It used to be the case that if you ⌘click Finder arrows in macOS, it would be the equivalent of ⌘click Safari arrows. In other words, it would perform the same action as a regular click - going forwards or backwards in history - but it would load the new view in a new tab.1 That’s no longer the case, and I think macOS 10.12.4 is the first version in which this is true. It’s possible the change was introduced earlier, but I didn’t notice until 10.12.4. For a while I thought this was a bug but today I realized that it’s intended to be a feature. Going forward, when you ⌘click the Finder arrows, you trigger an ability to rearrange / remove the customizable items in the Finder bar.

I’m not happy about this change for two reasons:

  1. It creates ambiguity about what ⌘click does on arrow buttons. It’s no longer consistent across the apps. Finder and Safari (and all other browsers) are now disjointed.
  2. It’s much more common to need to open a Finder history in an enclosing window than it is to rearrange or remove the items in the Finder bar. Once you’ve got your Finder bar items set the way you want them, you’re done. That’s a once-every-six-months sort of thing. Navigating through history on the other hand is a daily task for some people.

The new ⌘click functionality in Finder is not limited to the arrow keys. It’s available on any customizable item in the Finder bar. In asking for Apple to restore ⌘click on arrows to their former functionality - that of opening in an enclosing window - I’m aware that I’m asking for ⌘click to do different things in the Finder bar depending on what you click on. I’m ok with that. ⌘click on the title in the Finder bar already does something different anyway: it shows a dropdown menu of items, each of which is a shortcut to the previous item’s parent directory, starting with the current directory and traversing past Macintosh HD all the way to the very root (i.e. “Devices”).

If performing the same action (⌘click) on different looking things (e.g. Finder arrow buttons and Finder search) in the same area (Finder bar) results in different outcomes, that’s not inconsistency. If performing the same action on similar looking things in different areas results in different outcomes, that is inconsistency.