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I find the Cmd + O shortcut to open a file in Finder unintuitive. Does anyone know how to change it? I'd like to set it so that enter opens a file instead of going into rename mode.

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Stupid mac OS!!! – Trinh Hoang Nhu Dec 30 '15 at 6:56
Very usefull comment, thank you for your contribution! – EvilTorbalan Mar 1 at 0:08

11 Answers 11

I'm not sure that's possible or recommended given that it is a basic function of the Finder. Keep in mind that Cmd-Down also opens the file if that is any more intuitive.

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Could the person that down-voted this please do the courtesy of explaining why? Sometimes an answer to a question is indeed 'no'. It's a valid answer. Keyboard preferences doesn't let you override "enter" so I was offering an alternative. – Paulo Oct 22 '09 at 20:28
While a sane person wouldn't do what I suggest in my answer, Enter can be used as a shortcut. It "just" requires manual editing of plist files in ~/Library/Preferences. – Daniel Beck Jan 25 '11 at 12:22
Surprisingly, I set Enter for the Zoom window menu item and forgot all about it. At least Safari works beautifully with it -- entering URLs still works. – Daniel Beck Jan 25 '11 at 13:39
Also good to know: Cmd+Right Arrow: to expand collapsed folder in Finder | Cmd+Left Arrow: to collapse expanded folder in Finder | Cmd+Up Arrow: Go to the parent folder of the current file\folder – RaamEE Jun 21 '11 at 7:57
Both Cmd+Down and Cmd+O are extremely uncomfortable to use compared to pressing the 'Enter' key when navigating files with keyboard. – YemSalat Jan 16 '15 at 1:02

Use KeyRemap4MacBook (despite the name, it works on all Macs). In the Change Key section, navigate to For Applications, then Enable at only Finder, then check Return Key Opens a file.

Note: This is a free app that basically does the same as the commercial apps mentioned in Daniel's answer. It has the same limitations regarding pressing Return in other contexts inside Finder.

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Nice. (Though I wouldn't use it as I like all computers I use to work the same, and like to be able to work with any Mac.) – Arjan Nov 18 '11 at 23:25
Does it work properly, i.e. without the problems I mention in the first part of my answer? – Daniel Beck Nov 19 '11 at 6:12
@Daniel, it has the same limitations as you mention -- in fact, the UI warns "use F2 to rename but caution not to use Return when done typing or file opens". – Russell Davis Nov 19 '11 at 6:43
that software rocks - so useful for running windows VM scenarios. – Adam Tuliper - MSFT Jan 3 '12 at 3:48

This behavior is not just intended by Apple, it's forced.

I was trying myself to circumvent it by redefining the shortcut in System Preferences > Keyboard > Keyboard Shortcuts > Application Shortcuts (which is a goldmine, you can use it to assign pretty much anything that exists in a regular or context menu in any program to whatever you want (such as F10 to create a folder in Finder, F5 for refreshing pages, etc. This is unique to OS X AFAIK, and it's bloody awesome!).

As it turns out, you cannot assign the enter key alone to any action. And even if you assign something close, like Option+Enter, Finder will just ignore it. If you look in the drop-down, the Cmd+O shortcut is no longer listed there, and neither is Opt+Enter, it's just blank!

Hacks that used to work to get Finder to do things Apple don't think it's supposed to, are blocked with updates, like this hack to get folders listed before files, which was blocked with Lion:

I've previously used PathFinder as I find the native Finder app to be extremely bad, but it's a paid app, and it doesn't integrate very nicely with the system IMO (running side-by-side with the native Finder, destroying the gesture for revealing the desktop so that it's just a blank wallpaper, etc.).

I've just come across XtraFinder ( ), which is a free plugin for Finder. It's not as feature-filled as PathFinder or Total Finder, but as it's not an app but a plugin, it's much leaner and non-intrusive. It adds tabs, enter-to-open (with your choice of shortcut for renaming, e.g. F2), ordering folders before files, and much more.

It also adds the possibility to refresh the Finder view (which is a more than welcome addition if you've ever tried browsing a network share where a file just appear, yet there's no way to refresh Finder, so it doesn't pick it up until you restart the system (seriously!))

I think it's pretty cool, and it'll sort you out with regards to your problem :)

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Thanks for mentioning XtraFinder. It makes the 'Enter' and 'Backspace' keys work as you expect. – user45909 Jan 29 '15 at 5:41

I am a new Mac user (switched from Windows) and I found Command+ to be extremely unintuitive to open a file (Why would it be anything except Enter/Return?).

I Use BetterTouchTool to manage my keyboard shortcuts and set it to trigger the Command+ shortcut when I press Enter in Finder. That did it for me (you have to note that by doing this, you cannot use Enter for anything else in Finder, which is fine by me).

enter image description here

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It is possible using third party software, because they intercept keystrokes before they arrive at the frontmost application.

Using Butler I was able to define a Keystrokes item that presses Cmd-Down whenever the hot key Return is pressed only in Finder. For a more detailed description, see this somewhat related answer.

The problem is similar to the other answer's:

A significant downside to this sledge-hammer-solution: You cannot ever press return in Finder to have it mean something else. Committing changes to a Get Info dialog to rename something, or triggering a dialog's default button: Return is not going to work.

It is definitely not possible using system methods.

Using System Preferences » Keyboard » Keyboard Shortcuts » Applications I defined a shortcut so that Return triggered the Open menu item (with some manual editing of plist files, it's possible):

Return still triggers renaming.

Even using a Service* to trigger the action won't work:

  • Shortcuts for application specific services are configured the same way as custom shortcuts to regular menu items
  • Shortcuts in .GlobalDomain.plist for all applications don't work either. I tried.
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This answer deserves more upvotes. There's a free third party app, KeyRemap4MacBook, that will do this as well (see my answer for more details). – Russell Davis Nov 18 '11 at 22:36

You can use XtraFinder (free, Mac OS X 10.6.8 to 10.10):

enter image description here

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This totally did the trick to me, thanks! – Clint Eastwood Jun 23 '15 at 19:18

I can confirm that at time of writing (Sept. 9, 2012), PresButan v1.4 does exactly this for OSX Lion. (Please comment if anyone can confirm support for Mountain Lion.)

PresButan: An idiotically named solution to a spectacular UI oversight (rather apropos, eh?). It also lets you use either the backspace or delete key to delete files.

I can confirm it works (just installed it). Apparently it leverages the accessibility system and uses a daemon to catch the return events.

If you are on 10.3-10.5, you also have the option of using ReturnOpen.

-- @Fake Name via Apple StackExchange site: Open Folder with Enter in Finder

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Karabiner is yet another alternative to remap the return key, along with pretty much any other key you might want:

You can remap keys, change repeat rate, customize the menu bar, and other functions.

enter image description here

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The linked page isn't working for me right now, which is a perfect example of why link-only answers are discouraged. Please add more information to your answer so the answer itself is useful, even if the link breaks or the site it points to is down. – David Richerby May 19 '15 at 8:19
While this link may answer the question, it is better to include the essential parts of the answer here and provide the link for reference. Link-only answers can become invalid if the linked page changes. – Dave M May 19 '15 at 11:58

Could you use this method to add an action for the Finder application?

Keyboard prefs > keyboard shortcuts tab > +

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You can't do it. "Enter" or "Return" aren't single key options, you have to have a modifier. Probably why pressing enter or return doesn't open the file in the first place, because the way the system is set up actions need a modifier key.

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the way the system is set up actions need a modifier key — but then why would Return without any modifier trigger file renaming? – Arjan Nov 18 '11 at 23:23
@Arjan: No idea. – Josh K Nov 19 '11 at 0:21
So, I mean: then the system is not set up in a way that actions need a modifier key? Sorry for bugging you with such an old post ;-) Ah, or maybe you're referring to the System Preferences for keyboard, when mentioning "actions"? – Arjan Nov 19 '11 at 9:00
@Arjan I'm actually not sure what I meant. This is such an old post I can't even remember answering it. – Josh K Nov 22 '11 at 18:14

This might probably help you:

Also have a look at ReturnOpen.

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@Bobby Why did you remove the ReturnOpen reference? While "google it" isn't that useful, you could have inserted a direct link to it. – Daniel Beck Jan 25 '11 at 12:39
@Daniel Beck: True, mea culpa. – Bobby Jan 25 '11 at 18:41
ReturnOpen no longer works for Mac OS X 10.6. I suspect it's just an application automating what I described as not (no longer) working in my answer. – Daniel Beck Jan 25 '11 at 18:44

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