From the Dock to the Desktop to Spotlight, there is no shortage of ways to launch apps in OS X. Each method has its own advantages and disadvantages, and most users are familiar with them. But there’s yet another way to launch apps in OS X, and it’s a bit less well known: the Finder toolbar.
In OS X, Finder by default features a number of useful options and buttons in its toolbar, and some apps like Dropbox may install their own handy items. But you can also pin your Mac apps directly to the Finder toolbar itself, which introduces some interesting productivity and workflow-enchancing opportunities.
To get started, simply launch a Finder window and navigate to your Applications folder. Next, press and hold the Command (⌘) key on your keyboard and then drag and drop an application icon into an empty space in the Finder toolbar. The application’s icon will appear in the Finder toolbar alongside the usual buttons and options. Simply click the icon to launch the app, just as you would if the icon was located in your Dock.
To remove or rearrange an application icon in the Finder toolbar, hold the Command key again and click and drag it to reposition it, or drag it out of the toolbar to remove it.
So why pin applications to the Finder toolbar when the Dock or Spotlight is already available? First, some users prefer to hide the Dock, and this gives them another method to quickly access their favorite apps without having to recall it.
Second, many apps can be interacted with by dropping files on their icons. Examples include dropping a file on the Mail or Messages apps, which creates a new message with the file attached, or dropping an image file onto Photoshop, which launches the app and opens the image. Having these application icons directly in Finder while you’re browsing your files can be handier than relying on the Dock.
Going even further, you can use application icons in the Finder toolbar to manage multiple applications that perform the same function. Going back to our images example above, let’s say you have both Pixelmator and Photoshop installed, but you prefer to switch between the apps depending on the type of file or project. OS X can only set one of those apps as the default for a particular file type, but you can manually control which app opens any given file by pinning them both to the Finder toolbar and then dragging and dropping your image onto whichever app you wish to use. Of course, this also works when these apps are in the Dock but, as mentioned, it’s often quicker and easier to use the icons directly in your Finder.
Finally, you can even pin Automator applications in this same manner, which opens a whole world of custom tasks such as converting images or deleting old files. Again, these actions can also be performed with Automator apps in the Dock, but it’s much faster to have them located just an inch away from your files in the Finder toolbar, especially if you’re frequently performing the same tasks.
If you ever find that application icons in the Finder toolbar are more distracting than helpful, simply hold the Command key on your keyboard and drag each icon off the toolbar into its familiar “poof” of destruction. Note, of course, that just like removing icons from the Dock, removing an application from the Finder toolbar leaves the original application intact.
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