MacMost Now 422: Mastering Mac OS X File Dialogs

Many take the file open and save dialogs for granted, but there are a lot of power user actions and keyboard shortcuts that can make these tools easier to use. You can navigate around your drive space with drag and drop, the keyboard, sidebar, the media browser and more.

Video Transcript
Hi. This is Gary with MacMost Now. On today's episode let's learn more about the save and open dialogs. So just about every program on the Mac uses save and open dialogs. It's easy to take these file dialogs for granted, but there's a lot of hidden functionality built into them. Let's take a closer look. So for an example let's use text edit. Now the first thing we should learn are the keyboard shortcuts for file dialogs. Under file you can use command+O for open, command+S for save, and shift+command+S for save as. So if we use command+O, we can bring up the open dialog. Now at the top we have a set of buttons that are similar to Finder windows. You can go back and forth as you navigate between folders here. You can switch between icon, list, and column view, and the shortcuts for those are command+1, command+2, and command+3. You can navigate using this pulldown menu, and you can search for files or folders. And you can- when you do a search, you can jump to a specific file or a folder that contains that file at any time that you want. Another useful keyboard shortcut is command+D to jump to the desktop. Now I can also use the finder with an open dialog. So here I've got a finder window and I've got the open dialog for text edit, and I can drag the folder I'm viewing here in the Finder or a folder I see in the Finder into that open dialog and look what happens. Just drag it anywhere in here, drop it, and it will change to point to that folder. So I can quickly grab something that I see in the Finder and open it or save it with the save dialog this way. Another really cool thing about the open and save dialogs is that if you look at the left sidebar, you can jump to all the different places you can jump to in the Finder, but at the bottom in addition there's also a media section and you can select this and it will act as a media browser kind of similar to how it works in iLife applications. So you can jump in and look for say music in iTunes, or garage band, looking for photos in your iPhoto collection or in the pictures folder. And you can look for videos in iTunes or for iMovie events or in your movies folder. So you can do anything you can do in a regular media browswer here in an open dialog this way. You can also use Quick Look. You can use Quick Look here in the media browser and what it'll do is it'll open up different things. Just by pressing the spacebar it'll open it up here right inside the open dialog - same with images. And if you go and look in files, like for instance if I go back to documents I can just Quick Look there and it'll actually will open things up in a separate window just as it does in the Finder. Now let's look at the save dialog. Bring that out with command+S or shift+command+S and you get the shortened version of it, which gives you a few select places to save files and you can name it. But what you really want to do is you want to click this button here which will expand the save dialog and give you all the different options. You can also use command+= to expand and shrink the save as window. Now once you're here in the expanded save menu you can navigate around the normal way in here with the different views. You can search. You can use this popup menu. You can go back and forth. You can drag and drop things from the finder. You can use command+D to go to the desktop and you can use this sidebar here as well. But you can also do some interesting things. One is if you start with a tilde or a slash ... have a go to the folder thing where you can type here. So you can, for instance, by typing users the username and say if I start typing documents I can even hit tab and it will autocomplete what I'm typing based on what's available in a kind of Unix fashion. Now the two primary buttons save and cancel can be done from the keyboard when you have a file selected to open in the open dialog box or you typed in a name here you can just simply hit return to save. Now if you want to cancel you do command+. In an open dialog you have to have a file selected in order for the save button to be activated, but when you do, you can use return to just open the file there instead of pressing the button. Now one of the primary buttons you've got in the save dialog is the new folder button, and this will bring up a dialog which asks you for a new name, and it will create a new folder at the current location and instantly take you there so you can save the file to that new folder. In both the save and the open dialogs you can use command+shift+. to see hidden files in the folder you're currently viewing. Command+shift+. again will hide them. Another thing you can do is you can look for a file here in the save dialog and click it and it will take the name of that file and put it in here. It didn't change it you noticed I clicked on a png but it's smart enough to know that I need to save an rtf here. And then you can edit the filename from there. So it's a good way to save over a file or to simply save a file with a similar maybe longer name here and save some typing. Now if you like using the keyboard you can navigate around the save dialog by using the tab key. So by default you can go from field to field. So here's the name field, and I can go to the search field with a tab, and then I can go to the sidebar here with a tab and navigate with the arrow keys up and down. And then I could tab again I will be in the main area here and I can navigate using arrow keys there as well. Now if you jump into system preferences and you go to keyboard shortcuts and you go to full keyboard access here at the bottom and change to all controls. Now when you do a save or open dialog you can use a tab key to go between all controls- everything in here including the different buttons and pull down menus, and somebody pressing the spacebar will activate any one of those. Another shortcut you should know is command+. For cancel. Now those interested in even more control in the file dialogs should look for a program called Default Folder X, and this will allow you to do all sorts of different things with the file dialogs including have a list of favorites, recents, things like that. So check that out. So there's your look at some advanced techniques for mastering the open and save dialogs in almost all applications. Until next time this is Gary Rosenzweig with MacMost Now.

Comments: 4 Responses to “MacMost Now 422: Mastering Mac OS X File Dialogs”

    7/9/10 @ 2:07 pm

    These kind of episodes are my favorites. Thank you.

    7/15/10 @ 9:01 am

    Great tips as usual. The shortcut I’ve been on the hunt for – and nobody seems to know on the forums and groups – is the shortcut for selecting a file in the finder and MOVE it to the desktop with a keyboard shortcut. I know cmd-D gets you to the desktop, but this shortcut would be so useful if you’re like 10 folders deep and you simply want to move a file TO the desktop. Without third-party stuff app or plugins.


      7/15/10 @ 7:18 pm

      That’s in interesting idea. But why the need for a shortcut when you can just drag and drop — and the Desktop is always there so it is easy to drag and drop. Just trying to understand the need…

        7/19/10 @ 8:42 pm

        I know, it sounds like a stupid request, almost lazy. But it would be nice to just select a file and send it to the desktop in an instant :)

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