Selecting, Copying, and Moving Items on Your MacBook with El Capitan - dummies

Selecting, Copying, and Moving Items on Your MacBook with El Capitan

By Mark L. Chambers

If your MacBook is equipped with El Capitan, you have the most advanced OS yet. El Capitan makes it easy to select, copy, and move things as you see fit to make the most of your Desktop.

Selecting items

Often, the menu or keyboard commands you perform in the Finder need to be performed on something. Perhaps you’re moving an item to the Trash, getting more information on the item, or creating an alias for that item. To identify the target of your action to the Finder, you need to select one or more items on your Desktop or in a Finder window.

Selecting one thing

El Capitan gives you a couple of options when selecting just one item for an upcoming action:

  • Move the pointer over the item and click. A dark border (or highlight) appears around the icon, indicating that it’s selected.

  • If an icon is already highlighted on your Desktop or in a window, move the selection highlight to another icon in the same location by using the arrow keys. To shift the selection highlight alphabetically, press Tab (to move in order) or press Shift+Tab (to move in reverse order).

    Selecting items in the Finder doesn’t actually do anything to them by itself. You have to perform an action on the selected items to make something happen.

Selecting a whole bunch of things

You can also select multiple items with aplomb by using one of these methods:

  • Adjacent items:

    • Drag a box around them. If that sounds like ancient Sumerian, here’s the explanation: Click a spot above and to the left of the first item. Keep holding down your finger on the trackpad surface, and drag down and to the right. (This is dragging in Mac-speak.) A box outline appears, indicating what you’re selecting. Any icons that touch or appear within the box outline are selected when you release the button.

      Drag a box around icons to select them.
      Drag a box around icons to select them.
    • Click the first item to select it, and then hold down the Shift key while you click the last item. El Capitan selects both items and everything between them.

  • Nonadjacent items: Select these by holding down the ⌘ key while you click each item.

Check out the status bar (which can appear at the top or bottom of a Finder window, depending on whether the toolbar is hidden). It tells you how much space is available on the drive you’re working in, as well as how many items are displayed in the current Finder window. When you select items, it shows you how many you highlighted. (If you don’t see a status bar, choose View → Show Status Bar.)

Copying items

Want to copy items from one Finder window to another, or from one location (like a flash drive) to another (like your Desktop)? Très easy. Just use one of these methods:

  • On the same drive

    • To copy one item to another location: Hold down the Option key (you don’t have to select the icon first), and then click and drag the item from its current home to the new location.

      To put a copy of an item in a folder, just drop the item on top of the receiving folder. If you hold the item you’re dragging over the destination folder for a second or two, El Capitan opens a new window so that you can see the target’s contents. (This is called a spring-loaded folder. Really.) You can turn off this spring-loaded behavior by choosing Finder → Preferences and clicking the Spring-loaded Folders and Windows check box to disable it.

    • To copy multiple items to another location: Select them all, hold down the Option key, and then drag-and-drop one of the selected items where you want it. All the items you selected follow the item you drag. (Rather like lemmings. Nice touch, don’t you think?)

      To help indicate your target when you’re copying files, El Capitan highlights the location to show you where the items will end up. (This works whether the target location is a folder or a drive icon.) If the target location is a window, El Capitan adds a highlight to the window border.

  • On a different drive

    • To copy one or multiple items: Click and drag the icon (or the selected items if you have more than one) from the original window to a window you open on the target drive. (No need to hold down the Option key while copying to a different drive.) You can also drag one item (or a selected group of items) and simply drop the items on top of the drive icon on your Desktop.

      The items are copied to the top level, or root, of the target drive.

If you try to move or copy something to a location that already has an item with the same name, you see a dialog that prompts you to decide whether to replace the file or to stop the copy/move procedure and leave the existing file alone. (Heck, you can even keep both — OS X performs the copy or move, but also appends the word copy to the item being copied.) Good insurance, indeed.

Moving things from place to place

Moving things from one location to another location on the same drive is the easiest action you can take. Just drag the selected item or items to the new location. The item disappears from the original spot and reappears in the new spot.