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This doesn't just apply to right-clicking. Really I could have titled this:

Where is the "blank space" when in list view in Finder?

Open a Windows Explorer window in Windows and change to "Details" view. Notice that at the far right of the window, there is basically an "empty column" or "blank space" where you can right-click to activate a context menu for actions within that folder.

Similarly, if I want to drag and drop a file(s) or folder(s) into that active folder, I can drag it to that "blank space" and avoid accidentally placing the files into a subfolder or activating an exe/batch file.

Now, the same behavior is available in macOS... to a point. In "icons" view, I can always find a "blank space" to click between the icons.

However, in the other three views - list, columns, and Cover Flow - I find it incredibly annoying that there seems to be no place I can safely right-click (and similarly no place to safely drop a file or folder that I am moving).

Note this only applies when there are enough files or folders within the folder to require scrolling. If there are only a few files in the list, then you can easily right-click in the empty space below the files.

So, my question is this:

Given a folder full of files which requires a scrollbar to view all the contents, where can you safely right-click to display a context menu, or safely drag and drop a file or folder?

I did find this almost identical question: How to copy-paste in Finder when there's no right-click space?

However, no one seems to answer whether or not there is any such space. Based on this previous question, is the answer simply that there is no reliable blank space in macOS that allows you to open a context menu or to drag a file or folder?

  • You can use the Finder menus at the top of the screen. – At0mic Aug 26 '16 at 18:25
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    First of all I haven't really used Windows for 10 years, so I don't remember how things worked in Windows Explorer. Secondly, even when right-clicking in the blank space below the files when in list view, there is a very limited number of commands available on the Context menu, mainly New Folder. Yes there's Get Info, View, Arrange By andShow View Options. All of these have hotkey combos and main menu commands, Toolbar. What command is it that you want. Also, I have no problems dragging and dropping files/folders "safely" as you so put it, so I'm not really sure what issue you're having here. – user3439894 Aug 27 '16 at 0:18
  • I think you may just have to learn how to do it with what's available and live with it. – user3439894 Aug 27 '16 at 0:19
  • Ya, the dragging isn't so problematic as I thought. But context menu is useful for new folder and for paste. – Daniel Aug 27 '16 at 1:21
  • Paste is Cmd/v & new folder is Cmd/shift/n - exactly the same as on Windows, but Cmd instead of Ctrl. – Tetsujin Aug 27 '16 at 9:25
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The place that you can right click on "blank space" in list view is below the list items. This is only available if the window is larger than the list it contains. If the list of items is longer than the window and it needs to scroll, there is no place in the window that you can right click on blank space.

Screenshot of list view with blank space below items

Dropping files into a window is easier. If you drag an item on any of the text in a list view, it will highlight the row and you will drag onto it. However, if you drag an item onto the space that doesn't have text, it will put a blue outline around the window, indicating that you are dropping into the window, not into one of the items listed.

Screenshot of list view with outline highlighting on the window.

  • Disappointing. The part about having no space to right-click if the list is too long just seems like bad UI design. The second tip is useful. – Daniel Aug 27 '16 at 1:19
  • If you're already using the mouse, all the commands you're looking for are available in both the toolbar and the menus. Intentionally creating blank space simply to have a place to right-click, when you can easily access the commands elsewhere (including the toolbar - see my answer) seems wasteful and definitely would be bad UI design in my book. – tubedogg Aug 27 '16 at 2:10
  • Let's agree to disagree. If you support behavior that right-clicking shows a context menu, but that behavior disappears or reappears solely based on the size of the window and the number of files/folders listed within that window, without any clear indication of whether that behavior is still available or not, I'd consider that obtuse UI design. Either support the behavior consistently, or drop it entirely. – Daniel Sep 7 '18 at 16:10
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As noted in the other answer, drag-and-drop into the open folder can occur anywhere there is no text.

Finder gear toolbar icon

All contextual options that are intended to affect the currently open folder can be accessed from the gear menu icon on the Finder toolbar (with the exception of the View submenu, as that is addressed by other icons on the Finder toolbar). I haven't changed my toolbar in years, so it's possible it's not there by default - if not, it can be added by right-clicking on the toolbar and selecting Customize Toolbar.

Note this menu does change depending on what's selected. If you have an item selected, you will see some options specifically for that item, but most of the general items from the right-click menu (New Folder, Arrange By, etc.) are present regardless of whether an item is selected or not.

You can also have no items selected by using Command+click on the item that is selected to deselect it.

2

Opt ⌥ + right click will show the overall 'folder' contextual menu as opposed to the 'item selected' menu.

...though, irritatingly, only in Column View.

  • Not sure why the downvote. Yes, it's a short answer, but it's actually correct. – Tetsujin Aug 14 '18 at 10:05
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    I sent a feature request to Apple to add this to List view... maybe in Mojave, if we get lucky ;) – Tetsujin Aug 14 '18 at 10:25
  • Thanks for the tip. It is the inconsistency that is more frustrating than anything. – Daniel Sep 7 '18 at 16:10

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