The Finder, the mini-Finder, and Cool Interactions

Posted by on May 31, 2009 in Geekery, Mac, tips | No Comments

Lukas Mathis recently gave a lovely detailed analysis on his blog about how the Finder — and various other OS’s file managers — interact with applications when it comes to opening, saving and creating new files.

This made me want to mention a couple of very nice interactions that the Finder has with applications at the kind of “should this be done by the app or by the Finder” interface. These are neat tricks that most users aren’t aware of, and one Safari tip that even serious Mac “power users” rarely seem to have come across.

It’s to do with interactions between the “mini Finder” that pops up when you’re in an application and you Save or Open a file, and its big brother, the Finder proper.

So, let’s get practical. I guess you’re reading this in a Mac web browser of some description. Choose File->Save As. You’ll get the little mini Finder window. Open a real Finder window as well. Now try dragging a folder from the normal Finder window to the little mini Finder.

Cool, huh? The little mini Finder takes this as a hint that you’ll want to save your file in that directory, and immediately changes its view to be that directory.

This also works with files, but do be careful if you want to try this out right now — if you drag a file onto this Save As mini-Finder, then your browser will use that path and file name as the one to save to, so if you actually click “Save” you’ll have overwritten whatever you dragged in!

This works with opening files, too, although there may seem to be less useful application to this at first — because if you’re looking at a file in the Finder, why would you want to go to the bother of opening its application, choosing File->Open and then dragging it to the mini-Finder, when you could just double-click it?

Well, it’s useful if you’re not using the default application to open the file, say, or for things like upload dialogs from web browsers.

Which brings to my final hint, which is the lovely shortcut method that many people don’t know about when it comes to uploads. I’m afraid this one only works in Safari, for all your Firefox fans, but surprising numbers of people with Macs (including me) do still use the default browser!

Using Safari (I’m using Safari 4), find a web upload page anywhere on the web. Or just use this one, here (don’t worry, your file won’t go anywhere; and there’s no “submit” button to push anyway!):

Select a file:

Now, just drag a file right onto it, straight onto the form! No need to click the button, no need to go through the mini-Finder, no nothing. The filename will be shoved directly into the page, without any bothersome dialog boxes.

You see, it’s attention to detail like that that keeps me coming back to Safari for my home use, no matter how tempting the extensions are in Firefox, or that I have to remember two sets of keyboard shortcuts because I use Firefox at work…

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