An editable path bar for Finder in macOS
The Finder in macOS is pretty amazing, and it’s really easy to take for granted all of the details that it gets right. A lot of users coming over from Windows or Linux tend to focus on the differences, one of those being the lack of an editable path bar. I set out to make an editable path bar, and came up with Filebar.
What’s already in Finder?
There are couple of things to assist in file paths in Finder. In the menu, if you select View → Show Path Bar, you get a bar at the bottom of the finder window that will show the path of the current location or selected item.
Also, you can select Go → Go To Folder… to go to a specific path as shown below:
The nice thing about these solutions is that they are built-in and you can use keyboard shortcuts to access them. The downside is that they are just not the editable path bar like what’s in the Windows File Explorer.
Ideally, I could create an editable path bar to add directly into a Finder window, so that it looks and behaves just like the Windows File Explorer. This has been done in the past by at least one other developer, but this type of extension is no longer doable in current versions of macOS. A nice alternative is to show a Spotlight-like search bar that can be used for path editing and file access.
Separating the app from the implementation of Windows File Explorer allows me to take more liberties for how the app works, but using the search bar implementation has the downside of not being always visible. The outcome of this is that Filebar has a little bit of a learning curve, but also has more flexibility in being separate from what’s in Finder.
Showing the Filebar
Since it’s not always visible, you can use the following ways to open it:
- Services in macOS: Right click on a file in Finder and select the service “Show in Filebar”.
Or select a file and execute the service keyboard shortcut (⌃⇧D by default).
- Drag and drop a file on the menu bar icon.
- Drag and drop a file on a panel that appears when files are dragged. Configure where the drop panel appears.
- Keyboard shortcuts for just showing Filebar or showing Filebar and pasting what’s on the clipboard.
The most powerful part of Filebar is the ability to autocomplete and list files on the fly. The tab key can play an important role in selecting parts of the path in the Filebar.
- The last path element will be highlighted when a filepath is displayed from a file.
- Use shift+tab to highlight containing directories in the path, and tab again to un-highlight containing directories.
- If the last path element is highlighted, tab will cycle through the list of matches.
- If the last path element is a directory, and there is only one match for the path, tab will add a slash to the end of the directory and list the contents. If there are multiple matches, you can use control+tab to add the trailing slash to a directory path.
Try it out!
There’s a lot more to Filebar, like being able to create new files at a path if the file doesn’t exist. The core functionality is entirely free, but I added in some really nice paid features as well:
- Star files & folders to keep in a quick, handy list
- Show a history of all the files & folders you’ve accessed in Filebar
- Open an entered path in Terminal
- Share files & folders quickly
Wait, do I really need this?
I noticed some users saying that apps like Raycast and Alfred do things like this. I’ve also noticed that there are a lot of users that think they are simplifying by using less apps. Obviously, Filebar is in the camp of doing one thing well, and I firmly believe that multiple apps that focus on solving specific problems is way better than one app that can “do it all”. You’re just not going to get the same attention to detail and specialty from the “do it all” app. With that said, Filebar does have a learning curve. If you’re not doing much with file paths, then maybe it’s not the tool for you. For me it solves a problem, and hopefully it helps you out, too!