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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Move, Copy, or Delete a Document or Folder

Moving a document or folder from one place to another is one of those fundamental tasks that make up the core of using an operating system such as Mac OS X. If you ever decide to organize your files or clean up your system, you've got a lot of folder manipulation and document-moving ahead of you.

Before You Begin

Find an Item

Rename a Folder or Document

Set a Color Label

When you duplicate a document or folder, you create an identical copy of it in the same folder, with all the same properties except for the word copy added to its name. You can then use this duplicate to make changes, create a backup, or any number of other uses. Unlike an alias (which is just a link back to the original file), a duplicate is actually a second file that exists separately from the original and shares nothing with the original except for its name.

Because deleting a document or folder is by nature a destructive action, Mac OS X makes it a two-step process to protect your files. First you move the item into the Trash; later, you empty the Trash to delete the items in it permanently. You might think this an unnecessary precaution, but sooner or later you will have an experience where you wish you hadn't deleted something. If you haven't yet emptied the Trash, you can easily retrieve the deleted item. The convenience of retrieving items from the Trash is why Microsoft Windows eventually added a Recycle Bin, years after the Mac had been mocked for its Trash.

Figure 3.7Figure 3.7


If you drag an item from one volume or disk to another (such as from a CD-ROM to the hard disk), the item is duplicated rather than moved. The green + icon next to the mouse pointer indicates that the operation will be a duplication. To duplicate rather than move an item directly into another location, hold the Option key as you drag a document or folder from one Finder window to another.

  1. Locate the Item to Move, Copy, or Delete

  2. In a Finder window, navigate to the document or folder that you want to move, copy, or delete. If you're working with an item on the Desktop, you don't have to open this first Finder window.

  3. Navigate to the Destination Folder

  4. If you're moving an item, open a second Finder window and use it to navigate to the folder to which you want to move the document or folder. If you're moving an item to the Desktop, you don't have to open a second Finder


    You can select multiple items at once by dragging a selection box or by using modifier keys—hold down Shift to select a contiguous block of files or Command to select multiple individual files. To move or delete these multiple items, click any of the selected items and drag.

    You don't necessarily have to open a second, "destination" Finder window. If you have spring-loaded folders enabled, you can drag the item onto any folder, hold it there, and the folder will spring open into a new Finder window. Keep repeating this process—without letting go of the mouse button—until you're at the destination. Then release the button to move the item.

  5. Drag the Item to Move or Delete

  6. To move the item, click and drag the document or folder from the first Finder window into the second one.

    To delete the item, drag the item to the Trash can at the right end of the Dock. Alternatively, choose File, Move to Trash, right-click or Control+click the item and select Move to Trash from the contextual menu), or press Command + +Delete. The items are now in the Trash, and can be retrieved by clicking the Trash icon to open a window that lists all the items in the Trash, and then dragging the items back out again.

  7. Duplicate the Item

  8. Choose File, Duplicate to create a copy of the selected item. Alternatively, select Duplicate from the Finder's Action menu, press Command + D, or right-click or Control+click the item and choose Duplicate from the contextual menu that opens.

    A new item is created next to the original one; the new item has the same name as the original with the word copy appended to it before the extension (if any). This default naming convention allows the duplicate to appear next to the original when you sort by name.

    To give the new item a more descriptive name, click the item's name and type a new one. Press Return when you're done.


    If you duplicate a folder, all of the folder's contents are duplicated as well.

  9. Empty the Trash

  10. Periodically, you should empty the Trash to clear out the list of items you have thrown away and free up disk space (which is not recovered if you simply throw items away). Emptying the Trash is a permanent, one-way operation; afterwards, items that were in the Trash can't be recovered. Choose Empty Trash from the Finder menu; alternatively, press Shift+Command + Delete. A confirmation message appears (which you can turn off in the Finder Preferences window). After you confirm the operation, the Trash is emptied.


    If you simply empty the Trash, there's a possibility that the deleted items can be recovered by the right kind of special software. If you've thrown away sensitive data that you want to make sure can never be retrieved, Mac OS X provides a Secure Empty Trash option. From the Finder menu, select Secure Empty Trash, and select a level of security (1, 7, or 35 Pass). Each "pass" is an attempt by the operating system to scramble the disk's data where the deleted items were; the more passes you select, the longer the process takes, but the more certainly the items will not be recoverable.

  11. Add a Delete Button to Your Toolbar

  12. If you want, you can put a button on the Finder toolbar that lets you immediately move all selected items to the Trash with a single click. With a Finder window open, choose View, Customize Toolbar and drag the Delete button from the Customize Toolbar dialog box into the toolbar where you want it to appear. Then click Done to close the dialog box.

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