Alt+click doesn't work to select multiple files (should probably be Ctrl+click)

Use case or problem

On my desktop environment alt and click has a function (moving windows) which is core to the desktop environment’s UX. This overrides the alt+click action in the file navigator so I have no way to select multiple files.
Additionally the normal behavior in all the file explorers I’ve ever used is that ctrl+click selects multiple files and alt changes hover behavior in one or two programs I remember using back previously, so the opposite behavior to current is much more intuitive to me.

The odd thing is I’m sure I was able to use ctrl click to do this at one point with obsidian. If it was a plugin, I can’t find it again

Proposed solution

I’d like the option to use ctrl+click to select multiple files.

It doesn’t make sense to disable the current behavior for those that have grown accustom to it, so I think this could be implemented as a toggle that switches between:

ctrl+hover for preview and alt+click to select multiple files
alt+hover to preview and ctrl+click to select multiple files

Current workaround (optional)

Currently there is no workaround. I simply can not select multiple files without changing the behavior of my whole OS.

Related feature requests (optional)

Some of these were filed as bugs or help requests, but in each folks note using ctrl and click (Mac users appear to be used to ctrl+shift+click and Windows or Linux users appear to use ctrl+click):

For me, it works.

You are pointing to a problem that is tied to your desktop environment. It will thus be very useful to also indicate which desktop environment that is. In some desktop environments, the window action key can be disabled or changed, for example to Super.

Sorry, that’s an excellent point. The desktop is XFCE where the default behavior is that alt and mouse actions manage window size and movement.
While it can be changed, I find I change the behavior on other desktop environments so that alt works in the same way as it has become second nature and I do not have a ‘super’ key on my keyboard (I have FN (owned by the hardware), alt, ctrl, and shift as far as modifier keys available to me).

I think even if I had the ‘super’ key, it makes sense to have the option to use ctrl to select multiple files as this is the normal and expected behavior in file managers on Linux, MacOS, and Windows going back to the 90s. So while I understand Obsidian’s choice, it would be helpful if we could have the option to modify it as needed to match the behavior ingrained over the last almost 3 decades.

One of the things I love about Obsidian is that it allows so much control of the hot keys and modifiers and isn’t opinionated on what the hotkeys should be, so I think having the option to change the behavior when needed has precedent and it certainly would make my life easier as atm I am reduced to moving files one at a time with no viable workaround.

I see: I was not expecting cases where there is no ‘Super’ key, so this definitely is a conflict that is not easy to come by other than disable the window key. Obsidian, not being focussed on file management (you can disable the File Manager - it is a Core plugin), very centrally uses Ctrl+Click to open notes in a new tab, and this is also implemented in the Obsidian file manager core plugin.

For now, one not that inconvenient work around for you would be to just use your file manager Thunar to move files. Obsidian does not care where files are stored in a vault. It relies on only the file name to find a file. What is nice, you immediatelly will see your actions reflected live in the Obsidian file manager.

Thus, you thus can move files within your vault with any tool: that will not break links.

This is too much of a niche request (modifying alt-click and having a keyboard without super). XFCE is niche desktop environment too. We are not gonna do it.

Maybe it’ll be possible if this is implemented:


I can totally understand that. XFCE is niche, but I used to use alt-click and drag in a similar way on Windows. I don’t remember if I had something installed to create that behavior, but I know it’s getting adopted in more Linux desktops.

We are not gonna do it.

If this is the case, I would argue for a change of the behavior since it’s normal behavior on ALL the main operating systems’ file managers that ctrl click would select multiple files, so I don’t think the RFE for ctrl+click to work the same way would be niche. Would that be a fair one to open?

Also, do you or does anyone know of an addon that allows for ctrl+click to behave normally in the file manager? I swear I used it like that just last year… Maybe January?

yeah, that’s a good point. I do use file managers and cli to move multiple files at once. I will say, though, that the ctrl+click behavior to open files in new tabs is not tied directly to selecting multiple in the file manager (by UX design, I don’t know about how the devs programmed it here, so i get that might not be easy).

I’ve pointed out elsewhere (so please forgive the repetition if you are already aware) but ctrl+click is used to select multiple files on all the Windows, MacOS, and Linux filemanagers I’ve ever used. Even Google Drive and I think Dropbox adopt this behavior, so it’s just really jarring to my user experience that Obsidian does it differently.

Thanks, I like that RFE, but the scope seems enormous. If it allows me to make ctrl+click behave normally, I’m all for it!

Note that Obsidian is not a file manager in the first place. Accessing and managing notes in the file structure is provided by a plugin. Obsidian can perfectly be used without that.

If more intensive file management is needed for some reason, you can turn, without any issue, to your trusted file manager. If you continuously have a need for heavy file management of your notes, then you may need to consider revising your workflow: again, file management is not core in note taking - one can (and perhaps even should) do without.

Please forgive me, but I’m not sure why that is pertinent for an RFE or how constructive it is here.

This isn’t a complaint or an unreasonable request, nor does it stem from file management that is any heavier than the plugin allows. You may already be aware, but the plugin already allows you to select and move multiple non-contiguous files at once, only with a nonstandard keyboard modifier. If anything, I feel it is a perfectly reasonable request for a low-priority RFE to allow for the existing behavior to match that of all the file managers the plugin is emulating.

Anyway, I would argue that it’s a little bit arbitrary to draw a line in the sand and say that someone should revise their workflow when we don’t know what they are doing or why their workflow works for them. I follow a mostly Zettelkasten note system based on tags myself, with a minor modification of grouping important notes that I may have to send as a tarball to other people periodically into folders. These groups evolve organically out of notes that share certain tags or relationships, so I only occasionally even use the file manager, but surely you can see that Obsidian is already a more powerful file manager for this purpose than Thunar could ever be, just as a result of the context inherently available in the UI.

However, more importantly, what about the folks who follow more folder-based organizational schemas? I’m sure they would argue that file management is an integral part of their note system.

Obsidian is an amazing tool. The team here have done such a great job creating a flexible system that does not enforce its opinions on the users, and there are many folks out there who constructively use it in many diverse ways.

My apologies, but your comment feels a little bit like a strawman argument, but maybe I misunderstand your point? Either way, I’m more interested to hear what Whitenoise has to say, and am in no rush for a Solution. I think they understood the nature of the request and conversation and your answers feel like deflections or distractions.

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@WhiteNoise shall I open an RFE for ctrl+click behavior to match os behavior for MacOS, Windows, and Linux filemanagers? Not sure if you saw my replies. If you’re just busy and will get to them, no rush.

You can open a FR for that. However, I want to be clear that the goal of obsidian “files” tab is not to mimick the OS file manager. In fact, it is called “file explorer”. Ctrl/cmd-click to open a file in a new tab was selected to maintain consistency to the way tabs are opened when clicking on a link in a note and it is unlikely that we change that.

I agree. Obsidian should be more like a Wikipedia but for personal notes. And the behavior of a web browser (since Wikipedia is a website not a OS file manager) is Ctrl/Cmd click opens the link in a new tab. So IMO that definitely should be the default behavior. But at the same time I think that would be good if almost every single thing in Obsidian is customizable to each one’s needs.

Thank you for your reply. I’m a bit of a pedant (but mean no negativity and so I hope you’ll forgive me); it’s bugging me, and I need to point out that the OS file manager in Windows is called the “File Explorer” so I think it makes sense that people might see the name as an indication that it is mimicking the file manager. I grant that it’s not particularly important and that it almost seems that most users are on Linux and Mac (judging from the conversations I see online) even though Windows owns the biggest market share if I’m reading the current statistics correctly (and eliminating Android/Linux).

Still, the file explorer was nicely done IMHO and is generally really inviting to use. Given the other actions that Obsidian takes to make sure links are updated and the like, I really would like to be able to use it instead of my OS file manager for most actions. Is it the performance limitation that draws a line between mimicking an OS file manager or mimicking a static web page where a ctrl-click will open in a new tab?

I’d love to be able to make it so the middle click opens in a new tab, and the ctrl-click selects since this is how it is on Linux and Windows (and even Mac if you have a middle click, iiuc). Do you think Super FR: Customizable mouse event actions (click) with keyboard modifiers would allow for this? If so, I’ll just link this to that thread.