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Is there some sort of known logic behind Apple's choice to make the enter key rename a file/folder, rather than open it as is standard on Windows and Linux?

For those of you coming here for the substitute key combination, ⌘-O and ⌘-down arrow both work. And I fully understand ⌘-down, since ⌘-up goes "up" in the directory tree. But couldn't they have made some other key combination the rename key, and allowed enter to be the "standard" open action?

I understand this is a point of view question, and you could argue Windows and Linux are the weird ones, but "enter" or "return" is, at least in my mind and experience with others, the universal "okay" key. When a dialog pops up, you can smack the enter key for the default action. When you finish typing your password, hit the enter key to submit the form and log in. In terminal, type a command and hit enter. So then why is it browse to the file, select it, and hit enter... to rename?

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closed as not constructive by bmike, Philip Regan Aug 16 '11 at 19:07

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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Because a programmer coded it that way? –  Robert S Ciaccio Jan 22 '11 at 0:18
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This really just boils down to "You're used to Windows." doesn't it? –  Ryan Wersal Jan 22 '11 at 6:32
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@compulsionstar - FYI, it's been several years since Apple last shipped a one button mouse. –  Dori Mar 3 '11 at 3:58
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@Philip It's also 8 months old. But gee, thanks for closing it. It is possible that an answer could have involved facts, so I frankly disagree that it's unanswerable. An answer might be speculative but I asked for a reason that Apple made this decision, hoping to uncover some sort of sense behind it. –  Ricket Aug 16 '11 at 19:18
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@bmike Gotcha, thanks for admitting defeat :) –  Ricket Aug 16 '11 at 19:21
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5 Answers 5

up vote 13 down vote accepted

"enter" or "return" is, at least in my mind and experience with others, the universal "okay" key. When a dialog pops up, you can smack the enter key for the default action.

In the Finder, the default action is file management. The Finder is not a launcher. You have a bunch of files you want to rename, or move, or whatever. What percentage of files do you actually open regularly from the Finder? Why should the default action in the Finder be "Open"?

Of course the real answer is that it is convention.

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Actually, I rename files significantly less than I open them, and I rename directories significantly less than navigating into a directory. Isn't part of file management to navigate inside directories? Since Apple designs revolve thrive on user intuition, most people "intuitively" expect the return key to open a file. This is why I found the action surprising. I think the real answer is in the fact that "that's the way it has always been." And it is not worth changing. –  y3sh Jan 21 '11 at 16:15
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@JoshHibschman I think the only people who "intuitively" expect the return key to open a file are Windows users. Ask most people and they would say "i double-click to open a file." I realize that people have different usage patterns, but I rarely open files in the Finder. If it's stuff I use often, it's on the Dock. Otherwise, I use a launcher utility like Launchbar or Alfred. –  ghoppe Jan 21 '11 at 18:43
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+1 ghoppe's response. Try switching to Windows after using Mac OS, and expecting a rename operation when you hit enter. Only to find that it opens stuff. Crazy-making. –  Harv Jan 21 '11 at 21:29
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@Harv I would be happy if it was a single keystroke on OS X. Windows = F2 to rename a file, enter to open a file. OS X you have to press two keys to open a file or dir... I would rather it was one. Of course, it is not a big deal, but an annoyance. –  y3sh Jan 21 '11 at 22:43
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It's entirely unfair to compare expectations coming from another OS. If everything only took one key to activate, the usability experience would be miserable, one slipped key and you could undertake a completely different action than you meant to. –  Jason Salaz Jan 22 '11 at 6:53
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It's standard on Windows and Linux, not OS X. Doesn't mean it "should" be standard on OS X. :-)

I think it's simply because that's the way it's always been, since as far back as I remember.. I think even OS 6 had this. I know 7/8/9 definitely had it that way. So I suppose they wanted old users to feel comfortable making the switch to X.

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+1 My answer too. Just because it works that way on Windows (and some linux), doesn't mean its a standard! Also, you are correct, earlier Mac OS did have this. Therefore its standard to me that enter renames something vs enter opens a file/folder. –  jmlumpkin Jan 21 '11 at 13:21
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I'm with @ghoppe. Plus, you get the added bonus of avoiding the mindless or accidental opening of an application (to open a file) or executing code when you're really meaning to just browse your filesystem and, well, "Find" stuff.

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Why would you 'just' want to browse your filesystem. If I browse it, it is to find something and perform an action on it, which is most of the time to open it. –  Rabarberski Oct 7 '11 at 20:44
    
@Rabarberski, see ghoppe's response. Finder isn't a launcher, it's a file manager (despite the name _Find_er). –  Merchako Oct 21 '11 at 21:02
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Because ⌘+o opens it.

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I've used Mac OS X on and off for sometime now, and I still can't get my head wrapped around the "enter to rename" functionality. In windows you press F2 to rename a file, because you're performing a function, and that makes sense! Back in OS 7 (what I used for 5+ years before switching to windows) I strongly recall using enter to open things.

I'm going to try ReturnOpen which only works on 10.3 - 10.5, so far it seems to work just fine.

http://www.returnopen.com/

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RE: ".. In windows you press F2 to rename a file, because you're performing a function, and that makes sense!" - Actually I am a long time DOS / Windows user that switched to Mac OSX 4 years ago, and I find that pressing ENTER to enter / rename text FAR MORE common sense. Most of the time I am renaming files that I have just created from video conversion operations onto the desktop, and I am renaming files far more than I am executing applications on the desktop (which, instead, I use spotlight and the Dock explicitly for launching apps). –  mrBitch Aug 16 '11 at 10:10
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