Mac OS X’s Finder: ‘Get Info’ toolbar button not equivalent to ‘Get Info’ menu command

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
May 18th, 2006 • 9:01 am

In Mac OS X’s Finder, when customizing the toolbar buttons that are available in all Finder windows that have a toolbar (and the sidebar), you can choose to add a button labelled ”Get Info“:

Get Info toolbar button

When a file is selected in a Finder window and you click on this “Get Info” button in the toolbar, the Finder brings up the information window for the file in question.

So in effect it looks like this “Get Info” toolbar button is just another way to access the “Get Info” command, which is also accessible via the “File” menu or with the command-I keyboard shortcut.

Unfortunately, the “Get Info” toolbar button is not fully equivalent to the “Get Info” menu item and to the “Get Info” keyboard shortcut.

With the menu item and the keyboard shortcut, there is an additional option. If you hold the Option key while selecting the menu item or pressing the keyboard shortcut, Mac OS X’s Finder brings up the “File Inspector” window instead of bringing up the file-specific information window.

The difference between the inspector window and the file-specific window is that you get one file-specific window per item—whereas the inspector window is a “container” window that is meant to stay open and whose contents change depending on which item is selected in the Finder.

They both have their uses, of course. (One of the drawbacks of the inspector window is that it disappears as soon as you switch to another application and the Finder becomes a background application, whereas the file-specific information windows stay open in the background and you can still see their contents from within another application.)

My problem here is that it is impossible to bring up the inspector window using the “Get Info” toolbar button. You would think that, since this button is supposed to be the equivalent of the “Get Info” menu command and of the command-I keyboard shortcut, when you hold down the Option key while clicking on the toolbar button, Mac OS X would bring up the inspector window instead of the file-specific information window. But it doesn’t. Even if you hold the Option key down, clicking on the “Get Info” toolbar button still brings up the regular, file-specific information window.

This might be due to a limitation of the toolbar architecture in Mac OS X. Maybe it is impossible to use modifier keys in combination with toolbar buttons in Mac OS X. I don’t know. On the other hand, it is possible to use the Command modifier key in combination with the button in the top-right corner of the window:

Show/Hide Toolbar button

When you click on this button without a modifier key, the Finder simply shows or hide the toolbar and the sidebar (and switches between the Aqua scheme and the brushed-metal scheme). But when you click on this button with the Command key held down, the Finder cycles through various display modes for the toolbar (with or without text labels, with small or large button icons).

Of course, this little button in the top-right corner is not technically part of the toolbar, so it doesn’t confirm or inform the possibility of using modifier keys in combination with regular toolbar buttons. I guess one would have to ask a developer about this.

The bottom-line here, however, is that, for the end user, this limitation breaks the consistency of the interface for bring up the information windows or inspector. Whereas the “Get Info” toolbar button, the “Get Info” menu command, and the “Get Info” keyboard shortcut look like three different ways of doing the same thing, in reality it’s not exactly like that. And that’s too bad.

4 Responses to “Mac OS X’s Finder: ‘Get Info’ toolbar button not equivalent to ‘Get Info’ menu command”

  1. sjk says:

    To confuse things even more, Get Summary Info (control-command-I) is another “* Info” variant.

  2. Pierre Igot says:

    … which doesn’t work with the “i” button in the toolbar either :).

  3. danridley says:

    In the menu, the text of the command changes depending on which modifier keys are held down. It wouldn’t make sense for the toolbar label to change (and push aside other toolbar buttons, not to mention moving your click target) when you press Option; which leaves little way to give visual feedback of the alteration in the command.

    I am, however, annoyed by the non-metal-styled buttons in the Finder toolbar; New Folder, Delete, Connect, Get Info, iDisk, Eject, Burn and even the seperator feel like ignored children in Panther and Tiger. They look really out of place.

    They also make your toolbar taller — unless you check “Use Small Size,” which doesn’t affect anything on the default Finder toolbar, but does affect these Jaguar-era relics. It took me ages to realize this, because in experimenting with the toolbars, I’d checked it, seen that there was no effect, unchecked it and mentally written it off as a useless checkbox.

  4. Pierre Igot says:

    Apple would obviously need to figure out a way to change the buttons’ text labels without causing the icons to move. But there are already other aspects of the Finder interface (notably the buttons in the Smart Folder interface) which change (without moving) when a modifier key is depressed, so it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch here. Of course, personally I use the toolbar buttons [strong]without[/strong] their text labels, so I don’t really care what they do with the text labels :).

    My suspicion is that the Finder is OS X 10.5 will have the “unified” window scheme rather than brushed-metal. It makes much more sense. Whether they’ll change the buttons to look more like the ones in Safari (or the ones in the Finder toolbar that already look like the ones in Safari) or more like the ones in Mail 2.0 is of course up in the air. The Safari button scheme is limited to black & white and really small icons (inside the buttons) so I don’t know…

    Anyway, as we all know, the Finder needs a major revamp.

Leave a Reply

Comments are closed.