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Quiz Results: Finder’s Clickers

Before I discuss the results of last week’s quiz, let me briefly tell you what we hope to accomplish with our quizzes. First and foremost, we want to impart a little knowledge – there’s no class, so we have to figure out ways of doing that with the quiz and quiz results. Second, we want to have a little fun, and there’s no fun in asking a totally obvious question. So if our questions seem a little complex, it’s because we’re trying to avoid easy questions with easy answers.

That said, last week’s question asked how few mouse clicks were necessary both to view the contents of the Startup Items folder and make an alias of it on the desktop. Clearly, to make the quiz fair, we had to set some ground rules such as starting from the desktop with no windows open and, although we didn’t state it explicitly, not relying on any special pre-configuration like putting an alias of your hard disk in the Apple menu. We also said that you had to use only actions initiated with the mouse because we were trying to convey information about the Finder that related to using the mouse, so letting people navigate entirely from the keyboard was missing the point. Finally, we used the accepted definition of a mouse click, which is both pressing and releasing the mouse button.



For those of you who wanted to quibble with the phrase "initiated by," it means "starting with," and doesn’t imply that you can’t use the keyboard as long the action starts with the mouse. I mentioned that in TidBITS Talk and also passed on a couple of solutions that required special conditions – although they were "cheating" as far as the quiz goes, you may find them helpful for navigating around in the Finder.


The "Correct" Answer — The correct answer is three clicks, which about 45 percent of the almost 1,500 participants got right. If the answer surprises you, blame it on a couple of little-advertised features in the Finder.

  • Perform a "click and a half" on the icon of your startup disk to activate the Finder’s spring-loaded folder feature – the mouse cursor will change to a magnifying glass. Still holding the mouse button, point the magnifying glass cursor at the System Folder to open it, then point at the Startup Items folder. Release the mouse button when the Startup Items window is open; the intervening windows of your hard disk and System Folder will automatically close behind it. (Total clicks: two.)

(Spring-loaded folders were introduced in mid-1997 with Mac OS 8. You can turn spring-loaded folders on and off in the Finder’s preferences, as well as adjust the amount of time the mouse cursor must hover over an item before it springs open. Spring-loaded folders are enabled by default.)


  • Click and hold on the "proxy icon" or "title bar icon" in the title bar of the Startup Items window until it highlights. (It’s the small folder icon to the left of the title of the window.) Once the icon has highlighted, press the Command and Option keys on your keyboard and drag the proxy icon to a visible portion of your desktop. An alias to your Startup Items folder will appear there. You’re done! (Clicks in this step: one; total clicks: three.)

(Both proxy icons and the capability to Command-Option-drag any Finder icon to create an alias appeared in Mac OS 8.5.)

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A "Better" Answer — Although we didn’t include two clicks as a possible answer, several people passed on their technique for performing the required tasks in only two clicks. Follow these instructions:

  • Click on an icon the desktop and drag it to your hard disk icon, then pause long enough for the hard disk icon to open. Without letting up on the mouse button, drag the icon to the System Folder’s icon, and again without letting up, to the Startup Items folder icon. Once that opens, let up on the mouse button to drop the icon from the desktop into the Startup Items folder. (Total clicks: one)

(This technique relies on the Finder’s spring-loaded folders feature as well, but by ignoring the unintended consequence of moving something into your Startup Items folder, you eliminate one of the clicks necessary in our approach. And since Apple ships Macs with icons on the desktop, no special conditions are necessarily required.)

  • Once you have the Startup Items folder open, you can make the alias as described above, by Command-Option-dragging the Startup Items folder’s proxy icon to the desktop. (Clicks in this step: one; total clicks: two.)

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