Mac OS X: Opening Files with Application Switcher

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.