Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard): Finder lists keyboard shortcuts for action menu commands but they don’t work

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
January 16th, 2008 • 3:44 pm

I regularly want to do the same kind of file search with Spotlight: For example, I want to search for a specific keyword in song titles, but only for songs by a given artist.

This can be done with a Spotlight search in the Finder, using the search attributes “Authors” and “Title.” These attributes can accessed via the “Other…” command in the attributes menu and they can be added to that menu by checking the “In Menu” box next to them in the list that appears when invoking the “Other…” command.

So using these attributes I can define a Spotlight search for files whose “Authors” attribute contains the specific artist that I am looking for and whose “Title” attribute contains the keyword(s) I am looking for.

That works fine.

Since I don’t really want to rebuild such a search request manually each and every time I need to do such a search, I use the “Save” button in the Spotlight search window to save the search as a so-called “smart folder” somewhere on my hard drive.

Unfortunately, once a specific search request is saved as a smart folder, the next time I open the smart folder, by default the search criteria are all hidden. This means that if I want to modify the search, I have to make the search criteria visible first.

And unfortunately, in Mac OS X 10.5, there is only one way to do this, which is to use the “Show Search Criteria” command in the action menu in the Finder window’s toolbar.

This “Show Search Criteria” command appears nowhere else in the Finder interface in Mac OS X 10.5. It is not included in the “View” menu in the Finder’s menu bar. It cannot be added as a toolbar button to the Finder toolbar. And there is no keyboard shortcut for it.

I need to use this command quite regularly and, frankly, having to pull down the action menu and select the command with the mouse is a bit of a pain. I would like to have an alternative way to invoke the command—ideally, that would be a toolbar button, but I could live with a keyboard shortcut that I can press with my left hand without having to release my mouse.

Now, Mac OS X 10.5, like previous versions of the operating system, has a “Keyboard Shortcuts” tab in the “Keyboard & Mouse” preference pane that lets you assign your own keyboard shortcut to a specific menu command, either for a specific application or for all Mac OS X applications that include the menu command in question. (In the preference pane, when you try to add a new shortcut, the menu command is actually called “Menu Title,” which I find rather confusing.)

This functionality in System Preferences is normally used to assign keyboard shortcuts to menu commands that appear in the main menu bar at the top of your screen, but the other day, because I was frustrated again by having to use the action menu to invoke the “Show Search Criteria” command, I wondered whether Mac OS X’s keyboard shortcuts functionality would also extend to commands in the action menu in the Finder toolbar. So I tried.

I went to the “Keyboard Shortcuts” tab in the “Keyboard & Mouse” preference pane and I assigned a keyboard shortcut (command-option-shift-S) to the command “Show Search Criteria” for the Finder application.

I then used Activity Monitor to quit and relaunch the Finder, in order for the change to take effect and—wouldn’t you know it?—when I looked at the action menu in the Finder toolbar for a Spotlight search window, my command-option-shift-S shortcut was listed next to the “Show Search Criteria” command.

“This is terrific,” I thought—but then was promptly disillusioned. The keyboard shortcut was indeed listed, but as far as I could tell, it didn’t work. When I tried it, I just got a system beep, and nothing happened.

I thought that maybe there was a conflict with another system-wide keyboard shortcut somewhere, so I tried a variety of other keyboard shortcuts, which I was absolutely certain no other application was using. Sadly, I soon reached the conclusion that this was simply not properly supported in Mac OS X 10.5.

The obvious question is: If this is not supported, why is the keyboard shortcut listed next to the menu item in the action menu? If it’s not supported, then the keyboard shortcut should not appear. If it is supported, then—well, it should work. So I’ve submitted this as a bug.

Unfortunately, I suspect that the reason why the keyboard shortcut appears in the menu is simply because the Finder uses some universal routine when building all its menus, whether it’s the menus at the top in the menu bar or contextual menus in the toolbar or elsewhere. And this universal routine automatically includes keyboard shortcuts defined in System Preferences, regardless of whether they actually work for menu commands that are not in the menu bar.

So I suspect that if Apple cares at all about this issue, what they will do is not that they will add the functionality by making user-defined keyboard shortcuts for menu commands in the action menu in the Finder work, but that they will stop the action menu from displaying user-defined keyboard shortcuts at all.

But it is just as likely that whoever reads bug reports will just file this one under “Things to be fixed some time before the next millennium,” and that will be that.

I still think that it is quite wrong of Apple to only provide one way to invoke the “Show Search Criteria” command, and one that requires multiple steps with the mouse. It seems to me that part of the requirements of a properly designed modern UI is to provide the user with more than one way to accomplish things, and especially frequent tasks.

Apple’s engineers seem to have arbitrarily determined that the “Show Search Criteria” command is not something that users need to use frequently. I am afraid my own experience is not consistent with that determination at all.

4 Responses to “Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard): Finder lists keyboard shortcuts for action menu commands but they don’t work”

  1. ssp says:

    Holy shit, Pierre. I simply thought the Finder was so broken for Smart Folders in X.5 that it simply didn’t let me edit them at all. _Of course_ I didn’t consider looking into the cogwheel menu. After all nothing should be present just there (haha!).

    The really odd thing is that a keyboard equivalent does work for the Show Package Contents menu item ( But I start having the suspicion that that one is secretly linked to the File menu in some way.

  2. Pierre Igot says:

    It actually took me a while to find the command myself. I think I ended up reading a reference to it on the Internet or something. Another reason why there shouldn’t be a single way to do this!

    Maybe the reason why a keyboard shortcut works for the “Show Package Contents” works is that it is not just available in the action menu, but also in the contextual menu when you right-click on the item—whereas of course “Show Search Criteria” really is only available through the action menu.

    I don’t know. But it sure is frustrating. (What is doubly strange is that most of the other commands in the action menu are actually available through the menu bar, and they have keyboard shortcuts there, but these shortcuts are not listed for those same commands in the action menu. Yet somehow the action menu lists the shortcut I assign to the “Show Search Criteria” command in the action menu.)

  3. corbin says:

    Pierre — have you logged this as a bug for Apple? If you see problems like this, I strongly suggest logging a bug, and if you do, reference it in your blog post. That is the best way to provide such feedback for problems you encounter.


  4. Pierre Igot says:

    As I explain in my About page, I always submit bug reports to Apple (and other developers, except for Microsoft) for problems described here on this site.

    What I cannot really do, however, is provide references to the bug reports, because most of them are submitted via the AppleSeed program that I am a member of, and these bug reports are not publicly available. (Heck, until recently, they weren’t even available to the person who posted them.)

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