Saturday, February 24, 2024

Best Mac OS X Finder Alternatives

Path Finder 4

Back in the days of Windows being the operating system on my computer, I was unsatisfied with the limited capabilities of Windows Explorer. For many years I used Directory Opus. It was (and, I guess, still is) fantastic. So much OS and file bending power coursing under my finder tips and mouse clicks. When I moved to Mac OS X I realised in less than 5 minutes on Finder that I’d need an alternative. It seemed more deficient in features than Windows Explorer.

The best one I could find was Path Finder. It was as good as I was going to get trying to replace Directory Opus on my new Mac, so I ran with it for a few years. I’ve not tried the latest version (v6) because the upgrade price was more than the price of what I have now replaced Path Finder with. My only complaint about Path Finder is that it seemed a bit bloated to have running at times when I didn’t really need all the power it afforded me. What’s more, it seemed a tad harsh to have to dish out $40 for something that in essence was providing the features I felt Apple Finder should come with by default.

Then along came TotalFinder. The current price on this smooth piece of OS gear is $18. Under half of what Path Finder is asking. Perhaps one of the things I missed most from my Windows days was the ability to Cut and Paste files and folders. I know Apple has user file safety reasons in mind, but to me this is (loosely) like the TSA enforcing ridiculous unproven backscatter scans for passenger safety reasons. I want cut and paste, and I’ll decide whether or not its safe to implement such a file manoeuvre. TotalFinder adds this feature to Finder.

Now here’s the big plus. TotalFinder is not a Finder replacement. It is more like a Finder plug-in. It adds its feature-set into Finder. Here’s what it brings to Finder:

  • Tabs. Oh yes. Along with Cut and Paste, tabs in Finder is something I simply can’t understand Apple overlooking.
  • Dual Mode – Display two Finder windows side-by-side in dual mode.
  • Folders on Top – Don’t make me think. Folders should always go first in list view.
  • Show System Files – Show me all files on the disk. I’m not afraid to see the cruft.
  • Visor – Convenient system-wide Finder always one key-press away.
  • Cut & Paste – Use keyboard shortcuts to move files around. Faster than drag & drop.

Okay, so this is not a big addition of features. But it gives me the main things I was using Path Finder for. I decided I could do without the rest of what Path Finder offered. Tabs and Cut & Paste are the main things I use every day.

The bottom line is this: I can’t imagine using Finder without TotalFinder giving it a feature boost. In fact when I use other people’s Macs it feels like Finder is crippled.

If you need all the other features Path Finder brings to your Mac then I’d suggest running with that. However, if all you’re hanging out for is Tabs and Cut & Paste in Finder, then TotalFinder is the best solution I am aware of.

Xtra, Xtra, read all about it…

Since late 2013 I’ve discovered XtraFinder. In terms of functionality it’s very similar to TotalFinder. It’s not as polished, in terms its preference interface, yet it does a great job at boosting Finder to new levels. You can read about it here.

UPDATE: Jan 2013
Pathfinder 6 looks is looking pretty attractive for those wanting a feature rich Finder alternative. Especially for those looking for a Mac equivalent of Directory Opus. In fact, at first glance, I’d say it’s a lot smoother than Directory Opus (but then most Mac apps are smoother looking that Windows equivalents, in my opinion). It’s even starting to look much closer on parr with D.O. in terms of features.

So the final decision on which Finder alternative is best for you will depend on what level of new features you require. Certainly check out both Path Finder and TotalFinder and see which is most to your liking.

Here’s a few features in Path Finder 6

  • Drop Stack

    Drop StackCollect files together into a temporary holding place with the Drop Stack. When you’re ready, copy or move the collected files in a single step.

  • Dual Pane View

    Dual Pane ViewWork with your files side-by-side in a dual pane view.

    BookmarksAccess frequently used files and folders with bookmarks.

  • Tabs

    TabsQuickly switch between open folders using tabs. Store commonly used groups of tabs as presets.


Deep Control

Path Finder takes care of the heavy lifting, helping you to quickly access and modify your files without the dull busywork. Exert complete control over your files with Path Finder’s extensive time-saving features:

  • Batch Renaming

    Batch Renaming

  • Criteria-based File Selection

    Criteria-based File Selection

  • File Copy Queues

    File Copy Queues

  • File Tagging

    File Tagging


Every Tool For The Job

Path Finder is designed to work with a variety of different workflows. Whether you’re a developer, writer, artist, or just a casual user, Path Finder has you covered.

  • Developers

    Hex editor, git and subversion, ACL permissions

    Developer Tools

  • Artists

    Photoshop and Illustrator file previews, side-by-side image comparison with dual preview panes.

    Designer Tools

  • Writers

    Built-in text editor, PDF previewing

    Writer Tools

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  1. I am also a big fan of TotalFinder; love the tabs and copy-paste files function.
    Recently got PathFinder as part of a bundle and while I won’t run it all the time, I can see some uses for it that aren’t covered by TF. Also got MacPilot on sale and have yet to use it.
    I just reviewed your comments and pix of TinkerTool which I do not have, but looks interesting. Can you compare TT with PF and/or MP?
    btw I also use Deskovery, just for its windowshade function (select from green “expand window”button, rather than double-click)
    One more question: do you know of any way to add Label colors (and thereby, additional visual categorization) to Finder?
    Thanks in advance.

    • For VPN file access, try muCommander instead. I don’t use it for my work but its way better/faster than Finder for VPN access.

  2. I think PathFinder is interesting, but have to disagree entirely on your comment “In fact, at first glance, I’d say it’s a lot smoother and feature rich than Directory Opus.”

    • Thanks Bill.
      The statement you have quote was admittedly written rather off-the-cuff. I have updated it, to more accurately reflect what I intended to express.
      Best wishes… Jonathan

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