File selection tricks for Leopard

One trick that many Mac vets use for forcing files and folders is to name them with leading spaces—a leading space will force an item to the top of a “sort by name” view. You can control the order of many items at the top of such a list by using multiple spaces, too. Items with more spaces at the front of their names go closer to the top of the list.

I use this trick myself quite often, and until the release of OS X 10.5, there weren’t any real downsides to using it. As with any other file in the OS X Finder, you could select these files using the keyboard, too—press the Space Bar while browsing a directory with such files in it, and the first one will be selected.

In 10.5, however, the Space Bar has been reassigned to a new task—it now invokes Quick Look, instead of acting like any other key on the keyboard. So how then do you select files whose names begin with spaces via the keyboard? By adding one more keystroke to the mix: the Option key.

When viewing a folder that contains space-named files, press and hold Option, then press the Space Bar. This will select the first file with a space for its first character; if you’ve used multiple spaces, you can press the Space Bar again to select them—there’s no need to hold down the Option key after the first press of the Space Bar.

Because the Space Bar works without the Option key after the initial selection, to use the Space Bar to Quick Look the selected files, you need to wait just a bit after selecting the file or folder in order to Quick Look it. If you don’t wait long enough, the Quick Look window just won’t show up.

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