This Command key shortcut will change how you use your Mac

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command key
Take command.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

There are two kinds of Mac users. The sad, harried folks who don’t know how to use this easy, essential, life-changing Command key trick. And the happy, efficient, relaxed people who learned it years ago. If you’ve seen the movie Back to the Future, it’s like the difference between the two 2015 versions of George McFly, before and after Marty screws around with the 1950s. This trick will change your life.

Are you ready?

Use the Command key (⌘) to reveal anything

Joking aside, this really is a handy trick. In addition to all their other tricks, the Mac’s Command keys — the ones that look like ⌘, on either side of the space bar — can be used to reveal the location of files, folders and apps on your Mac.

Try this: If you’re at your Mac, mouse over to the Dock, then Command-click on any app in the Dock. That is, hold down the ⌘ key on the keyboard while clicking on any app’s Dock icon. What happens? A Finder window opens, and the app you clicked is visible, and selected.

The same thing works for any files or folders you may have in the Dock. Just ⌘-click to reveal them in the Finder.

Those powerful window bar icons

That’s not all you can do with Command click on the Mac. Try this: Open up a document in any app. It might be Pages, or it may be an image editor like Acorn. See the little icon on the top middle of the document window? The one that (usually) also has the name of the document next to it? Command-click that, and you’ll see this:

Command-click window bar icons to show their path.
Command-click window bar icons to show their path.
Photo: Cult of Mac

What’s that? That’s the folder hierarchy of the document you just Command-clicked. It shows the document itself, above any enclosing folders. If the document is in your Home > Desktop > Junk folder, for instance, you’ll see those three folders, plus the SSD drive containing them, plus your Mac.

These icons are all interactive. Keeping the Command key held down, you can mouse over any of these folders, and click on them. A new Finder window opens up, showing that folder. This is a fantastic way to show a file in the Finder, instead of having to go and dig around for it.

This Command key shortcut even works in Finder Get Info windows.
It even works in Finder Get Info windows.
Photo: Cult of Mac

You can even use this trick in the Finder itself, to show the path to the current window. Oh, and here’s a separate tip. You can drag that window bar icon, and it acts as a proxy for the file itself. You could drag it into an email to create an attachment, or just to another spot in the Finder.

Other Command key tricks

The Command key does way more than just reveal stuff in the Finder or form a part of most keyboard shortcuts on the Mac (⌘-Q to quit an app, for example). You probably already know that you can hold down the Command key in the Finder, then click on multiple Files, folders or apps to select them from a list. But did you know that you also can perform ⌘-key commands (like ⌘-Q) on apps in the ⌘-Tab App Switcher? Hit ⌘-Tab, and keep hitting Tab until your target app is highlighted. Then hit ⌘-Q, all without letting up on the ⌘ key.

It’s a bit like learning Street Fighter II combos. But once you’ve learned them, they’ll become completely automatic. In fact, this kind of stuff is one huge reason why the Mac is still a lot easier to use than the iPad.