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Prior to owning Mac, I used Ubuntu with Nautilus (the default file-browser). With Nautilus, you could simply start typing something, and it would select the folder / file matching the characters you typed.

I'm a programmer who simply just needs to quickly navigate folders so you might understand why I would prefer this over the normal finder search which is slow, searches file contents, and the entire contents of your disc.

Is there a simple equivalent of this type-to-select functionality for finder?

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Yes, if you start typing, it'll select files/folders with what you type. The only difference between this functionality and Ubuntu's is that OS X's equivalent of this feature doesn't show what you're typing.

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I feel stupid now - I didn't realize it was selecting the folders from characters I typed in such an intuitive manner. –  Shea Barton May 13 '11 at 2:36
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Welcome to the mac - everything is as subtle as possible - even to the point of not being discoverable. Take time to watch others work with their macs. It's hard to tell someone tricks, but you will see them and know to ask. Also check out obdev.at/products/launchbar/index.html - it's manna for keyboard typers. –  bmike May 13 '11 at 3:55
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Follow these instructions to change the default search location in Mac OS 10.6 and newer:

  1. Focus Finder and bring up the Preferences dialog
  2. Switch to the Advanced tab
  3. Change the When performing a search option to ‘Search the current folder’

This is probably more preferable if you’re know what you’re doing. The default which search the entire computer is intended to help out inexperienced users who have no idea where they just saved their files.

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