Read Me First: A Take Control Crash Course
by Tonya Engst

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Table of Contents

Following a Mac Path

Any file or folder on a Mac can be found by navigating from a known starting point—usually the main level of a drive, through any intervening folders, to the item. Instead of writing out all that navigation, we use a shorthand, called a path.

Paths come up often in Mac directions. An example of a path is /Users/hestia/Desktop/Award. Let this chapter be your decoder ring for deciphering these seemingly cryptic constructions.

The figure below includes a Finder window showing the path /Users/hestia/Desktop/Award (hestia is the username of the logged-in user).

① 	With the column view button selected (red oval), I’ve followed the path from Macintosh HD to the Users folder to the home folder (hestia), to Desktop, to a file called Award (red arrow).

① With the column view button selected (red oval), I’ve followed the path from Macintosh HD to the Users folder to the home folder (hestia), to Desktop, to a file called Award (red arrow).

Notice how the Path bar at the bottom of the window connects Macintosh HD, the main level of the drive, to the selected item, the file Award. (If you can’t see the bar, choose View > Show Path Bar.)

Typing a Path

  1. Working in the Finder, choose Go > Go to Folder.
  2. Enter the path.
  3. Click the Go button.

A Finder window opens, showing the folder whose path you entered.

This method is handy when you want to copy a long, complicated path from an ebook or the Web. You can paste it in the Go dialog instead of keying it in .

② 	Type (or paste) a path here. There’s more about the ~ character later in this chapter.

② Type (or paste) a path here. There’s more about the ~ character later in this chapter.

It can also be a useful way to view a folder that is normally hidden. For example, if the instructions for some Unix task tell you to look for a file in /var/log, the Go to Folder dialog is your only method of navigating there—unless you want to work on the command line.

Note: For more about the hidden user Library folder shown in the figure above, flip ahead to Finding the User Library Folder, later in this book.

A Tilde ~ in a Path

Paths that tell the reader to go to a spot inside the home folder can be awkward, since the writer can’t know the name of the reader’s home folder. Such a path might read like /Users/your-user-name/Desktop/Award.

To indicate more gracefully that a path starts at the user’s home folder instead of the top level of the drive, a writer might begin the path with a tilde character, like this: ~/Desktop/Award.

I explain the home folder next, in The Point of the Home Folder.

Folders and Directories

Although most Mac documentation uses the term “folder,” you may occasionally see the term “directory,” particularly if the directions are referring to OS X’s Unix underpinnings. If you do, just think “folder” and you’ll be fine.

Share this tip and chapter on

“To jump directly to any folder shown in a Finder window’s Path bar (View > Show Path Bar), double-click it on the bar.”

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