Finder: Fix or Replace?

Written by Chris Weiss (hotiron) in Tips and tricks

I do a lot of file management on my Mac and I use Finder a lot but it has enough shortcomings that I have always wanted something better.  For instance, I hate how my Finder does not maximize to fill the screen when I hit the maximize traffic light.  I want a Finder that has a dual window mode so I can easily copy files back and forth without long, convoluted drag operations.  And I always wanted to see my folders sorted first (at the top of the list) and then I want to see my files.  Little nits like that made me want to either fix or replace my Finder.

Path FinderFirst I tried to replace Finder.  A few years ago I started researching Finder replacements.  Way back then I found a great one and I have been a loyal Path Finder by Cocoatech paying customer ever since.  It does a million things better than Finder.  Path Finder gives me both tabbed windows and a dual browser mode, it sorts folders before files if you want, and it fills the whole screen when I hit the maximize button.  And about a million other great things.  I thought that was all I would ever need but read on, I recently learned there is an even better way.

So after testing Path Finder I fell in love with it and dropped the coin for the registered version.  It’s that good thanks to the hard work of  Steve Gehrman.  Path Finder is like Finder on steroids.  It’s got all kinds of whiz-bangy features like a dual browser mode, a handy drop stack (which I love and use all the time), a bookmark bar, saved favorites, built-in file editor, it’s own image viewer, and even it’s own search function.  All icing on the cake but in reality it is also far more than I really need.  The more I use it the more I realize that Finder isn’t all that bad.

With the advent of Snow Leopard, fixing Finder has become a viable option and the smart folks at BinaryAge have started testing this new approach.  You see, Apple re-wrote their Finder app specifically for Snow Leopard using the Cocoa framework and this has made it possible for programmers to extend the base level app.  In older versions of OSX Finder was built on the Carbon framework which they say is very hard to tweak.  BinaryAge has begun testing a great new Finder plug-in called TotalFinder and it has showed me that I don’t really need a Finder replacement at all.  I love TotalFinder simply because it is not a Finder replacement and now I am seriously thinking it can replace Path Finder when renewal time comes around.

Total Finder

After ALPHA testing TotalFinder for a while now I am slowly learning that it is exactly what I needed all along.  I don’t really need 90% of what the Finder replacements do and that’s the elegant approach of TotalFinder.  It makes my Finder better without replacing it.  There are actually a few problems replacing Finder because it is so ingrained in the OS.  Enough so that I found I was jumping back and forth between Path Finder and Finder all the time.

TotalFinder adds the tabbed file management I crave, a new dual browser mode (that needs some work), a maximize that goes to full screen (which always bugged me), and it makes folders to appear first which I can’t live without.  It does all the little things that I really want without getting rid of my good old Finder.  And it does that one other little thing that even Path Finder can’t do which seals the deal for me.  It supports those beautiful shelve-motif background images for my icons.  You know those nifty little Finder Background images that make Finder look so cool?  Since TotalFinder just extends Finder, they work just fine but for some reason Path Finder still have not figured that one out.  I’ve posted this question to their support forums but it always falls on deaf ears.

So it will be a Finder plug-in for me.  And when TotalFinder is finally released I am going to break out the PayPal for it.  The latest free download ALPHA version is very stable and the release can’t be far off either.  The ALPHA is set to expire soon, on 1-Sept, so we will likely see a solid BETA and then a release candidate.  I can’t wait for a Finder that does it all, for my TotalFinder.  Sorry Path Finder but I am a Mac guy and a modder and that means I am all about the GUI.  Win the GUI war, get the functionality there, and you get my vote.  Here’s a couple screen shots of what I am talking about.  The first screen Path Finder 5.6.6 by Cocoatech.  The second screen shot is how TotalFinder 0.9.8 ALPHA makes your Finder look.  Which one looks better to you?

Finder: Fix or Replace?, 3.3 out of 5 based on 3 ratings


  1. Mary says:

    I’ve heard of TotalFinder since it’s earlier stages and I so wanted to test it. At the same time I was hesitating with Path Finder but I saw a comment somewhere about it, which is pretty true : it’s really a great piece of software but more for dev who needs to be on so much folders at the same time.

    For a more common usage ( or freelancers, or graphics and all ) I think TotalFinder is the best one.
    I only think since I can’t use it on Leopard :(

  2. Chris says:

    Mary, you are right. TotalFinder is Snow Leopard only. That’s because Apple re-wrote Finder app specifically for Snow Leopard using the Cocoa framework and this made it possible to build an extension like TotalFinder on top of the base level app. In older versions of OSX Finder is built on the Carbon framework which they say hard to tweak.

  3. maeltj says:

    For me, the best replacement for the Finder that I found the app Forklift. I use it whenever I have to move large numbers of files. For normal and everyday, I still prefer the Finder

  4. Kennon says:

    I like the prospects of TotalFinder, but I find that it lacks Mac quality. Still too many jittery transitions, a terrible implementation of Dual Panes and it breaks spring loaded folders (or maybe that’s just more of the transition headaches coming into play).

    Either way, I have high hopes for TotalFinder one day.. but at the moment, I just can’t use it.

  5. Chris says:

    maeltj, I’ve used ForkLift too and it great but it does what a lot of other file managers do wrong, it tries to be too many things (like FTP & SFTP). It is good, just way more than I need now. Have you tried the ForkLift2 public BETA it is pretty good.

  6. Chris says:

    Kennon, yes, the dual panes is pretty bad right now. TotalFinder uses the Chrome tabs (not the Safari tabs) and I love the fact that it is pretty easy to skin. There are already some great mods like these new tabs from Gpopper and I have done some of my own mods to the tabs that I use now. It does have promise!

  7. I love TotalFinder, it integrates with the OS much better than Path Finder and eliminates ever having multiple finder windows open!

  8. Chris says:

    Chris, I am with you on that (and I’m a huge Banff fan although my farm is on P.E.I which is about as far away as you can get)! Just like all the great new Safari Plug-ins (which my next Tips & Tricks piece will be about, check out Widgets) we’re seeing the wave of the future here. Now that Finder is finally extensible we will see a lot of new Finder extensions coming soon. Mark my words.

  9. Erc says:

    Ive tried Total Finder and to be honest, there is NONE substitute fore pure simplicity of basic Apples Finder.

  10. Chris says:

    Erc, I an a Finder fan too.

  11. Othman says:

    Hey can someone tell em the name of this font

  12. Othman, system font is Skia but it would need to be properly ported before you can use it as a system font replacement, you can find out how here

  13. Simon says:

    Sorry, I disagree.
    Pathfinder smokes Finder and is more functional than TotalFinder.

    Favourite Features of Pathfinder. Copy paths (even multiple ones) in two clicks. Even a hotkey if you wish. The folder filter. How often have you have to find something in your downloads folder and you know it contains a string, use the filter bam there it is. Drop stacks are nice and the Dual pane browser is a nice touch as with TotalFinder. Right click and create a file at a location. No more opening up textmate then druding through the dialog window to save the file in the right place.

    Happy Pathfinder user.

  14. Simon, 100% agree that Pathfinder wins the features war hands down. And for the power user that’s key. But for me, the casual/newbie kind of user, TotalFinder and Finder is just enough and no more. I do find myself going back to Pathfinder for the little things though. Things like Favorites, I keep all my customization locations there so I can get to my System Fonts or Menu Extras or Spotlight resources easily. Or Touch, I frequently want a folder to start sorting at the top again. PF wins that game.

  15. V1.0 of TotalFinder just came out. It’s $15. I bought it. That’s how much I am enjoying it!

  16. Blanca says:

    Totally disappointed with Finder. Will take a look at pathfinder. I am struggling with it when I blog at my site Blancnotes… Totally confusing.

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