Bash and vim's file completion facilities are effective for navigating through a few levels of a directory structure, but can be cumbersome when working with unfamiliar directories. Alternatively, I use a fuzzy search plugin in vim, which is effective within a project, but less so across the full drive.

What I'd like to use in these situations is the osx file browser dialog. I imagine this would be accomplished via the "Save As..." or "Open..." dialogs. Is there any way to launch one of these dialogs from the command line and have it write the selection to stdout?

I found this question about displaying alerts. The answers are focused on using Automator. Can we use a similar approach to achieve my goal?

Worst-case scenario, I imagine it wouldn't be too difficult to build, but I've been focused on web programming for the last 10 years or so. Could someone point me in the direction of some relevant resources? I imagine I'd need to build a native osx app in objective-c or Swift using Cocoa?

  • I'm no bash/vim guru, I just fumble around in terminal a bit, so forgive me if I'm way off track… Are you trying to get a path into your command line? Dropping a file or folder into terminal will generate the path to file, if that's what you need.
    – Tetsujin
    Nov 26, 2014 at 19:56
  • Thanks Tetsujin, that's a great solution when working in windowed mode - especially if I already have the folder open in finder. However, my primary use case is working in iterm2 in full-screen mode and very rarely do I have the folder open in finder already. Thanks for the tip though! Nov 26, 2014 at 20:13
  • Ah, OK, I see. Default Folder can 'click through' open app windows to 'find' an open folder in the finder, or remember sets of favourites, recents etc - though it would need you to be able to generate the file-picker from your original question, so might not be any help.
    – Tetsujin
    Nov 26, 2014 at 20:17
  • Default Folder is an interesting product, but yeah, it doesn't seem to be much help for this situation. Thanks anyway. Nov 26, 2014 at 20:58
  • Sorry I couldn't ultimately be of help - wish you luck :)
    – Tetsujin
    Nov 26, 2014 at 21:17

1 Answer 1


This can be done using AppleScript, like in the question you linked to. Watch out, this is not the same as Automator.

Example script:

osascript -e 'tell application (path to frontmost application as text)
set myFile to choose file
POSIX path of myFile

This uses the simplest form of the choose file command, and puts the result in the variable myFile. The result will be of type alias, which has a POSIX path property, which we read in the next line. The result will be written to stdout.

Look here for all the possible optional options to the choose file command. You can e.g. provide a custom prompt text, choose a default location, or only allow certain file types.

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