Arrow keys for file navigation

Things I have tried

I’ve searched discussion forums, videos, blog posts, help docs but haven’t found a definitive answer.

What I’m trying to do

What I’d like to do: To browse files using just the keyboard.

On my Windows machine, I’d like to use up/down arrow keys to navigate the left side file list, so that when I move to the next/previous file the content opens in the right panel. Hitting return on a folder should expand the folder, at which point I can continue to browse files.

Is it really true that this most basic functionality isn’t available in Obsidian? And if so, is there a reason for this bizarre design decision? I’ve seen some posts that suggest installing plugins and doing all kinds of coding, but that seems nuts to me. I’ve been enjoying getting to know Obsidian, but having to constantly go to the mouse just to select/view a file is pretty much a dealbreaker.

Sort of true. There are keyboard commands. But as you move through the files with the keyboard, it doesn’t automatically open the files.

To browse files with the keyboard, you can:

  • There is a command “Files: Show file explorer”. I map this to ctrl-alt-F. You can choose a hotkey. It jumps focus to the files using the keyboard. From there you can move up and down with the keyboard. And using left / right collapses and expands folders (not Enter).

  • Or mouse click on the files. But then you have to click a second time. Clicking once only opens the file you clicked. A second click will highlight the file, and now you can use the arrow keys. This is the same as if you run the command “Files: Show file explorer”.

Unfortunately, neither of these options above will “browse” the files. It just moves up and down the file list, and then you can hit enter to open a note. Or ctrl-enter to open the note in a new tab.

  • Install the plugin (yes a plugin) “Quick Explorer” which enables the commands “Go to next file in folder” and “Go to previous file in folder”, which you can map to hotkeys. This is currently the fastest way to quickly iterate through files.

  • “Quick Explorer” also has a command “Browse Vault” which opens a little panel that you can navigate with the keyboard. And a modal popup shows a preview of the note. There are keyboard commands to move around the hierarchy or execute a command on the file.

Edit: I’ve reopened this feature request: Iterate through files in the file sidebar with keyboard - #60 by rigmarole


Thanks for the info and for re-opening the feature request. Hopefully the devs will address it! In the meantime, Quick Explorer will have to do. :slight_smile:

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