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Mac 101: Finder filename sorting

Robert Palmer
June 24, 2008
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The neat-freaks among us (myself included) enjoy keeping things in their particular place and order. When making a folder of files, sometimes I want items to fall outside their alphabetical order -- for instance, often I like to have a special folder that's always at the top of a list.

The easiest way to do that is to name your folders with a symbol as the first letter in the file or folder name: like a space, an underscore ( _ ), or a tilde ( ~ ). Mac OS X determines the order of these special characters using your language settings in the International pane in System Preferences.

The names of files and folders in Mac OS X can use almost any character out of thousands of Unicode characters, which include symbols, arrows, and icons as well. There are only two characters you can't use: one is the colon (because it's used by the system). You also can't usually use periods (or full stops) as the first character in a file name (because they're reserved for hidden files).

Also, as far as Mac OS X is concerned, the folder name "AARON" is the same as the folder name "Aaron" (or "aaron" for that matter): this is called case insensitivity. Mac OS X filenames are considered case insensitive.

After the jump, a list of 112 common, easy-to-type characters, and how they're sorted by Mac OS X for English.

This list appears in the order that Mac OS X sorts filenames. So, for example, ~filename would appear in a list above _filename. The key combinations in the list are suited for U.S. English keyboards, so if you use U.K. English or another language, the keystrokes to create the characters shown may vary slightly.

Also, in the list, the shift key is noted with the ⇧ icon, and the option key is noted with the ⌥ icon. Press the keys indicated together to get the character shown. Some keys, like [comma] and [single quote] are noted in text, because they're a little hard to see on screen.

Character Keys to press (US English)
space
` [backtick]
˜ ⇧ [backtick]
^ ⇧ 6
˙ ⌥ h
˚ ⌥ k
_ ⇧ [hyphen]
- [hyphen]
⌥ [hyphen]
, [comma]
; [semicolon]
! ⇧ 1
¡ ⌥ 1
? ⇧ /
... ⇧ [colon]
' [single quote]
" ⇧ [single quote]
( ⇧ 9
) ⇧ 0
[ [
] ]
{ ⇧ [
} ⇧ ]
§ ⌥ 6
⌥ 7
© ⌥ g
® ⌥ r
@ ⇧ 2
* ⇧ 8
/ /
\ \
& ⇧ 7
# ⇧ 3
% ⇧ 5
⌥ t
⌥ 8
⌥ d
⌥ j
⌥ w
+ ⇧ =
÷ ⌥ /
< ⇧[comma]
= =
⌥ =
> ⇧ [period]
¬ ⌥ l
| ⇧\
~ ⇧ [backtick]
⌥ v
⌥ 5
⌥ b
⌥ x
⌥ [comma]
⌥ [period]
¢ ⌥ 4
$ ⇧ 4
£ ⌥ 3
¥ ⌥ y
0 0
1 1
2 2
3 3
4 4
5 5
6 6
7 7
8 8
9 9
10 1 (then) 0
11 1 (then) 1
a a
ª ⌥ 9
á ⌥ e (then) a
â ⌥ i (then) a
å ⌥ a
ä ⌥ u (then) a
æ ⌥ [single quote]
b b
c c
ç ⌥ c
d d
e e
f f
ƒ ⌥ f
g g
h h
i i
j j
k k
l l
m m
n n
o o
º ⌥ 0
ø ⌥ o
œ ⌥ q
p p
q q
r r
s s
ß ⌥ s
t t
⌥ 2
u u
v v
w w
x x
y y
z z
µ ⌥ m
π ⌥ p
Ω ⌥ z
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