The mouse and trackpad are both great ways to navigate around your Mac, but if you're one of those people, like myself, who are always looking for a way to shave some time off your workflow, then you've come to the right place. I'm going to take you through several keyboard shortcuts that will keep your hands on the keyboard while navigating through the Mac Finder.
Getting to the Finder, hands-free
Before we can manage files, we'll need a Finder window. The easiest way to conjure one up is to hold down the Command key and press tab while continuing to hold down command. This brings up the Application Switcher. Continuing to press tab repeatedly while holding down Command will cycle through all of your currently running Apps. Additionally if you press the tilde key located just above Tab, you can cycle through your Apps in reverse! Since the Finder is always running, you can highlight it and release the Command key to bring it to the foreground.
Creating a new Finder window
Once we've brought the Finder to the foreground we'll now need to know how to create a Finder window or two. By holding down Command and tapping the N key you can create a new Finder window. If it so happens that you already have a few Finder windows open, you can cycle through just the open windows by holding down Command while tapping tilde. This tip also works for any application that has multiple windows open and is in focus.
Navigating the Finder
Once a Finder window is open and is the foremost open application, we can navigate the Finder using the Arrow Keys. As expected, pressing left, right, up, or down on our keypad will move us through the Finder in the associated directions. To navigate into a directory when in icon view, hold down Command while pressing on the down arrow to navigate down; to pop back out of that folder into the previous directory, hold down command and press the up arrow.
If you need access to other volumes or network resources, pressing Shift+Command+C will open your Finder window to all the devices, volumes, and network resources you have access to. When in a folder that contains loads of files to navigate through, using the arrow keys to navigate becomes less effective. In these situations, simply navigate to the folder containing the files you want to access, and then start to type the first two or three letters of the file you are looking for. The Finder will immediately jump to the location of the file that contains the letters that you typed. Even if the file shares the same first letters, you'll at least land close enough to the file that you can continue to navigate the Finder with the arrow keys to get to the file you wanted.
Opening files and navigating the Menu Bar
Once you've got the hang of getting around the Finder, you'll need to know how to open a file without reaching for your mouse. Thankfully, it's very simple. Navigate to the file, application, or folder that you would like to open and hold Command while tapping the O key. This will launch open the application, folder, or files you have selected in the Finder.
The final step to mastering keyboard navigation is knowing how to access the Mac Menu Bar. To access the Menu Bar press Command + Shift + ? together, and your focus will move from your current application to the Help menu of the Menu Bar. Here you can choose to type in a term to research or use the arrow keys to navigate through all of the Menu Bar items. Once you've landed on an item you would like to select, press return and the command will be executed.
Try practicing one of these techniques each week and before long, you'll find yourself needing your mouse far less and whipping through your workflow faster than ever. Test these tips out on other applications too.
Wil Limoges is a Louisville, KY freelance web designer and Digital Savant at the vimarc group. He has had the pleasure of working for Apple as a Genius, loves science, and aspires to make great things!