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For my current job I have to work with an Apple MacBook. The first thing I notice is the high reliance on the mouse. Which is quite slow/painful for me, knowing I need to be careful not to get more pain in my wrist/thumb (and yes even with vertical mice).

Things that I sorely miss are

  • option to get focus on the Launcher, and then able to use arrow keys + enter to open an application.
  • ctrl+L to open path in Finder, to be able to quickly change location
  • ability to cycle through press-able buttons (especially in Finder, "go up a level", "open item", "open context menu for item") with tab.
  • Ability to open a terminal directly in Finder, and keep it integrated (i.e. quickly cd changes Finder as well, and changes in Finder change Terminal's current directory).
  • ctrl + delete/backspace/arrow to handle whole words/to next whitespace

I would like to avoid all file movement using Terminal since that's not as user friendly as Finder.

In the past I learned really to use keyboard navigation where I can.

Can I use Finder in this keyboard centric manner?

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  • Do you have the access rights to install additional software or are you restricted to the capabilities of macOS?
    – nohillside
    Feb 3 at 15:58

2 Answers 2

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You have to bear in mind that the Mac was designed from the start to be 'point & click' back in the days everybody else was still on green screen, having to type everything.

It does have some equivalent functionality, but some of it you'll have to rethink.

Some suggestions…

  • Use Spotlight - Cmd ⌘ Spacebar by default. Start typing the application name, hit Return once it's the topmost in the list, or use Tab then arrows to directly open one of the listed recent documents.

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  • Cmd ⌘ Shift ⇧ G is 'Go to folder'. It also retains a short history of recent locations.

  • Finder navigation is complex & changes depending on which view you use. For entirely keyboard-driven navigation, column view is probably best.
    Context menu shortcuts can be configured by using the keyboard to emulate a right click, in System Preferences' Accessibility > Pointer Control > Alternative pointer actions

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  • Not a behaviour I'm familiar with at all.

  • Opt ⌥ backspace ⌫ / / removes whole words, Cmd ⌘ in lines. Adding Shift ⇧ selects as well as moves.

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  • Well for finder the most important thing is the ability to manipulate the urls. And if possible to open a view with a tree based browsing. Currently even for non development stuff I use vscode just to get around the file system.
    – paul23
    Nov 9, 2023 at 13:08
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    Sorry, I really don't know what you mean. How should Finder manipulate URLs?… & what is the difference between column view & 'tree-based browsing'?
    – Tetsujin
    Nov 9, 2023 at 14:11
  • that I can type "documents/test/main/"- and change to something directly by pasting over it, or changing "test" to "dev" or "prd". And that I can copy part of the uri directly into clipboard.
    – paul23
    Nov 9, 2023 at 22:13
  • That's what Cmd/shift/G does. I guess you didn't try it yet.
    – Tetsujin
    Nov 10, 2023 at 6:49
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Equivalent Mac Keyboard Shortcuts

I think these shortcuts achieve what you are looking for:

option to get focus on the Launcher, and then able to use arrow keys + enter to open an application.

Comand ⌘ + Spacebar ␣, and then type the name of the application, use the arrow keys and enter to open.

ctrl+L to open path in Finder, to be able to quickly change location

Comand ⌘ + Shift ⇧ + G will open a pop-up window that you can type the path of the directory you would like to navigate to. It also lists recent directories that you can use the arrow keys and enter to navigate and select from.

In addition, many common folders can be navigated to via a keyboard shortcut, look at the ones listed in the Finder > Go menu.

ability to cycle through press-able buttons (especially in Finder, "go up a level", "open item", "open context menu for item") with tab.

In the Finder:

Enclosing Folder: Comand ⌘ +

Open Item: Comand ⌘ +

When in Column View, the left and right arrows allow navigating through the directory tree.

As far as tabbing between buttons and other interface items, look into accessibility shortcuts.

Ability to open a terminal directly in Finder, and keep it integrated (i.e. quickly cd changes Finder as well, and changes in Finder change Terminal's current directory).

I don't have anything for this one.

ctrl + delete/backspace/arrow to handle whole words/to next whitespace

Navigate whole words: Option ⌥ + Delete ⌫ or or

Navigate whole lines: Comand ⌘ + Delete ⌫ or or

To select the text at the same time, hold Shift ⇧.

Additional Resources

The Mac has many keyboard shortcuts; here is a summary page for more common ones.

You can also run applications that will provide a cheat sheet of the keyboard shortcuts available in the active application.

I have been using one called CheatSheet, but it looks to be discontinued. Their website suggests the following alternatives:

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  • Still some comments, the cmd + shift + g function seems powerful, but it's missing environment variables, which are kind of vital to follow when bash scripts fail. Which is the main reason this topic pops up.
    – paul23
    Nov 27, 2023 at 13:57

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