Mac OS X: Open Folders & Navigate the Finder with Arrow Keys

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I know I’ve mentioned to you all before how much I hate lifting my hands off of the keyboard to use the trackpad or a mouse. It’s not because I’m a particularly fast typist, it’s just that the trackpad is so comparatively slow. Drag my cursor down to the Dock to open a program? Nah, I’ll just hit Command-Spacebar and use Spotlight to do my bidding. Similarly, the time-saver I’m going to discuss here is one of my favorites—it’s fast, it’s useful, and to an onlooker who doesn’t know your secret, you’ll look like Captain Power User. Huh, that sure would be a fun costume to have, wouldn’t it?

So go pretty much anywhere in the Finder, and use the Command–Up Arrow shortcut. Doing so brings you to the enclosing folder (which just means the folder that contains the one you’re already in). 

Here’s the command listed in the Finder’s Go menu.


You can continue tapping the same shortcut to keep paging up in the folder hierarchy until you reach the very top level if you want to.

One of the reasons I like this shortcut is that I enjoy being able to get to, say, someone’s System folder quickly no matter what Finder or Sidebar preferences he has set. I’ll simply open a Finder window, hit Command–Up Arrow a few times, and I’m able to find what I want. 

You can also use Control-Command–Up Arrow if you’d like to open the enclosing folder in a new window instead.

And of course, you’re all so smart that you probably already knew that you can use the arrow keys (all of them, depending on which view you’ve set in the Finder) to move through and select files. 

Finally, a little down-arrow action. Command–Down Arrow opens whatever you have selected in the Finder into the appropriate program, so it’s essentially the same keyboard shortcut as Command-O (Open). I find, though, that if I’m using Command–Up Arrow to page through folders and using the arrow keys to move through a list of files, Command–Down Arrow just feels more natural. OK, so it’s a little bit of wasted brain space. But considering how much of my brain is already being wasted by things like ’80s song lyrics and Super Mario techniques, I think I can spare a bit.

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Note that computers with Spaces enabled may have Command-DownArrow and Command-UpArrow set to switch between spaces, rather than open the selected item or enclosing folder. I don’t use Spaces, so whenever I’m borrowing a computer that does, I keep forgetting and using the shortcuts mentioned in this article and watch in surprise as my screen flies away. grin

Melissa Holt

Thanks for the comment, Krioni! Great point.



Or install Alfred and make custom keyboard shortcuts to open your most oft-used programs.  I’ve got cmd+1, cmd+2 etc, set up to open my “work” apps, and cmd+alt+1, cmd+alt+2 etc, set up for my “hobby” apps.  I no longer use the Dock or Spotlight, and I do all my folder traversing through Alfred itself.  Also, I have cmd+p, cmd+r etc set up to open the folders I most often access so they just open.

Honestly, Alfred has completely streamlined the way I use my Mac.  (I’m not affiliated with it by the way - it’s just awesome)  grin

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