Mac OS X’s Finder: No easy way to select file name without extension

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
September 9th, 2005 • 11:03 am

I realize that, by default, the option to show file extensions is off in the Finder. But we all know that turning this option on is pretty much the only way to preserve one’s sanity when it comes to file naming conventions in Mac OS X. Once you do that, however, it feels like Apple is actually punishing you for making such a choice.

Given that file extensions are such an integral part of Mac OS X, you would think that it would be fairly easy to select a file name without selecting its extension. After all, when you want to rename a file, in most cases you don’t want to change its extension. You just want to change the file name before the extension.

Unfortunately, here’s what happens when you click on a file’s name to make it editable:

Editable file name in Finder

Mac OS X’s Finder selects the entire name, including the file extension. OK, let’s assume that it makes sense for Apple to enforce this as the default behaviour. (It doesn’t.) But how do you explain that, at this stage, it is not possible to press option-shift-Left on your keyboard to reduce the selection by one word (the extension) from the right-hand side?

Try it. Pressing option-shift-Left does absolutely nothing. If you want to use the keyboard to select the file name without the extension, you actually have to:

  1. Press Left once to deselet the file name and move the insertion point to the beginning of the file name.
  2. Press option-shift-Right repeatedly to select the file name word by word until you reach the period that separates the file name from the extension.

Alternatively, you can:

  1. Press Right once to deselect the file name and move the insertion point to the end of the file name (after the extension).
  2. Press option-Left twice to move the insertion point before the period separating the file name from the extension.
  3. Press option-shift-Up to select the entire name without the extension.

I think it’s fair to say that neither of these options is satisfactory. They all require multiple steps. It should be, at the very least, possible to select the file name without the extension with a single step after having made the file name editable.

And I would in fact argue that the default behaviour when the name becomes editable should be to select the entire file name without the extension. The user would always have the option to extend the selection to include the file extension, by pressing option-shift-Right. But the default selection should not include it.

Interestingly, when you are editing a file name, you cannot use option-shift-Down (to select everything from the insertion point to the end of the file name). It simply does not work.

In other words, it definitely looks like Apple simply does not want you to use the keyboard to select the file name. What Apple is telling us here is: “Use your mouse. Every tester at Apple uses the mouse, so that what we want you to use. Never mind the fact that, when you make a file name editable, it’s usually to edit it, and editing a file name usually involves using the keyboard (to type, like, letters, you know). No, never mind that. We want to force you to use the mouse and, even then, we want to make it more difficult for you by selecting the entire name, including the file extension, by default, so that you actually first have to click somewhere in the file name to deselect the bloody thing. (It is easier to deselect the file name by pressing the Left or Right key, but remember: We don’t want you to use the keyboard at this stage. It’s just not the way we do things here.)”

It’s not like this is a small detail that only affects a few hundred Mac users worldwide. It’s a problem that affects all users that use Mac OS X with file extensions visible. And, until the new file type identification scheme implemented in Mac OS X 10.4 becomes universally accepted and used — and that’s going to take a very long time — I am afraid that millions of Mac OS X users worldwide will continue to have to deal with file extensions. And it looks like Apple intends to continue to make them suffer.

2 Responses to “Mac OS X’s Finder: No easy way to select file name without extension”

  1. Paul Ingraham says:

    Yep, this is certainly one of Finder’s dumbass design flaws. So, here’s a hurrah for CocoaTech’s Path Finder, a file browser with a much richer feature set and a lot more user good UI sense than Finder. In particular, it certainly does allow you select filenames sans extension… and all with the keyboard. It’s lovely to scroll to the file you want to rename, hit return or enter, and start typing your new filename. Aaah!

    Sadly, Path Finder is definitely a bit on the sluggish side, given that cocoa applications still have some speed limitations, and it cannot completely replace the heavily integrated Finder: too many other applications call the Finde up, and so it’s always appearing, even though I try to turn it off and just use Path Finder. However, I have started to use Path Finder full time anyway, as my preferred file browser, resorting to Finder only when I absolutely have to — kind of like the way I have to use IE every now and then when a site won’t render in Safari.

  2. Pierre Igot says:

    Yeah, I am tempted to try Path Finder out myself again (I remember trying it a long time ago) — but like you said, it cannot completely replace the Finder.

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