Beyond the Finder

August 31, 2010 at 4:48 am 1 comment

| Gabriel |

In a recent post I mentioned that one of the (few) crappy things about OS X not related to network externalities is that there’s no dual-pane file manager. When I first got a Mac this really bothered me, but as I mentioned, I’ve mostly gotten used to just keeping tons of Finder windows open.

Anyway, while a dual-pane file manager doesn’t come standard, there are a few third-party options. Two options I think are especially worth checking out are the minimalist TotalFinder (free while in development, $15 when version 1.0 comes out). In contrast is the mega-featured PathFinder 5 ($40, on sale for $25 to educational users until September 7).

(Forklift is very similar to Pathfinder and also very good. The current version isn’t quite as well-featured as PathFinder, for instance there’s no command line or version control, but a) it has a slightly smaller memory footprint, b) at $30 it’s cheaper for a non-educational license, and c) the interface is less cluttered and looks more like the Finder).

PathFinder is a stand-alone program (as is Forklift) whereas TotalFinder is a mod of the standard Finder. This is something of a trade-off. On the one hand, PathFinder has a much bigger feature set, including such things as bookmarks, menu/submenu file navigation, command line, drop stack, etc. The only thing TotalFinder does is let you choose between a tabbed interface and a dual pane interface. Also because it mods the Finder, TotalFinder only works with Snow Leopard. On the plus side, being part of Finder means you don’t have both Finder and your OFM running, as is the case with PathFinder. This also implies that any services you’ve written for Finder will automatically work in TotalFinder whereas I found I had to recreate them in Automator for the benefit of PathFinder.

Parenthetically, a tip for using PathFinder is to add a link to the “Favorites” folder (~/Library/Favorites) to your “Places” in the Finder/PathFinder sidebar. The advantage of doing so is that this gives you access to the “favorites” from within open/save dialogs, which I find very convenient for navigating if I’m trying to reach something that I use a lot but nonetheless is not in “Recent Places.” Note that you can do so without any kind of special file manager software just by creating a “favorites” folder of your own and populating it with aliases.

Also of possible interest for orthodox file manager devotees is the cross-platform muCommander (free). Myself, I gave up on it for reasons that are common to cross-platform software: it’s written in an interpreted language so it launches slow and it doesn’t integrate with Spotlight, QuickLook, services, the Aqua toolkit, etc. I do appreciate it when the FOSS community compiles a Mac binary of cross-platform software and I use Lyx, NetLogo, and GIMP all the time, but a file manager is the kind of thing where I really prefer thick compatibility with the operating system.

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1 Comment

  • 1. drschweitzer  |  September 9, 2010 at 2:46 am

    I’m a Path Finder girl myself.



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