After hitting -O, how can I navigate my folders and select a file to open using only my keyboard?

In particular, how can I get the focus into the folder list? (From there I can use arrows or start typing the first letters of the desired file/folder.)

In some programs I can rely on hitting TAB 5 times, but this isn't reliable and I figure there must be a better way.

  • In the open dialog, you're already in the file list… it's just that nothing is selected. Type any letter to select a folder.
    – Andy Swift
    Commented Dec 12, 2018 at 10:12

3 Answers 3


System Prefences > Keyboard > Keyboard Shortcuts > Enable "Full Keyboard Access: All Controls", then you can use Tab to move between elements until your file list is highlighted, and use the arrows to select your file, in fact you should immediately be able to type a letter or use the keys as the default focus should be on the file list.

  • 1
    One nuance here is that while the ** Open** and Save dialog boxes look similar, they behave differently for purposes of the OP’s question since on a Save dialog, the file name field is focused, requiring either eight TABs or three SHIFT-TABs to navigate through the controls to the file list.
    – jm3
    Commented Mar 17, 2018 at 1:58
  • 1
    Ctrl-tab jumps directly to the file list.
    – Andy Swift
    Commented Dec 12, 2018 at 10:13

File dialogs should support the same shortcuts as Finder.

You can also press ~, /, or ⇧⌘G to open the Go to Folder sheet.

If Full Keyboard Access is enabled (in the keyboard preferences), ⇧⇥ moves focus from the file browser to the source list.

  • Also, Cmd-downarrow will navigate to the currently highlighted directory (rather than "open"ing it.) Commented Mar 31, 2015 at 9:29

What you are looking for is control-tab.

In the "Open" dialog, typing a letter will go to the first element with that letter.

In the "Save" dialog, ctrl-tab will jump between the file name and the document list.

Attention: it is not obvious that the document list is active because by default nothing is selected.

You have to type a letter or use the arrow keys to navigate to a folder.

You do not have to modify your system preferences.

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