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  1. Computer Skills
  2. Finder
Computers

Do More With Finder for Mac: Third Party Applications

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There are some reasons that you may feel the need to look for an alternative to Finder.

  • If you use a PC at work
  • If you use both Mac and PC either at work or home
  • If you frequently move or copy files to keep things organized
  • If you want to work efficiently to become productive with frequently performed tasks

There are a number of Finder alternatives. Each of these takes one of the two approaches:

  1. replacement, or 
  2. augmentation

Replacement

PathFinder follows the first approach. It provides a full replacement file browser with many additional features and functionality. 

The problem with the first approach is you lose access to all those Finder features that did work. 

More importantly, you lose the tight integration with the operating system.

Augmentation

TotalFinder and XtraFinder follow the second approach. They augment Finder with a range of new features that either blend with the current feature, to improve it, or provide an entirely new feature. 

They're tightly integrated with the operating system to make the file management experience seamless.

Move and Copy Files Faster

Suppose, for a moment, that you need to manage files between two different folders, moving them around or even comparing files between the two locations. 

If you use Finder, then you would have to open two Finder windows and adjust them accordingly. If you perform this task frequently then it's probable that you have to mess with dozens of open windows and tabs.

The dual-pane view saves you the trouble from bloating your desktop with connection windows and file listings, enabling the most effective workflow. It takes tabs and stitches them in a single Finder window. 

This makes it possible to view the contents of two separate folders in one window, each folder having its own navigation buttons and sidebar. You can create as many of these twin tabs as you want and mix them with regular tabs. 

When exiting dual-pane mode it reverts the tabs to a single Finder window.

To access the dual-pane window in XtraFinder, go to View > Toggle Dual Mode. Select all the files, then drag and drop to the folder on other pane. This way you can move large number of files between folders easily and much faster. 

PathFinder has some few commands to take advantage of the dual-pane layout. Click Commands and beneath the Dual Browser you will find options (with handy shortcuts) for moving and copying files between panes. Dragging and dropping while holding a modifier key can perform different operations:

Copy

  • Within the same volume: Option key then Drag and drop
  • Between different volumes: Drag and drop

Move

  • Within the same volume: Drag and drop
  • Between different volumes: Command key then Drag and drop
In PathFinder moving files from one folder to another is single hotkey away 1 Left Pane 2 Right Pane
In PathFinder moving files from one folder to another is single hotkey away. 1. Left Pane 2. Right Pane

Dual-pane layout also lets you move or copy files to a PC. Whilst you can easily sync files and folders with Dropbox and Bittorrent Sync, it is not necessary to use these applications in every use-case. You can move files between computers using just your local area network connection connection.

  • Set up an SMB server connection on Mac and PC. 
  • In XtraFinder select View >Toggle Dual Mode and in other pane open your shared PC connection
  • Select the Disk Drive and folder where you want to move the file. 
  • Drag and drop the file(s) from Mac Downloads folder to the download folder of PC.
dual-pane-xtrafinder
With dual pane I can copy files from Mac to PC easily without using Dropbox and other similar applications. 1. Left Pane 2. Right Pane

Feature Compatibility With File Explorer for PC

The core difference in workflow, whilst working with two different operating systems, is the file manager. 

Finder does things a little differently to Windows Explorer on a PC, even though their purpose is to manage files and folders. 

If you work with both Mac and PC, the initial experience of adjustment with file management may take time. All the Finder alternatives provide some useful features.

Cut and Paste

In the Windows operating system, Cut is a normal option in right click context menu. Mac has the Cut and Paste feature but can be a little tricky to understand. 

Select the item you wish to move, then press Command-C to copy the file. Navigate to the destination window and press Command-Option-V to move the item. If you use PC then this shortcut may feel tedious to learn and adjust.

With XtraFinder you can activate Cut command in right click menu. Go to XtraFinder > Preferences, click the Features tab and check Cut and Paste. The best part of this feature is that it works with every Finder windows and has a standard Command-X shortcut.

Add Go Up Button in Finder

In the Windows operating system, Go Up button lets you open the parent folder of the current folder you are working with. 

This simple and straightforward button works well for novice users. Finder does not have this feature, but it is possible to add Up button in toolbar with XtraFinder

Go to XtraFinder > Preferences, click the Features tab and check Show Go Up button in the toolbar.

Change the Behaviour of Return Key

In the Windows operating system, if you press the Enter key in Windows Explorer, it will either open a selected folder/file, or run a highlighted program. On Mac the Return key lets you rename the selected file/folder instead of opening them. 

If you want to change the behaviour of Return key, go to XtraFinder > Preferences, click the Features tab and check Press Enter to open selection and under the Rename field specify the shortcut key.

Sort Folders on Top of Files

With XtraFinder you can sort all folders on top of files. Go to XtraFinder > Preferences, click the Features tab and check Arrange Folders on Top

This is especially helpful when you want to move a number of files which normally would be spread throughout a directory, forcing you to shift-click out the folders you don’t want to move.

File Template

In the Windows operating system the right-click context-sensitive menu provides added functionality by offering actions you can perform with particular item. The New option lets you create new documents, spreadsheet, presentation, folder, shortcut quickly and under the same folder you’re in. 

XtraFinder gives you an option to add a New File entry to the contextual menu in Finder. Go to XtraFinder > Preferences, click the Add items to Finder menus and check New File.

In this entry you’ll find options to create plain text document, script, rich text document and more. You can customize them and add your own file template. 

Click Manage File Template in the same preference window and add an empty Pages or Numbers file in that directory. 

Now you can quickly create any document and rename them with single click.

Efficiency Performing Tasks

It makes sense to be efficient with tasks, but sometimes you may either lack technical knowledge or, perhaps, the application itself is slowing you down due to bugs or small subset of features. 

All the Finder alternatives have some features to increase efficiency.

Folder and File Size

On Mac if you want to find details about the file size, you can right click and select Get Info. There are times when you may want to get information together as a single selection, such as the combined file/folder size. 

With XtraFinder it is possible to get total sizes for file/folder selection. 

Go to XtraFinder > Preferences, click the Features tab, check Show total size of selected items in Status Bar and Automatically calculate size

Now select files one-by-one and you’ll notice the size information in the status bar.

folder-and-file-size-xtrafinder
XtraFinder makes it possible to get the combined file/folder size selection

Size Browser

By default, the Finder’s list view only shows you the size of individual files—not of folders.

If you wish to get the complete information about the size of folder then click View > as List, right click on an empty space and open up Show View Options and check Calculate all sizes.

This feature works well but if you want to get an overview about the size information then repeated clicks and checking the options will significantly impact efficiency. 

PathFinder lets you browse items based on their size much quicker. Go to Windows > Size Browser and browse file/folders with their size information.

pathfinder-size-browser
Size browser option in PathFinder tabulate and display results with a greater efficiency

Extra Window Functions

PathFinder has some additional window manipulation features not available in the regular Finder, all accessible from Window menu:

  • The Clone option duplicates the current file browser window with one click
  • The Float option allows you to set the focused window/module always on top
  • The Hides on Deactivate option sets the focused window/module to hide when switching from PathFinder to another application

View Hidden Files

On Mac, files with names that start with dot are hidden. But if you need them for reasons—to browse UNIX filesystem, to access .htaccess file for web development, for example, then you can do so with XtraFinder

It lets you toggle the visibility of hidden files and folders with a single click.

Go to View > Show Hidden Items. Similarly in PathFinder go to View > Show Invisible Files

The same can be done when you need to browse packages as folders—an application or iPhoto library—by toggling View > Show Package Contents.

Collect Files in Drop Stack

Finder is quite basic when it comes to organizational capabilities. You can either put all the files in a folder or tag them with a label, but as time passes you dump all the files to the desktop. 

The desktop becomes a complete mess. 

PathFinder has a useful feature called as Drop Stack. It is a circular, target icon located on the top-left section of PathFinder window. Within this stack, you can dump pile of files and folders which you wish to eventually copy or move to a new location.

Click on the Drop Stack and you’ll notice a drop-down menu with many functions. You can choose to compress the contents of the Drop Stack, email them to a friend, or burn them to a CD. 

Drop Stack is a great way of collecting stuff that needs to go into one place without having to jump between folders and applications all the time.

drop-stack-pathfinder
Drop Stack is a temporary basket for temporary files and folders. 1. Drop Stack icon 2. Drop Stack drop-down menu

Bookmarks and Favorites

Having your favorites files and folders single click away is probably the best and simple way to become effective. PathFinder calls this bringing the web browser workflow to the desktop. 

The bookmarks feature in PathFinder behaves like a file browser, letting you navigate the file or folder that you need to get access to quickly. To add your folder in bookmarks, drag the folder to the bookmarks bar.

Favorites behave very much like Finder’s Places feature but it also allows you to change the name of the label to any name you want. 

In the screenshot below I’ve favourited my OneDrive folder and renamed the label to OneDrive Personal. Notice that the real OneDrive folder name remains unchanged. 

If you’ve ever tried to do same with Finder, then it would affect the actual folder or files. This is extremely useful when you have folders or files with same name but stored in different locations.

bookmarks-feature-in-pathfinder
With PathFinder you can use web browser type workflow feature to Finder. Notice the custom name of OneDrive folder in favorite section

Folder Compare and Sync

Assume that you have a huge collection of music on the Mac. It would be wonderful if you can replicate that same structure of music collection on the PC. But there are two problems:

  1. You don’t know which album you should copy to the PC because there are hundreds of folders
  2. Copying every single album over the network is slow and time consuming

PathFinder includes Folder Sync, a folder comparison and syncing engine to solve this type of tedious problem. 

Go to View and select Dual Browser with any layout option of your choice. Once you are in Dual Pane mode, select one folder in each pane (note that the FolderSync menu item will not appear if you’ve selected more than two folders). The left pane will be the music collection folder on the Mac whilst the right pane will be the music collection folder on the PC.

From the main menu select Commands > FolderSync. A new window appears, where all folder comparison and synchronisation takes place. By default the operation starts in Compare mode, wherein it compares two folders and mark their differences. 

Depending on folder size and structure this step can take a while. When showing folder differences, PathFinder uses different colors to mark items which are different. You can see what these colors mean if you click Colors… button. Here you can change default colors to your liking.

To start the synchronisation process, PathFinder already includes some predefined presets: CompareUpdate LeftUpdate RightMirror to LeftMirror to Right. Other than these presets, you’ll see an information on how may items will be updated, added or deleted. 

Once you are satisfied with the preset selection click the Sync button.

dual-pane-pathfinder
Folder compare and Sync feature in PathFinder 1. Preset Options 2. Detailed information on comparison results 3. Left pane is the music collection folder on Mac 4. Right pane is the music collection folder on PC 5. Analysis results

Conclusion

Finder is the core part of a Mac and depending upon your usage it may or may not fit your needs. Indeed if certain aspects of Finder is bothering you, there are alternatives and in this tutorial I have covered the reasons for using third party applications and different benefits they may provide to you.

Finder is a vast application, there are many hidden and advanced features. It has not been possible to cover every aspect of Finder application in this tutorial. If you have any questions let me know in the comments below.

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