How to quickly deselect files and folders in OS X

FinderIconYosemiteXSelecting items in OS X is easy––you click an item you want, and it highlights. You can also expand your selection by holding the Shift or Command keys when clicking additional items, or you can press Command-A to select all items. However, at times deselecting items may be a bit more of a challenge. When in list-view modes, for instance, you might find no matter where you can click in the window, OS X will either maintain the current selection or switch to another selected file.

There are several approaches you can take to de-select files in OS X:

1. Close and re-open the folder window

By pressing Command-Up Arrow, you will go to the current folder’s parent directory. The previous folder will be selected in this directory, allowing you to press Command-Down Arrow to open it again and view its contents, selection-free. However, this shifting of views may not be the most desired.

2. Click the window’s background.

If you click anywhere on the background of a window, any items selected in it will be de-selected. This is easy to do in icon view; however, it is not so feasible in list and column views, so it is not an approach that is always practical.

3. Command-clicking items

If you only have one item selected, you can hold the Command key and click the item to remove it and thereby dissolve the selection. This may be the most common way to clear a selection since in most cases you might have only one item selected.

4. Option-Command-A

Once you memorize this command, it may be the quickest universal way to release any selection in any view in OS X. This is the opposite of the Command-A keystroke to select all items, and thereby will select “None.” Its usefulness does compete with Command-clicking an item, but since it works in all Finder views, and for any group of selected items, it may be a quick way to ensure no items are selected and therefore targetable by various commands and actions.

One thought on “How to quickly deselect files and folders in OS X

  1. B. Jefferson Le Blanc

    Thanks, Topher. I have been wondering about just that problem. The solution is logical enough – Option-Command-A – but I hadn’t focussed on the issue enough to figure it out. But since it is reasonable, given Apple’s usual interface rules, I think I’ll remember this one.

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