I would like to use the shift+click selection method on windows within the Finder that are using icon view. Unfortunately, whilst it works fine in the other views to block highlight all files between the first and second click, its behaviour changes to operate the same as cmd+click in icon view.

I have a few hundred images in the folder and I want to select a big range to move it to a separate folder. The range is higher than my screen, so it needs be scrolled down - to a point. This is one of the most frequent situations in dealing with images. I don't know which images are which just by their filenames. I need to see them to select them. I don't want to drag the mouse/trackpad to select the range, as I need to be extra cautious about the scroll speed that way. It's infinitely more convenient to use the Apple's all-glorified trackpad (two-finger scrolling) that admittedly does work great. Then, when I find the last picture, I want to shift-click it and have the range selected.

Is there any way to get this working in icon view, or can anyone at least attempt to explain why it does not work, and if it's perhaps a bug or maybe a conscious decision to implement it in this way?

  • Thank you for editing my question, I believe you did it for a good purpose. However, my question was not whether or not it is possible to shift-click a range in the icon view. I know this can't be done. My question was about the meaning of not having this feature in the OS. As I am preparing material for an article/video on MacOS X and its philosophy, I wanted to gather some material - and also satisfy my own desire to know. I was hoping someone would answer the exact question: what are the benefits of not having this feature. 75th Trombone answered just that. Please revert my title back.
    – Martin
    Nov 14, 2013 at 23:21
  • You never know, it may be possible, with alternate Finder implementations etc. Your original phrasing was soliciting opinion, and could never receive a canonical answer. You can revert edits yourself as the question owner, but your comments above move it into closable territory because opinion based questions that solicit discussion rather than present genuine fixable problems are against our posting guidelines.
    – stuffe
    Nov 14, 2013 at 23:31
  • 1
    I'm aware of this opinion-tone in the question text, and yes, it might provoke a fruitless discussion. I was only talking about title. But be it as it may, my question is answered. I won't revert it myself, if you think it should stay like this, let it stay.
    – Martin
    Nov 14, 2013 at 23:51
  • I think it's worth pointing out that you can scroll during the drawing of a selection marquee in the Finder — using the scroll wheel (or two finger scrolling on a trackpad) while the mouse button is still depressed, rather than being limited to dragging the mouse to the edge of a window, which provides less finesse than regular scrolling.
    – joelseph
    Nov 15, 2013 at 14:52
  • Let me try that right away... brb. EDIT: Wellll, to some extent yes. Pls keep in mind that I'm using trackapd only with 3-finger selection and tap to click (no pressing needed). Only way I could achieve what you've suggested was by physically pressing the trackpad and 2-finger dragging while pressed. Not as handy as simple shift-click, but can be helpful, thank you!
    – Martin
    Nov 15, 2013 at 17:41

4 Answers 4


When they take that feature away from me, what is my benefit?

They didn't "take that feature away"; OS X has never had it. Obviously, we can't know exactly why OS X doesn't have it, so your question cannot be definitively answered in the way you insist upon. But here's my hypothesis:

Finder items in Icon View don't always have an obvious order the way they do always do in List View. They start being arranged in rows by whatever you have it set to arrange by, but you can then drag icons to any position, and that position will be (in theory) remembered forever. If your icons are haphazardly arranged, how is OS X to divine which items are "between" any given two items?

They could come up with some algorithm, but given that your icons could be scattered amongst arbitrary pixel-granular coordinates, there would undoubtedly be cases where it didn't do the thing you thought you wanted. For that matter, also unlike List View, items in Icon View can be located outside the viewable bounds of the Finder window on both axes, and shift-click range selecting would then sometimes select icons you can't see and had no idea were being selected.

So, if anything, what you "gain" by this behavior is an assurance against accidentally moving/copying/trashing your files without expecting or knowing it.

  • OK, makes sense...
    – Martin
    Nov 14, 2013 at 22:29
  • 1
    However, the possibility to scatter your icons in an infinite (or vast) space beyond the visible portion of the windows - this kind of liberty is also beyond me. When I zoom the icon view, icons just go out of the visible area. I can't think of use-cases for this, but maybe it's just me.
    – Martin
    Nov 14, 2013 at 22:39
  • 4
    How about choosing "Arrange -> By name"? Then the shift-click selection could be allowed before any icon is moved. Also, an option "Always arrange by" would be handy. When turned on, icons would always be arranged in a chosen way, therefore allowing shift-click selection. I see no reason not to have that (especially in a tenth plus version od the OS with quite enough time to mature). Don't you agree?
    – Martin
    Nov 14, 2013 at 23:14
  • 3
    Right-click, show view options - allows you to sort the icon view by whatever you like. Shift-click really should work like it does in other views here and it's pretty annoying when working through images that it doesn't.
    – user62556
    Nov 15, 2013 at 21:27
  • 5
    this is so lame for mac, thee most basic windows feature Nov 30, 2016 at 17:00

Here is a workaround. In Icon View, select the first and last items using Command-click. Change to List View. Command-click the first or last item to de-select it, and then Shift-click the same item to select the entire range.

  • Came here with the same problem as OP, I know it's an old post. But thanks, this guy's comment/suggestion was great: "Here is a workaround. In Icon View, select the first and last items using Command-click. Change to List View. Command-click the first or last item to de-select it, and then Shift-click the same item to select the entire range." worked for me.
    – ChrisPCE
    Oct 18, 2017 at 1:24
  • Caveat: you will have to make sure that your Icon and List views are sorted the same.
    – wisbucky
    Mar 31, 2018 at 16:11
  • CMD+1 for icon view, CMD+2 for list view
    – neaumusic
    Jun 15, 2020 at 7:34

There IS a way of doing it clever clogs! Click on the screen (not on the ICON) and drag a box around the icons you which to highlight ... Voila!

  • 4
    Unfortunately, that means draging a box around those icons, not shift-clikcing... if I needed that, I wouldn't ask for shift-click :-) The question was precise on purpose. Use case: you have 45843 photographs in your folder. You need to select only those with white background. You have 3215 such photographs. There is no way to see them all on one screen, you need to scroll. If you drag a box, it may take long and may select more photos. With shift click, you click the first one, then scroll hi-speed down, see where white ones end, and shift-click the last one. By far the fastest way.
    – Martin
    Oct 7, 2014 at 16:08

Using a combination of the Shift / key, mouse ‘marquee selection’, and (if necessary), scrolling, you can essentially ‘shift select’ items across multiple rows in icon view using this three step process, and it’s really not too inconvenient:

  1. In the top row, drag a marquee selection with the mouse (via either click and drag or three-finger drag), from the beginning of where you want to select to the end of that particular row.

  2. Then, while holding the Shift / key, start dragging a marquee selection over the whole second row (after which you can release the Shift / key), and simply move the cursor to the bottom of the screen to let it continue adding however many ‘whole rows’ you want before you reach your final (custom, not whole) row.*

  3. While pressing the Shift / key a final time, marquee-select the items wanted in the LAST row, in the same way the top row was.

DONE! Pretty quick.

I agree, that it’s unintuitive to not be able to simply, shift-select items in icon view like you can in the other views - but you can at least shift-select EXISTING mouse selections, indeed that of ANY randomness as you need like 2 middle images in one row plus the two last images in a row five rows down!

* With Apple’s trackpad, you have the additional option of scrolling, (down, or up), to choose the size of your ‘middle’ whole-row, multi-row selection, arguably with finer granularity, to control, correct or pace the ‘big jump’ if need be, with small, big or medium scroll movements, both up or down! My own test with an external mouse however shows even that can scroll during shift-selection, albeit with not as much fine control like Apple's trackpad.

  • This answer basically is just saying to use marquee selections and hold Shift to select additional marquee-selected files. (Btw, you don't need to hold "Shift+⌘"-- just "Shift")
    – Pup
    Jan 14, 2016 at 20:35

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