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Power tips for managing files in Apple's Finder

Topher Kessler | April 8, 2015
You're already doing most of your file management in the Finder--now add some hotkeys and modifiers to make it even easier.

Replace mouse actions with--you guessed it--hotkeys
Besides managing file selections, you can use modifier keys to change how the mouse acts on various files. For instance, if you click and drag a file from one folder to another the system will move it, but if you hold the Option key while doing this, then the system will copy the file to the new location. In addition, if you hold the Option and Command keys together, then an alias to the original file will appear in the destination folder. This might be a more convenient way to create aliases, instead of pressing Command-L and then dragging the alias to its new preferred location. 

Drag and Drop options
Drag and Drop can be used for so much more than just moving files around. To start, you can drag any file to an application that can handle it, and OS X will attempt to open the file in that application. You can use this technique for applications in your Dock, your Applications folder, or to an alias of an application. 

Perhaps one of the handiest--yet hidden--uses for Drag and Drop is that you can specify folders and file names to use when opening and saving files. When you are saving a new document, a Save dialogue box will pop up along with a new Finder window. In here, you can drag a file from the Finder, which will not only point the dialogue box to the enclosing folder for that file, but will also change the saved name from the default "Untitled" to the name of the dragged file. With this technique, you can easily specify a file to replace, or use a current file to specify a starting name for the document you are about to save. You can also click specific files you see in the Save dialogue box and get the same result. 

This method also works in Open dialogue boxes, where you can drag a file to the box to open it.

Other useful options
Of course, your Mac offers many more options for file management, starting with different ways to archive your files. You can right-click a selection of files and choose the Archive option from the contextual menu to create a zip file of the items, which not only contains them, but also compresses them. While you might not regularly archive files, it can be a useful approach for reducing the size of an e-mail attachment or message to a colleague or friend. 

Beyond archiving, another useful feature of the Finder is using it to create a new folder containing a batch of files. Again, right-click on a selection you've highlighted, pull up Finder's dropdown contextual menu, and select "New folder with selection." This is a useful tool for organizing large collections of miscellaneous files, like those that have accumulated in your Downloads folder, or on your desktop.


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