Tip: Drag destination folders to Save dialogue boxes

FinderIconXWhen using OS X you will undoubtedly run across the standard save dialogue box, where you specify a location on your drive in which to save your current document. This box can appear in two forms: a compact form where you can specify a name, tags, and then choose a location from the “Where” menu in which to save your file. Alternatively, you can click the triangle next to the Name field to expand the box and show a filesystem browser.

When expanded, this browser navigates just like any Finder window, and includes your favorites sidebar, a search bar, as well as sorting options and the menu that includes recent places, to make it easier to locate relevant folders in which to save your document; however, there is an easier way to use this box for specifying the location in which to save your documents: simply drag it to the Save dialogue box window.

By dragging an item in the OS X Finder, be it a file or a folder, you are dragging a representation of the file’s full path, and this can be used in many ways. One common use for Terminal users is to drag the item to the Terminal window to specify a full path for it; however, you can also use this in other aspects of the system, including save dialogue boxes. There are several options you can use for this:

Save dialogue box destination

Dragging a folder such as this one to an available Save dialogue box will change the box to point to this folder (click image for larger view).

  1. Drag the Folder’s icon from its title bar

    If you have a folder open in the Finder, then you can drag the icon you will see in the folder window’s title bar, and drop it into the Save dialogue box of the program you are using. As with the icon in the Finder, this icon represents the folder’s full path and, dropping it on the Save dialogue will point the Save window to this folder’s location.

  2. Drag a file within the desired folder to the save box

    If you have the destination folder open in the Finder and it has a few documents in it, then you can likely more easily just drag one of those documents to the program’s Save box, which will similarly have the program point to the folder containing the dragged file; however, this will also set the document being saved to the same name as the file that was dragged.

    This can be used in a couple of useful ways. First, if you wish to replace a file then you can drag the file to be replaced and then simply press Enter in the Save dialogue box, followed by confirming overwriting of the file. The second option is to more easily follow a prior naming scheme for your files. If you have a specific base name with a sequential change for files (e.g., “2014-05-01 Lab Report 1,” and “2014-05-01 Lab Report 2,” etc.) then you can drag an existing file in the destination folder and then only change the sequential part of the file name.
  3. Drag the folder itself to the Save dialogue box

    While the title bar icon of the Folder is available, you can also simply move up one directory by pressing Command-up arrow in the Finder, and then dragging the destination folder from its parent directory, to the Save dialogue box.

These options are only a few of the ways you can augment your Save dialogue box uses. In addition, you can use the Save box’s search bar to quickly locate a destination folder by name, or you can press Command-Space and use Spotlight, followed by dragging the search result from Spotlight into the Save dialogue box.

4 thoughts on “Tip: Drag destination folders to Save dialogue boxes

  1. Strod

    A couple of related hints:
    – You can use the hints with Open and Import dialog boxes for most programs in addition to Save boxes. This can be very useful in cases where dragging the document icon to the app icon doesn’t work, for example when you want to import a file that is in a format that requires you to go through the Import dialog. Just drag the file icon from the Finder right into the Import dialog box.
    – An alternative to dragging the file icon from the Finder is to use the little icon in the title of the document window. For example: you need to modify a text file in TextEdit or TextWrangler so that it will be easier to import in Excel, but you still need to go through Excel’s Import dialog box. So after saving the file in the text editor and opening the Import dialog in Excel, drag the icon from the title of the text editor’s document window to the dialog box.

  2. Lanny

    I still miss the old OS9 extension “Click There It Is!” which required merely clicking on the target folder’s Finder window in the background. Even easier.

    1. tingo

      @Lanny: Default Folder will do that for you (Cmd+click is the default), and much more. I’ve been using it for more years than I care to count.

  3. msadesign

    Ditto on Default Folder. What a great app- and developer. I’ve had DF and the incredibly useful History Hound on my Macs for-decades? Can it be that long? And emails to the developer-no skimming for Jon; he actually reads them!- are all answered promptly and thoughtfully with ways to solve a problem.

    Guy must live in front of his Mac…

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