10 hidden menus in Finder on the Mac to manage files easier

Did you know that there are hidden menus in Finder on the Apple Mac? What do they do and how do you access them? Here is a guide. Use these hidden features to work smarter on your Mac.

Why would Apple deliberately hide menus with features and functions in Finder? One reason is to prevent menus from becoming overly long. For example, instead of having Open, Open With, Always Open With, Open and Close Window, Close Window and Close All on the File menu, only three are shown and the other three are hidden. The hidden menus can be revealed if you need them, and know how.

Sometimes menu items are hidden because they are not used very often. For example, Move to Bin is on the File menu, but Delete Immediately is hidden. More often than not, you want to move files to the Bin where they can be recovered if you change your mind, rather than completely delete them.

Let’s get on with the tips. Here are some useful hidden menus in Finder that make managing files and folders easier.

1. Show the inspector in Finder

Select a file or folder in a Finder window, click the File menu and there is an option to Get Info. This opens a window to show detailed file information, sharing and permissions, and so on.

The File menu in Finder on the Mac: Screenshot
The normal File menu in Finder

Suppose you want to see the information for several files. You could select them all and use File > Get Info, but this would open an info window for each one. Imagine if you wanted to view 10 or more files, you would end up with a screen full of separate info windows.

Hidden menus in Finder on the Mac: The File menu
Finder File menu with Option key held down

Do this instead. Select a file, go to the File menu and hold down the Option key. Get Info becomes Show Inspector. An info window opens to show the file details as usual, but it is different in two ways: It stays on top of other windows so you can always see it, and you can click other files to see the details in thre same info window.

It is very useful when you want to see the detailed info on multiple files. Open the Inspector and click file after file to see the details.

2. Move files in Finder

Select one or more files in Finder and then click the Edit menu. There is an option to copy the file, but the Cut option is greyed out and not selectable. Go to another folder elsewhere on the disk and on the Edit menu is an option to paste the file, which saves a copy of it.

The Edit menu in Finder on the Mac: Screenshot
The standard Edit menu in Finder

Suppose you want to move the file, not create a copy. Click the Edit menu, hold down the Option key and there is now a Move Item Here option to move the file – basically, cut and paste.

The Edit menu in Finder on the Mac: Screenshot
Finder Edit menu when the Option key is held down

There is a Cut option on the Edit menu, but it is disabled. In fact, it always seems to be disabled, so what is it for? It is for when you are renaming files. Click a file in a Finder window to select it and then press Enter on the keyboard to edit the file name. Return to the Edit menu and now Cut is available. You can cut, copy and paste text when renaming files.

3. Copy the path of a file

It is not something you want to do often, but occasionally you might need to know the full path to a file. It can be useful when working at the command prompt in a Terminal window for example. Where is a file on the disk?

The Edit menu in Finder on the Mac: Screenshot
Finder’s Edit menu when Option is pressed

Select a file or folder in Finder, go to the Edit menu, hold down the Option key and there is now a Copy “file” as Pathname. It is plain text that can be pasted into any app that uses text, like TextEdit, Pages, and so on. An example is /Users/roland/Pictures/Bowness.jpg, which is the path to a file in the Pictures folder.

4. Access the hidden Library folder in Finder

This is a fairly well known tip, but some people may not have come across it, so it is worth mentioning. Every user has a Library folder in their home folder. Don’t bother looking for it in Finder because it is hidden.

If you want to access the Library folder, click Finder’s Go menu and hold down the Option key. Library is added to the list of items. Click it and a Finder window opens to show it.

The reason it is hidden is because Library contains system and app settings that should not be changed. Stay out! However, if you know what you are doing, or if you have instructions from someone that does, accessing Library files and folders can be used to fix problems with apps or macOS.

5. Change the default app to open a file

Files can be associated with apps. For example, double click a .jpg photo and it opens in Preview. Double click a .txt text file and it opens in TextEdit. There are many more file associations.

What if you want to open a file in a different app? Ctrl+click it and there is an Open With menu. Mouse over it and there is a list of apps and you can select the one you want.

The Open With menu in Finder on the Apple Mac: Screenshot
Hold down Option to change Open With to Always Open With

There is a hidden menu. Ctrl+click a file and then hold down the Option key. Open With now becomes Always Open With. It permanently changes the app associated with that file to whatever you choose. In the future, you can simply double click that file to open it in the app you select.

6. View slide shows of photos

Most of your photos will be stored in the Photos library and accessed through the Photos app. However, you may have images elsewhere for various reasons, like work projects or to keep them private.

Did you know that you can view photos as a slideshow? It is one of the hidden menus in Finder.

The File menu in Finder on the Mac showing the Slideshow option: Screenshot
Press Option in Finder to view images as a slideshow

Select several photos in Finder (click the first and Shift+click the last), and then Ctrl+click them. Hold down the Option key and the Quick Look menu option changes to Slideshow X Items where X is the number of photos selected.

When viewing the slideshow, move the pointer to show a toolbar with useful functions at the bottom of the screen.

7. Rotate images in Finder

Some photos may be taken in landscape mode (long side along the bottom) and some in portrait mode (long side vertical). If a photo appears in the wrong orientation when it is viewed, it can be rotated in Finder.

Ctrl+click a file move the pointer over Quick Actions and a list of actions appears. On the menu is Rotate Left. It looks like you can only rotate an image left. However, if you hold down the Option key to reveal hidden menus in Finder, Rotate Left becomes Rotate Right.

Multiple images can be selected and rotated in one go.

8. Open and close window

Double click a file and it opens in its associated application and JPEGs open in Preview for example. It is easier than selecting a file, going to the File menu and selecting Open. Among the hidden menus in Finder is this curious one: Open and Close Window. To see it, click File and hold down the Option key.

Which window does it open and close? It opens the window of the app associated with the selected file and it closes the Finder window. For example, select half a dozen photos in a Finder window, then go to File, hold down Option and click Open and Close window. Preview opens all of the images and the Finder window is closed. You are left with a clean desktop with just Preview showing the photos.

9. Move and resize Finder window

It is easy to move and resize a Finder window, but even so, there are menu commands to help you do it faster and easier. Suppose you want to move Finder to the left side of the screen and make it exactly half the width. Just go to Window > Tile Window to Left of Screen or Tile Window to right of Screen.

This tile feature resizes and moves Finder, and then prompts you to select a second app window to fill the other half of the screen.

Move and resize windows in Finder on the Apple Mac: Screenshot
Move and resize windows without tiling them

If you do not want to tile two apps on the screen and just want to move and resize the Finder window, hidden menus in Finder are there to help. Click the Window menu, hold down the Option key and select Move Window to Left Side of Screen or Move Window to Right Side of Screen. This does not tile apps, it just moves and resizes Finder.

10. Really delete files: Bypass the Bin

Delete a file in Finder and it is not really deleted, it is just moved to the Bin. This means that it can be recovered if you change your mind some time later. You may have recovered files from the Bin that you deleted and found you need.

Select one or more files or folders in Finder and go to the File menu. Instead of selecting Move to Bin, hold down the Option key and it becomes Delete Immediately. The file is really deleted and is not moved to the Bin. You cannot get it back, so be careful with this and what you delete.

Final thoughts

You do not need to remember any of these hidden menus in Finder. They are not like keyboard shortcuts that you will have forgotten by tomorrow. All hidden menus are revealed by pressing the Option key. Whenever you visit a menu, just press Option and see what hidden items are revealed.

In addition to hidden menus in Finder, there are dozens of keyboard shortcuts to enable you to do tasks faster and easier. See the Mac keyboard shortcuts at Apple.

Finally, the tips here are not just for Finder, but for all apps on the Mac. Click each of the menus and then press the Option key. See if anything changes. Menus are specific to applications, so what you see depends on the app you are using. Try it and see.

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