Mac OS X: Opening Files with Application Switcher

| TMO Quick Tip

Most of you are probably aware of two very powerful Mac OS X features: the Application Switcher (invoked by pressing Command-Tab) and the ability to pick up files from the Finder and drag them around (and drop them on Dock icons, for example, to open them or attach them to an e-mail). But combining these essential components to manage files will make your workflow easier, I promise—even if you have to use both hands to make this trick work. OK, you may have to practice it a couple of times. It’s totally worth it, though.

Here’s how you do it. First, click and hold on the icon of whatever you’d like to send somewhere else (such as a file you want to attach to an e-mail in progress or an image you need to insert in a document). Continue holding down the mouse or trackpad button to keep that item on your cursor.

When you pick up a file, you’ll see a ghostly image of it as you drag it around. Boo!

Then hold down Command with your other hand and press Tab. Continue holding down Command and tap the Tab key until you reach your destination application, and then release Command. You’ll note that you can still see the icon of the file you’d originally picked up, and if the program you’re trying to add it to thinks you can do so, you may also see a green “plus” icon appear.

Here’s what you’ll see when your file reaches its destination, right before you release your mouse button. It’s not right that this makes me as happy as it does.

You can then release your mouse button to drop the file on a Mail message, into your word processing document at a specific point, or wherever, and boom! Instant file-adding goodness. Just don’t try to do this with a coffee cup in your hands. Things won’t turn out well, and I refuse to buy any of you a new MacBook Pro.

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Comments

ViewRoyal

You can do the same thing using just one hand, and without using Command-Tab.

Just drag the same file to the icon for the same application in your dock.

Melissa Holt

Just drag the same file to the icon for the same application in your dock.

Hi there ViewRoyal,

If you want to accomplish the same thing, you can’t just drop it onto a Dock icon (as the result there is that a new document or Mail message opens with your file). In order to place a file within an existing document, you’ll need to drag the icon for the file, hold it on the appropriate Dock icon to get an Expos? view of the open windows, and then drag it to the window you want to place it in. Which seems more cumbersome to me than using the Command-Tab trick. But your mileage (and preferences!) may vary, and I appreciate your input. smile

Dorje Sylas

Using the darg to dock icon is an option, if you hold the document over the program icon for about 2 seconds it will display all the program’s windows and can then drop the item into one of them or hover over it and pull it up full to insert it. It even does a “double click/flash” style animation when it selects it.

I think the biggest tip about OSX is that of you think you should be able to drag and drop a file someplace… generally you can. It’s why I’m surprised Apple doesn’t put this kind of stuff casually into their ads instead of bashing.

Mikuro

Using the darg to dock icon is an option, if you hold the document over the program icon for about 2 seconds it will display all the program?s windows and can then drop the item into one of them or hover over it and pull it up full to insert it. It even does a ?double click/flash? style animation when it selects it.

Hmm. I just tried it, and it does not work for me. Running the latest Snow Leopard. Perhaps you have some third-party enhancer installed?

My personal favorite it to use Expos? while dragging files. Begin dragging, hit F9 (or whatever your Expos? key is set to), then hover over the desired window for a second r two and it will pop forward.

Mikuro

I also want to say that this is a great tip. I never thought about doing it this way before, but in many cases it’s a lot easier and faster than using Expos?. I just used it to drag some folders to an open Terminal window. Very nice.

tammythemongoose

It did not work for me. I opened up a PNG file and tried to drop it in an open pages document and I never got the plus sign. However, I didn’t know about dropping the file into a doc icon and having say a new file open up so I am happy!

Melissa Holt

I opened up a PNG file and tried to drop it in an open pages document and I never got the plus sign.

Hey Tammy,

Did you try just dropping it anyway? As I noted in the article, you may see the “plus” icon, but I’ve had a few instances in which it did not appear, though I was still able to then pop the item into place.

I will note that PNG files do seem to work normally on my version of Pages, so I’d be curious to know what happens when you try to do the above anyway.

Thanks for writing!
?Melissa

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