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Years ago I've seen a great UX solution on a Mac:

  • in a program, say, a text editor, I choose File/Open menu,
  • the file open dialog comes up, with a default directory, e.g. Desktop,
  • I click on a Finder window, or the desktop itself, and the open dialog directory changes to the clicked window.

I found it pretty useful, because the user opens directories in Finder because he or she actually works with them, and it's trivial that he or she will open/save stuff in one of these directories.

Is there such extension out there, or my false memory is kidding with me?

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I think the app you're looking for is Default Folder X
It does a myriad other things, but clicking in an open Finder window on the desktop will take the dialog to it [even if not visible behind another app or window]

It will 'bookmark' folders, historically or as Favourites & you can set up different sets for different apps & workflows.

enter image description here

Well worth the price imho; I've been using it since before they added the 'X' to the title, in OS 9 & earlier. I consider it one of my 'cannot live without' utilities.
No affiliation, just a long-time happy user.

Copy/paste of their Main Features section...

Directory Assistant
Access your recent, favorite, and open folders from DFX's toolbar. Hierarchical pop-up menus let you quickly navigate through folders to get to your files.

Real Time Saving
If you're constantly saving things inside the same folder, DFX can remember that folder for you. Or you can set it as the default folder for an application so you're in the right folder from the start.

Finder Management
DFX lets you open up or save to any Finder window with a single click. It also lets you get info on, duplicate, rename, and delete existing files, putting the Finder's power in every Open and Save dialog.

Instant Recall
To help you quickly return to folders and files you've used recently, DFX remembers them for you. It even re-selects the last file you opened. With DFX, you'll never forget where you put something.

At Your Fingertips
Get places fast by using keyboard shortcuts for your favorite folders. Or jump to recent folders and open Finder windows with a keystroke. DFX's shortcuts are completely configurable.

Spotlight on the Spot
Tag your files or edit your Spotlight comments from within any Open or Save dialog. Don't remember what tags you used before? DFX shows you all of your recently used tags - just drag and drop.

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I can imagine this to be the UX solution you've seen:

Favorite folders in the Finder sidebar

  1. Show the sidebar. Choose View > Show Sidebar. (If Show Sidebar is dimmed, choose View > Show Toolbar.)

  2. Add a folder: Hold down the Command (⌘) key, then drag the item to the Favorites section.

If you don’t see the Favorites section, go to Finder > Preferences > Sidebar, then select at least one item in the section.

Is this the solution you were looking for?


Original answer

To navigate to a folder in the "file/open dialog" that is already open in Finder.app do this:

(I assume that both the Finder window and the "file/open dialog" are visible on the same screen/space)

  1. Click and hold the folder icon of the folder you want to go to and…
  2. Drag the icon into the "file/open dialog" and release the mouse.
  3. Done.
  • I knew this trick, but I'm looking the use-finder-windows-as-kinda-bookmarks feature. – ern0 Jan 22 '17 at 23:41
  • I think I know which feature you're looking for. I'll edit my answer in a few hours. I. The meantime: in Finder.app show the left sidebar. You'll see a section called "favorites". Drag your folders onto it. Now you can click any of your bookmarked folders to go there instantly. :) – oa- Jan 23 '17 at 6:34

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