Using the Mac's Hidden Finder Path Bar

The Mac’s Finder has many features that make navigating through your files an easy process. But for some reason, many of these features, such as the Finder's Path Bar, are turned off or hidden. There's no good reason for the Path Bar to be disabled, so we're going to show you how to turn it on, and make the best use of its services.

The Finder’s Path Bar

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With the release of OS X 10.5, Apple added a new feature to Finder windows: the Path Bar. The Finder Path Bar is a small pane located at the bottom of a Finder window, just below where files and folders are listed.

As its name implies, the Path Bar shows you the path from the folder you’re currently viewing to the top of the file system. Or, to put it another way, it shows you the path you created when you clicked through the Finder to get to this folder.

Enable the Finder Path Bar

The Finder Path Bar is disabled by default, but it only takes a few seconds to enable it.

  1. Start by opening a Finder window. An easy way to do this is to click the Finder icon in the Dock.

  2. With a Finder window open, select Show Path Bar from the View menu.

  3. The Path Bar will now display in all of your Finder windows.

Disable the Finder Path Bar

If you decide the Path Bar takes up too much room, and you prefer the more minimalistic Finder window, you can turn the Path Bar off just as easily as you turned it on.

  1. Open a Finder window.

  2. Select Hide Path Bar from the View menu.

  3. The Path Bar will disappear.

Using the Finder’s Path Bar

In addition to its obvious use as a road map of where you’ve been and how you got from there to here, the Path Bar also serves a few other handy functions.

  • Double-clicking any of the folders in the Path Bar takes you to that folder.
  • You can move files and folders to any item in the Path Bar by simply dragging and dropping them.
  • You can copy items by holding down the option key as you drag them, or create an alias to an item by holding down the command + option keys while you drag it.
  • You can also move folders around within the Path Bar. This can be handy if you accidentally created a folder at the wrong level, and it would be better if it were moved up or down the existing path. Simply drag the folder to the location in the path where you would like it to be.
  • Truncated folder names often show up in the Path Bar; this is caused by a long path being displayed in a small Finder window. You can expand the Finder window to see the folders' full names. But that won’t work well if you have a lot of truncated folder names in the Path Bar. A better way is to simply place your cursor over a folder with a truncated name; after a second or two, the folder will expand to show its full name.
  • The Path Bar also works when you're performing a Finder search. When the results of a search are displayed in the Finder, you can discover where an item is stored by selecting the item in the search results, then glancing down at the Path Bar to see where the item is stored on your Mac.

Additional Ways to Show the Path

The Path Bar is handy, but there are other ways to display the path to an item without taking up room in a Finder window. One such method is to add the Path button to the Finder's toolbar.

The Path button will display the path to the currently selected item much as the Path Bar does. The difference is that the Path Bar shows the path in a horizontal format, while the Path button uses a vertical format. The other difference is the Path button only displays the path when the button is clicked.

Display the Full Pathname

Our final method for showing the path to an item within a Finder window makes use of the Finder's title bar and its proxy icon. The Finder's proxy icon can already display a path; all you need to do is right-click on the icon. Once again, this path uses a series of icons to show the path to the current Finder window. However, with a bit of Terminal magic, you can change the Finder’s title bar and its proxy icon to display the true pathname, not a bunch of icons. For instance, if you had a Finder window open on your Downloads folder, the standard proxy icon would be a folder icon with the name Downloads. After using this Terminal trick, the Finder would instead display a small folder icon followed by /Users/YourUserName/Downloads.

To enable the Finder’s title bar to display the long pathname, do the following:

  1. Launch Terminal, located at /Applications/Utilities/.

  2. At the Terminal command prompt, enter the following (Note: You can triple-click the Terminal command below to select the entire line of text, and then copy/paste the line into your Terminal window.):

    defaults write _FXShowPosixPathInTitle -bool true
  3. Press enter or return.

  4. At the Terminal prompt, enter:

    killall Finder
  5. Press enter or return.

  6. The Finder will restart, after which any Finder window will display the long pathname to the current location of a folder.

Disable Display of the Full Pathname

If you decide you don’t like the Finder always displaying the long pathname, you can turn the feature off with the following Terminal commands:

  1. defaults write _FXShowPosixPathInTitle -bool false
  2. Press enter or return.

  3. At the Terminal prompt, enter:

    killall Finder
  4. Press enter or return.

The Finder Path Bar and the related path features of the Finder can be a handy shortcut when working with files and folders. Give this nifty hidden feature a try.