Keyboard-based navigation in file pane (documents, tags...)

I would appreciate if I could navigate through my documents (tags etc.) in file pane without using mouse (or cmd+o shortcut), just with arrows or other keyboard shortcut. It is convenient when I have many short documents and want to go through all of them e.g. when doing weekly review.

I used Things app before, where you could use cmd+alt+ctrl + up/down arrow for browsing individual projects (here: documents). I would appreciate similar functionality.


I like the idea, however I would alter it slightly.

Rather than specifically a short cut to get to the file pane, my suggestion would be a shortcut to switch cursor/navigation between the currently open list/document, and whatever pane is currently open.

For instance if I have the File Pane open and working in document, then a shortcut to access the active pane would put the cursor into the file pane. However if I had the Bookmarks pane open, or the tag pane open, using the same shortcut would switch to whichever is active. So it would mean it is possible to have to use two short cuts to get where you wanted (one to open the pane and the second to switch to said pane for navigation) but it would reduce the number of individual shortcuts required to be added/set in total (eg don’t need a separate shortcut to navigate the file pane, and don’t need one to navigate the tag pane and don’t need one to navigate the bookmark pane etc)

I agree, and there are already shortcuts to go to individual panes, so we just need the shortcut to work based on the currently active pane.

The question I have would be that if the pane is closed, what does the shortcut do? Nothing or cycle documents?

I would say cycle documents (even with closed pane). The logic is to move quickly through your documents and you often know the order by memory.

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Personally, I think “nothing” based on the description provided. Otherwise the shortcut isn’t to switch between pane and main document, but rather to cycle through the various panes. Having that behaviour would mean that you cannot use the same shortcut to toggle back to the main document.

As I see it the shortcut would be to go from Pane to Main document and main document to pane. If there is no pane open, then there’s no where to go and so no action. (or if really needed, adding a toast-style notification to indicate that there is no active pane to switch to)

Yes, that’s a matter of preference. Why I would prefer my suggestion (moving through documents just by using shortcut, without switching focus to panelist first) is because:

  1. exactly the fact that you can move to next document with closed documents pane (focused attention to individual documents), without distraction, just by using shortcut.

  2. My suggestion was used in Things (by culturedcode), yours is used in Omnifocus. I used both apps and preferred Things exactly for the fact that in Omnifocus, I had still to check where I am. Am I in sidebar? Is my focus on project list or in task list? It was not always obvious and complicated my workflow and certainty. With Things - you can have only focus in main document. Nowhere else. I always know where I am = where I have focus. I prefer this simplicity much.

Thanks for sharing your preference!

This is not true for me. I don’t know how many people can do that; remember not everyone organizes things in the same way you do. My preference would be to cycle bookmarks, since my documents are strictly hierarchically organized and I don’t want to review them in that order. I bookmark all my frequently visited locations and reviewing them would make more sense for my workflow.

From my understanding, those two points are still based on your preference though. If a person doesn’t remember the order of their documents, these points don’t make much sense. If the sidebar is open, the person knows what to expect when he/she presses the shortcut.

Can’t argue with preferences, and we all have our own preferences. Just want to get the common denominator of our preferences so we can build something useful for everyone. :seedling:

Erica, you are right, it is of course my preference. However, I understand that all features are based on different preferences which you may/may not use. E.g. somebody is not using tags or colors as it is not his/her preference. What I derive from the fact the both Omnifocus or Things enable this feature (quickly move through the document list using keyboard) is that many users share it.

Just to be precise - I was replying to butlermatt suggestion as how to implement filepane navigation (if by switching focus + normal moving by arrows or by special shortcut)

To my point 2): What i described was not meant for the situation with closed pane list, but with open pane list. Even with open pane list I used to be confused about where I am (what part of the window has focus) in omnifocus, because it implemented the functionality as butlermatt suggested (switching focus from main document to sidebar instead of just using shorcut to move through sidebar) - I was not sure where my focus is because both your current document in document pane is greyed (so you know which document you edit) and the current line in the edited document/list is grey (for the same reason). My problem was that you were not able to clearly say (without moving mouse or arrows) what part of the window has focus eg. when I switched to the app window from other app. Which was not the case with Things, as it implemented the feature the other way, without switching focus.

(I was replying to butlermatt suggestion, not to your question about what to do when pane is closed. Still I think that document navigation shortcuts make sense also with closed pane. In my opinion, the situation is similar to going back to history - you also do not remember always how many exact moves you will have to do but you know that three or four moves away back in history, you will see your document. It is the same with navigation (with closed pane): you know that your document is somehow two or four moves down, so you just push the shortcut more times until you see it.)

I think there are some possible different paths that can be taken and that are not muttualy exclusive.

  1. When shortcuts that already exist are used (Toggle file pane and Toggle bookmark pane), focus should move to the pane and we should be able to use Up or Down arrows to navigate between itens (files or bookmarks). Enter key would open selected item. Since pane was initially closed (we used shortcut to open and go to it), I think it’s natural to close that pane after new item is selected and opened.

  2. New shotcut (blank as default) to move focus to an already open pane. It’s only one new shortcut to go to whatever pane is opened. Once there, Up+Down arrows for selection and Enter to open item. Since pane is already opened in the beginning, it would not be closed after new item is selected and opened, in contrast with previous paragraph.

  3. New different shorcuts (blank as default) to cycle between Files and Bookmarks, different ones for each other.

Ah I misunderstood the functionality from the original request. I thought you wanted to use the arrow keys to navigate up and down through your list of files (which makes sense to me), rather than up and down the current document. I can understand this as when using the arrow keys you would need to shift focus from the main document to the file pane. And generally I don’t want to load each one as I go ever the document but rather wait until I select it, say by pressing enter. It also enables the ability to expand out folders using the same arrow keys to get to a file which may be hidden in a folder when first navigating.

But now you’re talking about a shortcut key to cycle between documents rather than using the arrows to navigate between documents. I could never use something like this myself. I have easily about 50 documents, in a variety of different folders and sub folders. Trying to navigate that with one, or two, short cut keys to cycle forward or back would still be exceedingly tedious.

I understand your point. My experience is: I would not use this navigation shortcuts solely. Eg. when using Things - usually I am using visual navigation by mouse or “quick open” (dynalist has the same functionality now). Of course, I will not use such a shortcut to move 20 documents bellow. But they are many occasions where you work in particular folder/with documents you know they are located close to each other and you want to be keyboard-centric. Not to touch your mouse. Even maybe not to open panelist at all. Just to switch to next/previous (etc) document in the folder and continue editing/reviewing…

Many list-managers have this functionality.

Thanks for the wonderful discussion, guys.

I’m quite confused about the “focus” concept though. Does it mean if I’m editing a document, for example, this shortcut would not work because the focus is not on the left pane?

Yes (if you mean shortcut for moving focus to next document). And also - when the opposite is true and you have focus on panelist, you cannot edit your main document. Which I think can be confusing. This is why I suggested the solution without change of focus, just with shortcut for direct moving to next/previous document in order.

For me focus is the same as html events. So if you’re in the left pane editing, and you used the shortcut to switch focus to the pane, then yes it would work. If you were already on the pane the same shortcut would switch you back to the document for editing. So as I originally took the request it would be:

[Editing document]
<some shortcut key press>
Focus is now in whatever the open pane is
[Arrow keys to navigate open pane]
[Enter to select new document]
<same shortcut key>
[Now editing newly selected document]

In this case it requires two shortcut keys to get to navigation and back, because I may want to open a new document and reference something then go back to the original document so rather than needing to switch after selecting the new document I’m still left in the navigation pane until I indicate otherwise (with shortcut or a mouse press in the document).

All this concept of focus would be hidden and non-obvious if there’s no UI indication though, which makes it sound complicated, not from a technical perspective but from the user experience perspective.

Well this could be fairly readily resolved such as changing the background color or just the cursor itself appearing in the open pane instead of still being in the document itself. The blinking cursor has always been a universal indicator of where the focus currently is. Plus in dynalist you highlight the current line (optionally).

I’m not sure how this is so different from existing behaviour. If I click on the Dynalist window border, the window has focus but neither document nor pane has focus of any kind. So when I type, nothing happens. Shortcuts still work, but I seemingly can’t enter anything without giving a focus to a bullet.

Some global scope shortcuts will work, but item/node-level shortcuts won’t.

I guess the other way to express my point against having an explicit “focus” concept is that if we were to have such a shortcut that cycles through documents, it can work regardless where the focus is, thus this concept doesn’t need to be explicit.

Hey! Just wanted to add my two cents to this, hoping that something could be built :slight_smile:

Problem Scope

  • I have two documents that I’m referencing. I want to cycle between one and the other quickly. For example: copying and pasting various text; using data from both documents to create a project.
  • I want the view of each document (i.e. node level) to persist as I cycle back and forth between the two.
  • This means the document viewer is a useful tool (better than Workflowy, which doesn’t have anything like this IMO) but the navigation between the two documents means searching with CMD-O and manually typing the name


  • One touch cycling between two documents
  • I use CMD-SHIFT-] and CMD-SHIFT-[ to navigate between bullets of the same level within my document. I would see an ideal feature as being able to use a similar shortcut to move between adjacent documents.
  • NB I could position two documents adjacently, temporarily, to make this job easier.

Thanks for reading!


Can’t express how much it annoys me to have to use the mouse to refocus and be able to continue my work. Maybe I missed the existence of a recently-added shortcut that would allow me to never need the mouse for navigation.

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I second @Ved_Uttamchandani’s sentiment.

It would be great if after using Open file finder the last previously selected task remained selected so I wouldn’t have to use the mouse.

The only partial workaround I’ve found is to use the shortcut for Go to start of first item and then Go to next sibling item, but it’s not worth it if it’s a long document.