Share Files Between Mac Apps: Easy way to do it

Apple has created macOS that is very good at handling drag and drop. So, for example, you may often pull a picture from the Photos app or Safari and drop it into iMessage or Slack.

However, one thing that’s always slowed me down is moving around more traditional files, like PDFs or other documents.

But then you can learn that quite a few apps, including many built-in ones, have a quick shortcut to acquire the file you’re viewing. Using this shortcut, you can effortlessly do things like upload a PDF you have open in Preview to Google Drive without owning to go looking for the file in Finder.

Here’s how it works:

The trick is using the title bar, where Apple puts the traffic light-style window controls, the file name you have open, and other buttons, depending on the app. If you approach that file name for a second, you may notice that a little icon appears to the left of it. It is what authorizes us to do our magic. If you tap and drag that icon, you’ll click and pull the actual file as if you were employing the file manager.

To be precise, this is not a new feature of the latest macOS beta or anything.

One of the most typical benefit cases is when you have to read via a PDF for work and upload it to DocumentCloud so you can embed it in an article. You may have used to do that by minimizing Preview and then hunting around for the document on your crowded desktop, using Quick Look to ensure you weren’t uploading the wrong thing. Then, you can drag and drop the item you are reading straight from Preview.

You may also find plenty of other ways to use the feature. For example, if you have Finder in a particular mode, you can use it to quickly copy the path of the folder you are in into Terminal. (Bonus tip: if you drag and drop a folder or file into Terminal, macOS will insert the path.) You can even use this feature on QuickTime to make the screen recorded GIFs.

Share Files

While this won’t necessarily apply if you’re using this feature to share files between apps, you have one word of alert if you, like us, think, “wait, what happens if you drag the file from the title bar into a Finder window?” The answer is that it’ll move the file from wherever it is currently to wherever you dropped it. That’s a reasonable default, but it could end up confusing if you assumed it would copy and paste the file rather than cut and paste it.

Unfortunately, this isn’t something that every single app can do. You couldn’t find a way to grab files from Obsidian or Photoshop, for example — though the latter isn’t surprising. But you have been able to use a reasonable number of apps, including Pages, Blender, Logic Pro, Nova, and even Microsoft Word. So if there’s an app you’re looking at files in frequently, it’s worth checking if it supports this feature; you never know when it’ll come in handy.

But wait, you’ve got one last bonus tip if you’re sticking around in the title bar; it’s a bonus because you haven’t run into any situations where it’d be helpful. In addition to being competent to drag the file icon, you can also right-click it to see it. It is a folder that the file lives in (and which folder that folder is in, and so on). You can use the list to open a Finder window navigated to that folder quickly.

You are right-clicking on the file icon lets you quickly tell where it’s located on your disk. So while discovering this system wasn’t an earth-shattering revelation that 10x-ed your productivity, it will help cut down on the time you’ve spent searching for files you already have open. And that’s great because having to do that can, ironically, be a drag.