Using the Command Key to Reveal Items in the Finder From Spotlight and the Dock

Glenn Fleishman, writing at Macworld, “How to Open Items in the Enclosing Folder Directly From a Spotlight Search in macOS”:

One might think after many years of Spotlight search being in macOS that there would be no new tricks. But a colleague on Twitter asked a reasonable question and many people chimed in with the same query: When viewing a list of results in a Spotlight search in the Finder, how do you jump to see the item in the context of its enclosing folder rather than just opening the file?

The answer is simple: hold down Command and press the Return key or press Command-R. You can also hold down Command and double-click the item in the results list.

Using the Command key as a modifier to reveal items in the Finder while clicking has a long and consistent history on the Mac. You can also Command-click items in the Dock to reveal them rather than open them. (If you Command-Option-click a folder in the Dock it will open that folder, rather than reveal that folder in its parent folder.) Also useful: you can click on a folder in the Dock (Downloads is one I use this with frequently) and then Command-click on one of the items in the menu listing the folder’s contents. And in document-based apps, you can Command-click on the document’s proxy icon in the window’s title bar and you’ll get a pop-up menu showing the folder hierarchy of the document’s location in the file system. Select any of those folders and you’ll go to that folder in the Finder.

Sidenote: From System 7 in 1991 through MacOS 10.13 High Sierra, ⌘R was also the shortcut for “Show Original” in the Finder. Select an alias (or symlink), hit ⌘R, and you’d see what the alias/symlink was pointing to. In MacOS 10.14 Mojave last year, some idiot at Apple changed the shortcut for “Make Alias” from ⌘L to ⌤⌘A and the shortcut for “Show Original” to ⌤⌥⌘A. Someone told me why this idiot made this change, but damned if I can remember or figure it out, because it doesn’t seem like the Finder in Mojave or Catalina uses ⌘R or ⌘L for anything else. Someone just decided to change 30-year-old shortcuts with no regard for muscle memory or consistency with other places where ⌘R reveals something in the Finder. (Apple still has support documents with the old shortcuts.)

Update to Sidenote: Thanks to a few readers for reminding me — starting with 10.14 Mojave, ⌘R and ⌘L are now used for rotating images right and left. I couldn’t find the shortcuts because (a) they only work when an image file is selected, and (b) they don’t have commands in the Finder’s menu bar, another bit of UI lunacy.

And to top this all off — truly, this is genuinely hard to believe — these ⌘R and ⌘L shortcuts not only break 27-year-old Finder shortcuts, but they aren’t even consistent with Photos, which uses ⌘R for “Rotate Counterclockwise” and ⌥⌘R for “Rotate Clockwise”. So in Photos the R maps to Rotate not Right, and the direction for an image rotated using ⌘R is left/counterclockwise. I don’t use the word lightly, but whoever pushed this change through for the Finder is an idiot.

One More Update: There is some consistency to using ⌘L and ⌘R as shortcuts for “Rotate Left” and “Rotate Right” — those are the same command names and shortcuts that Preview uses. But there’s no reason Preview doesn’t use the same command names and shortcuts as Photos, and Photos’s use of “Clockwise” and “Counterclockwise” is, in my opinion, more clear than “Right” and “Left”. And, lastly, if you miss the longstanding use of ⌘L and ⌘R in the Finder for “Make Alias” and “Show Original”, you can easily restore them manually in the Keyboards pane in System Preferences — one of the great features of MacOS. You can also make custom shortcuts for the Finder’s “Rotate Left” and “Rotate Right” commands, even though they’re both hidden menu items.

OK, OK, I Swear This One Really Is the Last Update: Another good Command-click trick — which dates back at least to System 7 in 1991, and possibly earlier — is that you can Command-click on any window in the background and drag it around without bringing the window forward. Update to the Last Update but I’m Not Breaking My Promise That There Would Be No More Updates Because I’m Not Putting This One in a New Paragraph: My old friend Andrew Ross tweets that Command-clicking to move and interact with background windows goes back at least to System 4 and perhaps to System 1.

Thursday, 5 September 2019