Column view tricks in Open/Save dialogs

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As much as I like column view mode, one of its challenges, especially in the usually-smallish Open and Save dialogs, is that the column widths never seem to be correct for the files and folders that I’m browsing. There are a couple shortcuts (in both OS X 10.4 and 10.5) that can help with this problem. You probably know that if you double-click the icon at the bottom of a column, it will “right size” that column, so you can see the entire file name. If you Option-double-click that icon, then all columns will be “right sized” to the maximum width necessary to display the longest item in the column. (Confusingly, it doesn’t work like this in the Finder. Option-double-clicking sets all columns equal to the width of the widest column in the path, which can lead to some truly wide columns. Sadly, there isn’t a “right size all columns” option in Finder.)0

In 10.5, Apple apparently felt these shortcuts were too hidden; there’s now a contextual menu hiding under the column resize widget, too. Just control-click on it, and three choices will appear:


These options are fairly self-explanatory; the first affects only the column whose divider icon you Control-clicked. (It’s the same as a double-click on the indicator). The second will figure out the needed width of the widest column, and set all columns to that width (the equivalent to an Option-double-click in the Finder). The third will set each column only as wide as necessary to fit the longest filename in that column (the same as Option-double-clicking in the Open/Save dialog).

So now, if you have trouble remembering the shortcuts, the contextual menu is but a Control-click away. Hopefully someday Apple will figure out how to get the “right size all columns” feature into the Finder, where it would be truly useful. Until then, though, at least it works in the Open and Save dialogs.

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