View the Path of a File

View the Path of a File
Mac Tip #359, 08 October 2008

Sometimes when you’re looking at a file or folder in the Finder you want to know just exactly where it is. It’s not always obvious just by looking.

Mac OS X 10.5 introduced an extra item to the View menu though that helps out: Show Path Bar.

Choose Show Path Bar and then go to a Finder window and select a file.

Show Path Bar

Choose Show Path Bar

Now at the bottom of the window you can see a ‘trail’, similar to this one from my machine:

Pluto > Users > miraz > Documents > ngpod > mexhat.jpg

Command click the name in the Title Bar

Command click the name in the Title Bar

This tells me that the file named mexhat.jpg is in a folder called ngpod in my Documents folder. My username is miraz, and my machine is named Pluto.

Switch to Column view

Switch to Column view

Each item in the file path in that Path Bar also acts as a button. In my example, if I double click on the Documents part of the file path I switch to viewing the Documents folder.

Of course, there are other ways to see where the file resides on the hard drive:

  1. Command click the name in the Title Bar: a dropdown menu displays the file path.
  2. The Get Info window  shows the file path

    The Get Info window shows the file path

    Switch to Column view: you can see the file’s path by the columns to the left of it.
  3. Select the file and choose Get Info from the File menu. The Info window opens. In the General section of the Info window the Where item shows the file path.

So next time you can see a file but you’re not sure where it is exactly just glance down at the Path Bar if it’s displayed, or use one of the other methods I’ve mentioned above.

Did I miss any possibilities? Let me know in the Comments below.

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  1. John said:

    Note that you can also, when you are in a Finder window, select View…Customize Toolbar…., and then drag the “Path” icon onto the toolbar. Clicking on the path icon lists the path to the file, in a similar manner to command-clicking on the file name.

  2. Gblum said:

    No, you’ve explained perfectly well how to know the file path when you already see the file on your computer. But my problem is different, I sometimes need to search a file when I only have the file path and this turns out to be a lot more difficult, any suggestions?

  3. Nicholas Gruen said:

    Can you right click on a file and open it in its relevant folder in the finder? You can in iTunes and in Windows, but I can’t figure out how to do it.

    • Miraz Jordan said:

      I’m afraid I just don’t understand this question. If the file’s displayed in iTunes you can right click on it to show it in the Finder, as you say. If it’s not in iTunes, then where is it? If it’s already showing in the Finder then it’s already in its containing folder. If it’s listed in some other app, then it depends on the app that’s displaying it.

      • Nicholas Gruen said:

        Yep – certainly seems to be the stupidest question I’ve asked in a while. Sorry to waste your time. I may mean something, but if so, I’ll have to think about it and get back to you :)

  4. Mel said:

    I have been trying to figure out how to find the filepath of non-Office documents for a very long time. I already use Pathfinder and discovering this feature is HUGE. Thank you very much. Please don’t post my email address – I assume you don’t, but just in case….

  5. Brian Forbes said:

    I just bought a Mac and can tell you that the ridiculous amount of clicking just to locate and save files is a HUGE TIME WASTER. Under Windows, I had an explorer (finder) window open with a path to a folder that I needed to open from and save to while moving between programs. It was this simple, copy the path, save from the program, paste path into the name field, hit enter, guess what? I’m in the right folder and I just hit save. If I didn’t copy or paste anything in a program, then the path remained on my clipboard – too easy.

    So this is totally cracked out and should be fixed. Btw 10.6.x there is no “show path” option.

    • Miraz said:


      I’m running 10.6.4 and Show Path Bar is right under the View menu when I have a Finder window open.

      I solve the problem you mention above with the most excellent Default Folder X

      It allows me to click on any folder that’s already open to have the file saved there. It also gives easy access to recent folders, favourite folders, and preferences about where to save files in various circumstances.

      I’ve been using it for years and hate to be without it.

  6. sarah said:

    thanks for the tips. i’m shocked that the only way you can copy and paste a file path is via the terminal. i need to do this a lot and it seems insane. also can’t handle spaces in file or folder names.
    one other way i’ve found for those using office 2003 and excel is view/toolbars/web.
    that gives a file path in the address field of the toolbar which can copy and paste. they got rid of this in later versions of office i believe which is a shame.

  7. Miraz Jordan said:

    Ryan, also remember that if you want full access to all the power features hidden under the hood, with no constraints, there’s nothing to stop you from using the Command Line via Terminal.

    There’s plenty of flexibility in the Mac OS, for both users who want the minimum interface, fuss and bother, to those who want to control everything.

    If I open a Terminal window and type “open ~/Documents/iChats” then press Return, a Finder window pops open, displaying the contents of that folder.

  8. Miraz Jordan said:

    Ryan wrote: “Another thing. When the hell are they going to put a “show desktop” button to minimize all windows. Seems like a very simple thing that they forget in all new versions of macs.”

    Why do you want to minimise all windows Ryan? If you want an ‘uncluttered’ view of the Desktop press F11 to move all windows out of the way. They all ‘minimise’ themselves to the sides of the screen. Press F11 again to bring them back.

    Remember that if you’re using a laptop you may need to also press the fn key, depending on the settings you’ve chosen in System Prefs.

    To go directly to a directory while an Open or Save dialog is open – eg to go directly to ~/Documents/iChats – press Command Shift G. A text area appears where you can type or paste an address, such as ~/Documents/iChats. Press the Go button and there you are.

    I hope that helps.

  9. ryan said:

    Oh, and yes that is great that you can copy a path the the clip board by using these ridiculous methods. However, it would be nice if you could paste it somewhere to go directly to the directory.

  10. ryan said:

    This is why macs suck. Why don’t they just build that in. Removing functionality doesn’t always make things more usable. I understand the duality between usibility and flexibility, but this is ridiculous.

    Another thing. When the hell are they going to put a “show desktop” button to minimize all windows. Seems like a very simple thing that they forget in all new versions of macs.

  11. Miraz Jordan said:

    Well, there’s one sneaky, but easy way to do it. Have the enclosing folder open in Finder. Open Terminal (in Applications – Utilities). Drag the file whose path you want to copy into the open Terminal window. The path is entered for you.

    For example, I dragged About Stacks.pdf from my Documents folder into a Terminal window. This was what I saw:

    /Users/miraz/Documents/About\ Stacks.pdf

    Another option involves buying and installing the most excellent Finder replacement called PathFinder. Control Click on a file and choose from the Contextual menu to Copy Path. You’re given a choice of 6 different formats, including Unix, HFS and so on.

    PathFinder is totally worth it for many other reasons, but if you often need to copy a file path, then it would be a good choice.

    You know, there’s probably also an Automator action you could set up…



  12. Lauren said:

    How would you go about copying it to the clipboard? None of those options are text-selectable on my machine.

  13. Miraz Jordan said:

    Ooops, sorry about that. In Leopard’s Finder choose Show Path Bar from the View menu.

    Thanks for reading.

  14. Ira said:

    Sure, sounds good but where do you go to actualy choose the option of “Show Path Bar?”

Comments are closed.