Do You Use It? Proxy Icons Quietly Boost Productivity

Originally published at: Do You Use It? Proxy Icons Quietly Boost Productivity - TidBITS

The results of our poll asking about proxy icon use are in, and we hope that this article’s explanation of what proxy icons are good for encourages those who haven’t used them to give them a try.

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It’s so weird. Even after reading your detailed explanation today, I just don’t get it. I’m looking in BBEdit right now. I see a bunch of open files. They have little icons next to their names. As usual I can control-click on files and select show in Finder and a bunch of other stuff. What is special about the icon? I’m obviously missing a major point somewhere.

You drag files in the Finder? Dragging the proxy icon is the same thing.

Yes, you can “show in finder” and drag the resultant file; the proxy icon obviates the necessity of the show-in-finder step, with attendant Finder window, etc. Not the most major thing, but nice.

I do a LOT of drag and drop. For a while Apple really emphasized d&d; not as much anymore.

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OK, sorry for the dumb question. To where are you dragging the file? It’s not to someplace in the Finder anyway? Thanks.

Another location in the Finder is just an option. Anywhere in macOS that can receive a file is a potential destination: a Choose button in a Safari Window, the app icons in the Command-Tab application list, the app icons in the Dock, the content of any file… almost anywhere, really!

@ace maybe there is an article to be written here about drag and drop itself? It became a part of macOS life only after System 7, if I’m not mistaken.

Apart from what @juandesant mentioned, open/save dialogs.

Some examples were given in the prior thread.

I think drag-and-drop at some level has always been part of the Mac interface, no?

@s1dorner is right that Apple used to push drag-and-drop as an interaction method much more long ago. I remember being utterly flummoxed by some early Apple user-and-group interface in the late 1980s because the only way to move a user into a group was to drag them, and there was no indication of that.

Yeah, I think so too. From what I can see, it was originally called “click-and-drag,” but as far back as I can remember, that’s how you ejected a floppy disk: Drag its icon to the Trash (which gesture was itself a bit alarming at first). I think “drag-and-drop” started in System 7, which introduced the ability to drag selected text around and drop it elsewhere in the document.

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It is still a way to eject media. Drag a mounted volume to the trash in the Dock and it will change to an “eject” icon. It will unmount a disk image and will eject storage media if possible (e.g. an optical disc).

But these days, I prefer to type CMD-E or use the eject button on my keyboard.

Regarding the Mail app, one tip I find useful is to drag the message onto the Reminders icon in the Dock. This creates a new reminder with a link to that email.
Although Apple recently introduced a Remind Me feature in Mail I still find the Reminders App method more flexible.


Drag-and-drop inside a document/application was there from the beginning. But drag-and-drop as a collaboration tool between applications/documents started with System 7. Together with publish-and-subscribe, they were the most promoted tentpole features (plus always on Multifinder) for that release.


publish-and-subscribe was wonderful. I was very sad when it went away.

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Drag and drop in the finder was there from the beginning. Unless my memory fails me, drag and drop editing, clipping files, etc were not.

For one, I keep my screen festooned with docks (five of them RN, one of which has four tabs) that I often drag things into, without ever bringing the Finder into the picture. Other folks have mentioned other uses.

I also drag things into Terminal windows, which inserts the proper-escaped filename for various interesting command-line stuff.

How do you have multiple docks?

I obviously have some things to learn I never knew about. :slight_smile:


Perhaps he means multiple Desktops, otherwise I think you’d need a third party utility to create multiple Docks.

There are several third-party utilities that provide additional docks. I used to use DragThing, and now I use iCollections (because DragThing never went 64-bit.)