder window toolbar to greatly simplify the appearance of Finder windows, which also happens to cause double-clicking on all Folders to launch into new windows. This behavior is how navigating the file system worked on the Mac prior to OS X in the ‘Classic’ experience of Mac OS. But the downside to this approach of course is that you lose the sidebar and the toolbar, both of which are very useful to have around.


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


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  1. Alex says:

    Who in their right mind would use the icon view where you have to sift through, say, a hundred small pictures wasting time on deciphering what each of them mean? Isn’t an alphabetical list easier to navigate (giving you a simple criterium—alphabet—for finding anything you need)? —why, yes, it is! That’s why I only use the column view. Right-click gives you an option to open a folder in a new tab, and do you really need anything else? No! Now, geeks, let me have it about how stupid I am and how Apple is going downhill.

  2. Cliff Wootton says:

    There used to be a defaults database entry called FinderSpawnWindow which could be set to true/1. You could only alter this from a terminal window though. This would ensure the Finder opened new windows always when double clicking on a Folder, regardless of whether there was a toolbar visible or not. That feature got removed somewhere along the way (Yosemite?) and revealed the current behaviour as something that was there all the time and being hidden by the FinderSpawnWindow setting.

    The feed back I received from filing a bug report about this was “Engineering has determined that the Finder behaves as intended”. I was hoping they would put this feature back sometime so the users could choose either mode of operation.

    I don’t know whether it is possible to convince the engineering department to reconsider. I think a large number of people have tried but maybe the requests haven’t reached a critical mass yet.

    It is not enough to make me stop using macOS and hardly worth getting heated and angry over it but it is frustrating to keep having to retrain the muscle memory when I’m switching between old and new systems.

  3. Adrian Cisneros says:

    I was fallowing instructions and pictures shown all over the place
    indicating how to open folders on different windows. it says “Press Option + Right Click” on the folder, but it was not showing that option. Happens that in OS 10.13.6 and higher is not option anymore. Just open FINDER go to the desired folder or drive. RIGHT CLICK the desired folder and you will see ” OPEN ON NEW WINDOW” at the top. That makes more sense now.

  4. Hi says:


    is there a fix yet?

  5. D-Coder says:

    I hate the cmd-double-click “feature.”

    I have *thirty years experience* that double-click opens a document, an application, or a folder. Now I have a sticky on my Macbook Pro to remind me that it doesn’t work that way any more. Worse, when I do forget, the folder I opened with double-click loses the view and arrangement that it had, so this is just a way to automatically f*** up my Mac.

    I would love an option somewhere to go back to the old behavior.

    • ibt says:

      Use 2a to open a folder into a new Finder window on every occasion, no command+click necessary

      • D-Coder says:

        Yes, I noticed that. I’m posting on that page. And 2a says “…now you can use a keyboard modifier to open a specific folders into new windows, the next part of this trick.” I don’t want to use a keyboard modifier.

        A simple Finder pref somewhere for the old behavior would save me a lot of pissed-off.

        • Bob T. says:

          No kidding. OSX has been going down hill ever since snow leopard. Steve, we miss you more than you could know. The clown running things now probably owns a PC.

        • Keith Heard says:

          I couldn’t agree more! Why? Why would they change this basic funcitionality that so many of us have used for so many years? I guess conspiracy theories really do make the most sense! S__t like this makes me want to go to a PC. At least they don’t seem to be trying to piss-off their customers. Double click a folder and it will open in a new window every time, as it should. That needs to be the default, or at least an option!!!

        • Bachelor boB says:

          Just ‘updated’ from OSX.8.5 to OSX.13.6. Horrified by double-clicking a folder and not getting an additional open window, but the folder opening in the current window and adopting the bounds of the previous one. This cannot be deliberate GUI. Giant, obvious bug is the only possible conclusion.

  6. InTheory says:

    One of the problems with Mavericks is the fact that particular Finder Prefs selection doesn’t work.

    That’s main problems with Apple’s decision to put OS X upgrades on a yearly schedule rather than allowing them to be released when they’re actually ready. I’m not the only person to complain that Mavericks has felt like a beta since its release. They’ll finally get it right and we’ll have the 10.10.0 “beta” to contend with. I’m looking forward to the new features, but not the bugs and incompatibilities.

    I really wish Apple would drop the yearly schedule and allow the OS time to mature prior to releasing a final version.

  7. Frank says:

    Fully agree. I sincerely miss the ability to double click a folder and have it open in a separate new window without replacing the existing window. The way I work I almost always want both windows open. This is a step backwards in functionality for me.

  8. Bernard says:

    Since the functionality of double clicking with a modifier key is present, it would have been really nice to have double click without an modifier as an option, but no.

    Generally the Finder’s behaviour is becoming, for me at least, less friendly.

  9. ! says:

    “The Finder of OS X” sounds weird.
    It’s not like Thera a “Finder of Windows” or “of iOS”.

  10. Todd says:

    That is correct, there is no “double-click to open new window” option, so we are left with these methods instead if you wish to open a directory or folder into a new window. I guess that’s OK, but I think the Mac file system browser could be enhanced with more options.

  11. Markus says:

    You can also drag one tab outside of the finder window to get it separate, same behavior as with browser tabs

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