Bay Mac’s Help Desk

With Steve Paris

– helping you get the most out of your Mac, iPhone & iPad

Q: I’m having difficulty finding stuff. I know how to use Spotlight and can open docs from there, but I never know where they actually are on my hard drive, so it doesn’t help if I need to email someone a document.

A: Spotlight is Apple’s system-wide search tool (accessible from the magnifying glass icon, top right of the Menu Bar). It’s great to find and open documents quickly (it also works for opening apps). But you’re right, from the looks of it, there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to find the item in the context of its enclosing folder rather than just opening the file.

There is however a keyboard shortcut to help you do just that, and it’s a shortcut that’s consistent in many different situations. It’s also not advertised so it’s not surprising you didn’t know about it.

When you do a search through Spotlight, you start typing your query and results appear beneath the search field. Normally, you click on an item to get a preview of it on the right. However, if you then hold down the Command key (the key that’s usually directly to the left of the spacebar, labelled ‘cmd’ or bearing a symbol that looks like a castle viewed from above), you’ll see the location of the file directly beneath the preview section.

Even better, double-click on the file’s name while holding down the Command key will open the folder that files are stored in, and highlight the file for you. You can then easily drag and drop it from there onto your email message.

This command-click shortcut also works with files or folders you currently have open: at the top of every folder or file is its name and a small icon to that name’s left. Command-click on that and a pop-up menu will appear showing you where the item is located based in your hard drive. You can even click on any item on the list to open it instantly.

Steve Paris is an internationally published writer, an Apple Certified Trainer, and through his new website, provides consultancy, training and troubleshooting services to the Swansea area. You can email him at or contact him on 077-8866-0407.


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