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Five Funky Finder Features in Mac OS X

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Maria Langer loves to dig for hidden treasures in her Macintosh. Join her in exploring a treasure trove of worthy but little-known features of the Mac's Finder.
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I’m always poking around Mac OS and Apple’s support documents to see what little-known features I can explore and share with readers and listeners. In this article, I’ll discuss five Finder features you may not have noticed. Although I’m working with Mac OS X Tiger, some of these features may be available in previous versions of Mac OS, so don’t feel completely left out if you haven’t upgraded to Tiger yet.

Action Menu

In some version of Mac OS X—I can’t remember which—Apple introduced the Action menu. This is a pop-up menu with an icon on it that kind of looks like a gear. Click the Action menu to display options that apply to the window or the item(s) selected in it (see Figure 1).

Figure 1

Figure 1 The commands that appear on the Action menu vary depending on the active window or item(s) selected.

The Action menu is part of Mac OS X, so it appears in many applications other than the Finder. And because its contents are contextual—that is, they offer options for what’s in the window—you can call them contextual menus. But that’s not what Apple calls them. The Apple docs refer to the Action menu as the Action menu. Period. But oddly enough, they also refer to what I’ve been calling the contextual menu as the Action menu.

The contextual menu is the menu that appears when you hold down the Control key and click an item (see Figure 2) or, if you have a two-button mouse, when you right-click an item. This is a really handy menu in that it can be displayed anywhere there are options, and it applies only to the items you’ve selected or are clicking.

Figure 2

Figure 2 The other Action menu is a contextual menu that appears at the mouse pointer.

My favorite use for the contextual Action menu is in a web browser window, when I want to copy the address for a link (see Figure 3) or save an image to disk. Try it and see for yourself.

Figure 3

Figure 3 The Action menu in action in a web browser window.

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