MacMost Now 169: Controlling the Finder with the Keyboard

Learn how to control the Mac OS X Finder using only the keyboard. You can navigate through the menu bar, menu bar status items, Finder windows and even the Dock.

Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: MacMost Now 169: Controlling the Finder with the Keyboard.

Hi, this is Gary. Today on MacMost Now, let's learn how to control the finder using only the keyboard.
There are a lot of different ways you can control the finder and other applications using only the keyboard. Let's go and look at a few of them like how to control the menu bar, how to control the dock, and how to navigate between windows and applications.
OK, so here's your menu bar. Now to control it with the keyboard you want to hit control, that's control, not the command key, and F2. And you can see that the Apple menu is now highlighted. And I can go ahead and use the arrow keys to move between it. Now if it doesn't work right away, what you need to do is activate it by hitting control F1. Control F1 will toggle this ability on and off. So if it doesn't work try control F1 then control F2.
Then use the arrow keys. And then you can basically use the down arrow key to go ahead and move down in a menu. You can go back up, you can use left and right to move between the menus. And this way you can choose anything in the finder in the menu bar. And you can also use this in just about any other application as well.
At the other end of your screen you've got the status items in your menu bar. Now to get to these all you need to do is hit control F8. And now you can move between all of these. You hit the down arrow key to activate items in them and the space bar to actually get things going just like you would in the menu on the other side.
You can also control the dock. To do that hit control F3. And now you have one of the dock items highlighted, the last one that you used in this mode. You can go back and forth, and you can also up arrow to see the options for it. And you can spacebar to run one of them.
If it's a spring-loaded folder it will simply open up the items in the stack or however you have it set, and you can use your arrow keys to navigate through them.
Another way to launch applications in the finder using only the keyboard is to use Spotlight as a launcher. Go and look at episode 147 of MacMost Now, and I talk all about that. Basically all you need to do is hit command and space to launch the spotlight menu in the upper right of your finder, and then type the first couple letters of an application, hit return, and it should run that application.
Now once you're in the finder, you can move between windows by hitting command and the tilde key that's usually found right under the escape key in the upper left corner of your keyboard. So for instance I can switch between these finder windows just by hitting that over and over again.
Now you can switch between all windows by hitting control and F4. So this will switch between the finder windows, but it's also going to go and show you windows in other applications, so all the windows that are open in your desktop.
Now while you're inside of a finder window, you can start using the arrow keys and it will immediately recognize that you want to move between all the different icons. You can use arrow keys in all directions. All you have to do is hit return and you're instantly in rename mode. Hit return again and it accepts what you've typed as the new name for the item. You can also do command O to open, or you can hit spacebar for a preview.
To see a complete list of all the different keyboard commands that you can use in the finder and other applications, just go to your system preferences, under keyboard and mouse, look at keyboard shortcuts. Then look for keyboard navigation. Tweak that open and you can see all the different things I've been talking about.
I'll also include a list in the show notes at Until next time, this is Gary Rosenzweig with MacMost Now.

Here’s a list of keyboard commands mentioned in the episode:
Control+F1 = Turn keyboard access on and off
Control+F2 = Start keyboard navigation of the menu bar
Control+F3 = Start keyboard navigation of the Dock
Control+F4 = Go to next window
Control+F8 = Start keyboard navigation of the status menus
Command+` = Next window in application
Command+Tab = Next application
Command+o = Open selected item
Spacebar in Finder = Preview item
Command+Spacebar = Spotlight menu
To see even more keyboard commands, open System Preferences, go to Keyboard & Mouse, then Keyboard Shortcuts.

Comments: 2 Responses to “MacMost Now 169: Controlling the Finder with the Keyboard”

    10 years ago

    Doesn’t work. Ctrl and the F-keys just activates the features also on those F-keys… screen illumination, audio, keyboard backlighting… on a MacBook Pro.

    I know I can go into System Prefs and ake F1 F2 “standard Function keys, but mine is disabled by default so I can easily adjust laptop settings.

    This wasn’t mentioned in the video, so I thought I’d add it here. :)

      8 years ago

      It will work if you use the fn key in conjunction with the F-keys and the Ctrl/Cmd key

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