MacMost Now 657: Merging Folders In Lion

Lion allows you to merge the contents of two folders as long as you choose to copy those files, and not move them. You can also place files of the same name in the same folder as long as you let the Finder automatically rename the new files.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: MacMost Now 657: Merging Folders In Lion.

Hi, this is Gary with MacMost Now. On todays episode let me show you how to merge folders in Lion.
So, Lion allows you to merge the contents of two folders. Also does something a little different if you try to copy a file to a location where a file with that name already exists. Lets take a look.
So here I have two different locations on my hard drive - folder one and folder two. In each one is a folder called 'Text Files.' I look in here and I've got three test files - one, two and three - and I have three tests files here as well and they have different names - four, five and six. So what happens if I try to copy this folder into this location? They both have the same name so they both can't exist there. Well, if I try to do a straight copy I suddenly get the option whether I want to replace that or just not do anything, which is the same as its always been. So, you don't want to delete whats there, you want to actually merge the two together. So the key is to hold the 'option key' then drag it there to make a copy. Once I do that I get this dialogue box which allows me to either stop or replace the folder or merge them together. If I select merge I still have one folder and if I look inside it I can see all six files are there now.
Now the same will happen if I try to copy and paste. So if I select this, command + C, go over here and command + V, I will get the same merge option as when I option dragged. Now this is basically the same as if I would go in to here, select all the files and then drag them in. I get the same results. Now what happens if I go to this other location, I have another folder here, this one also has some text files in it. This one has three that have the same name as the ones here. So, I have three files with the same name so what happens if I were to try to copy these into here? I get the option to replace the files of course, not do anything or keep both files and I can apply that to all. If I keep both files - I look in here I can see I've got my originals that were in the folder and I also have the three new ones and it appends the word 'copy' to each of those. I now have all six of the files there it's just the new ones have been renamed so that they can coexist with the originals. Now notice one idiosyncrasy here. I have this folder here and it's got the same names as what's in there and I try to do the merge as before - so I just put it in the same location, hold down the option key and I don't get the merge option there because it can't merge those folders without renaming files which is kind of two steps. So it just doesn't actually do it at all. So you have to actually dig into here, select all of these and move them into this folder.
So you still have the danger of accidentally deleting a whole folder of files with another folder if you drag and drop it without holding in option key. One of the habits I've gotten into over the years if I'm going to do something like that - like say I copy some files from my Mac Pro to my Macbook Air, I work on them on the Mac Air and I want to copy them back to the Mac Pro - I could just replace the folder full of files on the Mac Pro but that deletes them. It doesn't put them in the trash, they're gone. So one of the habits I've gotten in to is simply to throw away the original folder on the Mac Pro so that it's in the trash then copy the files fromt he other Mac on to the Mac Pro, it replaces them but I still have the old versions now in the trash incase a few seconds later I realize I've made a mistake.
I hope you found this all useful. Until next time, this is Gary with MacMost Now.

Comments: 11 Responses to “MacMost Now 657: Merging Folders In Lion”

    Rick Johnson
    7 years ago

    something so simple but very very helpful. Thank you

      6 years ago

      Apple needs to fix their copy / merge functionality and build in some intelligence. It is woeful compared to what Windows provides. With such great capability in all others areas, why make users suffer so badly in this important area?

    Tom Abbott
    7 years ago

    Gary, I’m consolidating image files from multiple computers on to my Mac. On many occasions I have image files with the same name (001.jpg). When I try to paste in files to a folder where files with the same name exist I only get the option to “Keep Both Files” when I’m copying 4 or less files at a time. Anything in excess of these 4 files in a single attempt and I don’t get the option to “Keep Both Files”, but I only get the option to “Skip”. This doesn’t make any sense to me.

      Tom Abbott
      7 years ago

      Update: I did a little Googling and found that when the window pops up that says “Skip” simply hold down the Option key and it will change to “Keep Both Files”.

    7 years ago

    thank you that was a big help :)
    (the Option Key is between command and control Key )

    7 years ago

    Hi there!

    I try to hold down option key but i don’t get the MERGE button …. what am i doing wrong?

    My version is 10.7.3 .. cheers!

      7 years ago

      Not sure. Try it with two simple folders as an experiment.

    7 years ago

    OS X 10.7.5
    I have tried your approach on 1 folder with 4 files that needs to merge with its twin in a folder on the same device one folder layer above with 4 other types of files in it with NO success.

    Some time back I was reconciling music from external devices (about 80G worth) and I ended up with duplicates and a series of child libraries (folders) under the parent (mymusic/mymusic/folders vs mymusic/folders)

    In trying your approach and I’ve tried the command line functions as well, I NEVER get the merge option, I ALWAYS get the “stop” or “replace” only options.

    I just can’t replicate what you’ve described on my MacBook Pro running OS X. Suggestion?

    6 years ago

    Not working on my 10.7.5 / mac book pro 13′ 2011.
    Can’t understand why.

    lawton chiles
    6 years ago

    Thank you!!! You are the man. Finally it will let me copy the same file name.

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