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I'm really new to Macs, and finding file operations to be really frustrating after Linux. If I have a Finder window open with 5 files that I want to move to a different folder, I can select all 5 (shift-click for contiguous or command-click for non), but when I try to command-drag them to a new location, it deselects all but one.

Is there any way to move more than one file at a time? Ideally I'd just like to select all the files, do a command-X to cut them from the current location, and then command-V to paste them in the new location, but Cut seems to not be allowed in the Finder (at least, command-X doesn't work, and Cut is greyed out in the Edit menu.) I don't want to have to copy them from my current location, paste them into the new location, and then go back and delete them from the original location.

Can anyone help me? I'm sure this is very basic, but it's totally non-intuitive after coming from a different operating system and I can't for the life of me figure out how to do it.

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Why you use command for dragging them? Try to just drag them.. :) –  nuc Mar 24 '11 at 15:53
In every Mac site I've found, it shows command-drag to move files, option-drag to copy files. I wonder why... –  EmmyS Mar 24 '11 at 15:57
There is a guide on apple.com with some main differences from windows environment, while some of them apply if you come from linux as well. It might be a good idea to check them out! –  nuc Mar 24 '11 at 16:03
The trick is to press the modifier key after you start dragging. After starting to drag, pressing the command key will force a move operation, pressing option will force a copy operation. Also, in Lion, command-option-v will perform a move instead of a copy. –  joelseph Sep 6 '11 at 3:55

4 Answers 4

up vote 11 down vote accepted

Your frustration with the Finder is a worldwide sport :) Finder does make things harder sometimes.

Finder exhibits different behavior depending upon the context (both the source and destination) of your files.

If you drag files in the same "Volume" (or Drive), it will default to Move.

If you drag files to a different "Volume" (or Drive), it will default to Copy.

However, this behavior can be inverted by pressing while dragging. (That's option or alt in non-apple keyboards).

So for instance if you Drag a set of files to another folder in the same drive (say from your Documents to your Desktop), Finder will default to Move those files. If you intend to Copy, you have to press . This will change the cursor and a green "+" marble will appear, indicating that you will be making a copy.

If, on the other hand you insert a USB Key and want to Move files from there to your Desktop, Finder will default to Copy (when you drag), so you will have to override it by, again, pressing . This time the Green "+" Marble will disappear.

If you happen to have a two-button mouse, you can always drag with the right mouse button; upon release in the destination folder, a contextual menu will appear, asking you for an action (Copy or Move).

Finder doesn't implement cut, so any "move" operation must be manually performed by using the mouse as I've just described.

There is, albeit for a small price, a very decent Finder "plug-in". I'm talking about Total Finder. It's not a bloated piece of software and has been decently stable since I got it. Among other features (like tabs!) it sports Cut and Paste:

Use keyboard shortcuts to move files around. Faster than drag & drop.

I do not work for BinaryAge but I do recommend TotalFinder to people who doesn't want to use a full finder replacement (like the excellent PathFinder), but still wants a few details.

All these pieces of software offer trial versions so you can "see for yourself".

Finally, as already suggested, don't and click to move or copy files or you will be effectively deselecting the last one.

Hope this helps you a little bit more. As a side note, there are some Finder alternatives or enhancements, some of these topics have been discussed here on Ask Different.

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Thanks for the detailed explanation. –  EmmyS Mar 24 '11 at 16:21
@EmmyS You're welcome. –  Martín Marconcini Mar 24 '11 at 18:42

If you a are looking for Cut/Paste solution for files you can obtain it by doing a Copy (Cmd+C) and an alternative-pasete (Cmd+Alt+V). This will have the same effect as Cut/Paste from Windows.

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Don't command-drag them, just drag them. Clicking on one of the selected files and holding the mouse down (left-click) and dragging to your new location will allow you to drag any combination of files to a new location.

Also cmd-x and cmd-v work fine on files on my leopard install

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@MIDoubleKO There is no such thing as Cut or cmd+x on Mac OS X! –  nuc Mar 24 '11 at 16:04
He probably meant cmd-c and and cmd-v to copy files. –  KeithB Mar 24 '11 at 16:12
@MIDoubleKO I apologize then.. :) –  nuc Mar 24 '11 at 16:17
@nuc - cmd-x works just fine inside applications on my Mac - I can cut text, pieces of images, etc. Seems kind of silly that they'd implement all the other standard keyboard shortcuts (cmd+c for copy; cmd+v for paste) but not cmd-x... –  EmmyS Mar 24 '11 at 18:59
@MIDoubleKO I guess there must be a reason for that decision! After all, according to wikipedia Apple "widely popularized the computer-based cut-and-paste paradigm through the Lisa (1981) and Macintosh (1984) operating systems and applications." –  nuc Mar 24 '11 at 19:22

If I'm copying everything in a folder, I just hit 'cmd a' to select all. If I'm copying just some items in a folder, I can select the files discontiguously by command clicking, or command dragging. Once I've selected the files I want, I release the command key and mouse, then click on and drag the selected files to where I want them.

The effect of the command key is on SELECTION, not on MOVEMENT.

If I want to make a copy of the files in a different place, leaving the originals where they were, I hold down the option key before I release the mouse on the drag.

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