Improve OS 9 Finder workflow with AppleScript

The modern Finder, which was introduced into Mac OS X from NeXTSTEP, is a file manager, much like Microsoft’s Explorer or the countless similar programs on Linux. But the words “file manager” can hardly describe the original Finder, which accompanied the Mac from its inception until the last version of Mac OS 9. It was an interface in a much deeper sense of the word. Interacting with the file system through a file manager is akin to drawing with the mouse. It works, sort of, but there’s a degree of separation between you and the drawing. Using the classic Finder, however, is like drawing directly with your hands. To the classic Macintosh user, there was no separation between the Finder and the file system.

This is why many were unhappy to see Apple abandon the classic Finder – often called the “spatial” Finder – with the release of Mac OS X, and it is why Mac OS 9 is such a joy to use even today, twenty years after its final release.

While great by default, the Finder interface can be improved even further with the use of QuicKeys and AppleScript. QuicKeys lets you define custom shortcut keys, both global and application-specific, to run arbitrary AppleScript code. Below, I share some of my favorite AppleScripts for the Finder.

Two cascaded Finder windows

Two Finder windows arranged using the Cascade script.


Resets the position of the frontmost Finder window to 13 pixels to the bottom-right of the second-frontmost Finder window.

tell application "Finder"
    set {x1, y1} to position of second window
    set d to 13
    set position of the front window to {x1 + d, y1 + d}
end tell


Toggles the “Snap to grid” setting for the current folder or the desktop.

tell application "Finder"
    set fld to the insertion location
    set opt to spatial view arrangement of fld
    if opt is equal to not arranged then
        set spatial view arrangement of fld to snap to grid
        set has custom view settings of fld to true
        set spatial view arrangement of fld to not arranged
        set has custom view settings of fld to false
    end if
end tell


Turns the current Finder window into a pop-up window or, if it is already a pop-up window, into a normal window.

tell application "Finder"
    set popup of the front window ¬
        to not popup of the front window
end tell
Finder pop-up window

A pop-up window on the bottom of the screen.

Among all of these scripts, my favorite is Cascade. It helps me tame the somewhat chaotic nature of the spatial Finder, especially for folders I haven’t opened before. I personally have it mapped to Ctrl-Cmd-W.

If you know of any other useful AppleScripts for the Finder, feel free to share them in a comment.


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