Mac OS X Tip: Double-click on column resizer to autofit

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
March 30th, 2006 • 9:42 am

This is a tip that I was completely unaware of, in spite of my years of experience with Mac OS X. So I figure there might be other Mac OS X users who might not be aware of it and might find it useful.

In a Finder window in column view, the file/folder names are often truncated because the columns are not wide enough to display them in full.

You can of course resize columns manually by dragging the little control at the bottom of the column:

Column Resizer

If you hold the Option key down at the same time, Mac OS X resizes all columns in the window at the same time. (it used to be the other way around in earlier versions of Mac OS X.)

But did you know that if you double-click on this column resizer, Mac OS X automatically resizes the column to make it just big enough to display all file/folder names in full?

And if you hold the Option key down while you double-click, Mac OS X resizes all columns in the window to make them big enough to display their respective contents in full.

It’s an amazingly useful little shortcut (instead of having to resize columns manually) and I can’t believe I didn’t find out about it before. I found out about it through Owen Linzmayer’s “10 More Things I Hate about Mac OS X” article.

6 Responses to “Mac OS X Tip: Double-click on column resizer to autofit”

  1. Chris Mear says:

    Neat tip! Now I just need a way to auto-resize the columns in List view. Heck, just having the cursor change when I’m over the resize area would be nice. The target’s so narrow, I usually end up clicking on the column heading and re-sorting the list.

    Easier columns in List view is probably the one thing I miss from (gasp!) Windows…

  2. Pierre Igot says:

    IMHO, the list view is not going to improve any time soon. Apple just doesn’t seem to care. It looks as if everyone in Cupertino works in column view exclusively. There are numerous problems specific to list view and they haven’t been fixed for years.

    Of course, the rumoured new Finder in OS X 10.5 might change this, but it’s still only a rumour…

  3. Paul Ingraham says:

    Yep, I miss column-resizing from Windows as well. In fact, I miss it so much that I still reflexively attempt to do it in OS X… which is how I learned that it was possible in column view!

    I also miss being able to resize windows from any corner.

  4. Pierre Igot says:

    I am not sure what you guys are referring to here with Windows and column resizing. Is there’s some kind of automatic column resizing feature in Windows in list view? I have little experience with Windows, but just the other day I was with someone using Windows XP and she was scrolling horizontally to get further down the list of files, which were not even in alphabetical order. Ugh.

    I agree that it’s absolutely ridiculous that the mouse pointer fails to change to the column-resizing cursor when the mouse is hovering over the column separators in list view. This is a shameful flaw that’s a typical illustration of how list view has been mistreated by Apple’s engineers ever since the move to Mac OS X.

    As for resizing from any corner, in my experience it’s only really useful in applications that are poorly designed in the first place (including the Finder). I am not convinced that it’s actually necessary when applications are otherwise properly designed. But it’s one of those things that seems to be in a constant state of flux.

  5. danridley says:

    If you double-click on the border between column headers (where you can resize columns) in Windows, it will auto-fit the column. This is pretty much a standard; it works in Explorer and a vast array of other list views (Outlook comes to mind).

    Windows XP has some really weird views, including the List view (what used to be called Small Icons), which will give you the behavior you mention (horizontal scrolling to move down the list of files). (The Details view is the one that has columns.)

    As for the files being in alphabetical order, you can sort by name, type, size or modified date. However, unlike OS X, if files are sorted by name, the folders always appear first, sorted amongst themselves; followed by files. Also, when new files appear, they’re tacked onto the end of the view, and not sorted unless you hit Refresh.

    (There are a couple of options in Explorer that I miss not having in Finder, but as with so many Microsoft products the overall experience is less than the sum of its parts.)

  6. Pierre Igot says:

    Thanks for the additional information! It does sound like it is a bit of a mess… What’s for sure is that my colleague didn’t seem to have any idea why things were the way they were. (I couldn’t see an obvious way to change the sort order just by looking at the screen for a few seconds, so I just let her find the file manually…)

    And for new files being tacked onto the end… I guess it’s better than new files not showing up at all (as in Mac OS X prior to 10.4), but it’s a bit embarrassing nonetheless. Although Mac OS X is only marginally better, with its background sorting that can take a few seconds to kick in when you create a new folder in a list and give it a name that doesn’t start with “untitled”…

    It really is amazing that such basic stuff doesn’t work as expected in 2006. Having to hit a “Refresh” button? Gasp.

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