Path Finder 7: Still the better OS X Yosemite File Manager
Since I’ve discovered Cacoatech’s Path Finder 6 last year (2013), I’ve been hooked on it ever since. I’ve written this article here back in 2013 highlighting some of the key features why I thought it was the a great replacement file manager app for OS X. Even with improved Finder app with the release of Mavericks, Path Finder 6 continues to offer better functionality and I kept on using it as my default file manager.
Now with the release of OS X Yosemite, Finder has a couple of new tricks up its sleeves. You can now Preview any files in any view mode of Finder, not just in the Column view mode as before. There is also a batch rename capability which is really handy to quickly rename files within Finder. But that’s pretty much it.
These two capabilities have always been on Path Finder 6. File preview within Path Finder is a default configuration for me. As for batch renaming, Path Finder’s batch renaming feature has always been more comprehensive with the ability to preview the changes before you apply the change. And knowing that there was also a new release of Path Finder 7 just before the release of Yosemite, I thought that a fairer comparison was to compare the latest release of Path Finder against OS X Yosemite. So I reached out to the good guys are Cocoatech if I could get a review copy for this purpose. They agreed! So here I was now equipped with the ability to compare both the applications as they should be.
First off, I’d have to say that the incremental improvements on Finder with the release of OS X Yosemite is most welcomed. I sometimes still do use Finder quite a fair bit, especially when needing to get access to iCloud folder or to use AirDrop, or when times Finder is just conveniently a shortcut key away. However, I would still have to say that Finder is still far behind Path Finder. At this point of publishing this article, I’ve used the Path Finder 7 for almost 3 months now and while it’s not perfect (a few nagging bugs that I hope they would fix soon which I’ll get to later in this writeup), Path Finder continues to be my default file manager app on OS X Yosemite.
Just a note: I hate using screenshots other than my own, but since it’s my own personal MacBook that I’ll be showing here, I have blurred out all the content section of the screenshots. So allow me to apologies here first if blurred screenshots irritates you.
Reason #1: File Operations Queue
Till today, I still cannot fathom why none of the operating systems out there have this feature built-in. There are a few tools out there that does this same feature in all the popular OS platforms. I often need to move and copy files around and sometimes, these files can be rather large and the target could be over the network. So to avoid having the hard disk being “trashed”, that’s having the hard disk head seeking all over to read and/or to write the files being copied, I’d usually copy the sets of files in sequence. Sure, my MacBook today runs off a PCIe-based SSD which is great and these sort of random r/w operations. However, my external disks and my home media server still runs off regular HDDs. Therefore, instead of me just sitting around waiting for file operations to complete themselves, I could just queue them up and let it process sequentially by itself! So this is why this same feature is still on the top of my why-use-Path-Finder-vs-OS-X-Finder reasons.
One nice thing about this feature is that its smart too. If you are copying files from to a different targets, say two different external USB HDD, both copy operations would run concurrently since both utilises their own data channels to write the files.
Reason #2: Dual-pane view
It’s hard to explain how awesome a dual-pane view. Back in the old DOS days, I used to use this program called Norton Commander. During its time, that program (I’m using program as it’s what we called app back in those days) was awesome, primarily because I was able to simultaneously view and manage files in two different directories. Sure you can use command line to do the same, but if there’s a program to make mundane tasks easier, I’m all for it man. Norton Commander was THE program back in those days. Then during the time I was using Windows, I believe the go-to alternative file manager was Total Commander when I needed a dual-pane file explorer. But if I remember it right, most of the time, I would just open up two Explorer windows and manage my files that way. It does help that it’s relatively easy to place both Explorer windows each on either halves of the screen.
With OS X, managing the different application windows on your screen is kinda tricky, or shall I say, almost non-existent. If you want similar capabilities like Windows, you’d need to install utilities such as BetterSnapTool or its equivalent. But on the flip-side, starting from OS X Lion’s introduction of fullscreen mode, I actually enjoy the single-app per screen focus that the mode enforces. Now, if the application I’m using supports fullscreen mode, I’d used it. Which is why I’d rather not have multiple Finder windows opened at the same time. It just annoys the heck out of me.
So the Dual Browser feature of Path Finder is also my most used and appreciated feature. I also like how both panes are individually configurable just you can see in the screenshot below. Path Finder calls this the Dual Browser view.
And with Path Finder 7, the Dual Browser feature gain some extra kung-fu moves that allows you to quickly perform commands such as copy, move, compress, decompress, compare in a quick press of a hotkey. FolderSync is also a new feature introduced with Path Finder 7, but I’d have to say that it’s not a feature that I use a lot since most of my files are synced to the cloud via Dropbox or Copy.
Reason #3: Bookmarks and Favourites
Path Finder calls this bringing the web browser workflows to the desktop. I just calls it pretty darn useful and time-saving features. As you can see in the screenshot below these bookmarks aren’t just better positioned equivalent of Finder’s Places. It’s actually also a file browser, allowing you to navigate through the bookmark to the file or folder that you need to get access to. Pretty neat indeed.
Another related feature that I’m starting to use now is Favorites. This is very much like Finder’s Places feature which is also available on the Path Finder. But the cool thing about Path Finder’s Favorites is that it allows you to change the name of the label to any name you want. In the screenshot below, I’ve favourited my Dropbox folder and renamed the label to “Another Dropbox Name”. Notice that the real Dropbox folder name remains unchanged. Nifty! If you’ve ever tried to do the same with Places, you’d see that it would also affect the actual folders or files. This is extremely useful when you have folders or files of the same name but of different locations. And as I’ve discovered, it’s actually a really simple but clever ‘hack’. Path Finder simply creates an alias to the favourited folder or file and voila, now you can rename it to anything else you want.
Reason #4: Configurable Shelves
Shelves are pretty cool. As you can see from the screenshot below, there is the bottom shelf and the right shelf, each containing four customisable modules, displaying different bits of information of the selected file or folder. This is without any doubt way better than Finder’s recent improvement of providing a preview pane in any of its viewing modes. With Path Finder, not only will you be able to preview any files, you could also immediately see the file’s information, permissions, attributes and even look at its hex code.
In terms of the modules customisability, you can see from the screenshot below that it’s really a comprehensive list of features. You can even choose to display a specific folder if that’s a very common location you would use, such as move files into from wherever you’re working on.
One extra ability of Path Finder shown through one of the shelf module, specifically the Size information, is its ability to quickly display the total size of your selected files and folders. This simple feature is just unbelievably useful and helpful to me.
Reason #5: Path Finder is highly customisable
Pretty much anything and everything is customisable in Path Finder. The user interface, the contextual menu, the menu bar, the view options, the fonts, the hotkeys, etc. I don’t actually customise everything but there are two items that I’ve customised quite a fair bit.
Firstly, the contextual menu. With Path Finder, you can customise it quite extensively to have most of the cool features and capabilities of Path Finder to be available just a secondary-click (right-click) away. The first thing I did was to add the “New Folder with Selection…” feature which I use quite often. Copy Path is also a personal favourite so I’d make sure it is in the contextual menu too.
On the UI front, you can see also from the screenshot below that when comparing the amount of configuration options between Path Finder (left) and OS X Yosemite Finder (right), there’s just no comparison! As you can see, I’m pretty crazy over the use of Helvetica Light, so there you go. Customised! There are also more arrange by options on Path Finder if you ever need those. Sure, some of these options seems superficial, like my font customisation. But hey, at least I can change it if I want to and it happens that I do.
Reason #6 and beyond: A bunch of features here and there
Path Finder is fully loaded with a lot of features. A LOT. Just check out the Path Finder website and you’ll see a long list of features described there. I generally do not use these features beyond the ones I mentioned above on a daily basis, but it’s there when the need arises.
- Need to calculate file checksums? Check. All MD2, MD4, MD5, SHA-1, SHA224, SHA-256, SHA384, and SHA-512 of them.
- Need to edit a file in hex? Check. Built-in hex editor in place.
- Need to quickly edit an image file? Check. Built-in image editor also available.
- Need to get archive files and folders in other formats than zip? Check. Gzip, bzip, dmg, Stuff, tar, and more!
- Need to quickly get the dimensions of an image file? Check. Just get it off the contextual menu. Better still, click on it and it will copy the dimensions into the clipboard as the following text: width=”###” height=”###”
- Need to quickly run a terminal command line? Check. Built in terminal console module is available on the Shelf.
- Need to run git or subversion commands? Check. Just a few button press and you’re set.
- Need to securely delete a file? Check.
“You make it sound like Path Finder is perfect… Really??!”
Of course not. I’m not THAT kind of writer. Is Path Finder a great application? As you’ve read, I obviously think so and I would and do recommend it to anyone who’s looking for a Finder replacement. But there’s no such thing as a flawless software. There are some annoying little bits of Path Finder that I’ve learnt to live with. So, I would also share it with you so that you know these issues does exist and then decide if they are big enough of an issue to you.
1. iCloud Drive ‘integration’ DOES NOT work.
I don’t think I even need to write anything on this as the following screenshots would tell the whole picture. Don’t bother using it. Stick to Finder for anything that’s very tightly integrated with OS X.
2. “Show in Finder” actions is flaky at times
Let me illustrate this issue. I’ve enabled Path Finder to be the default file browser and I have both Path Finder and Safari running in fullscreen mode. I download a file in Safari and wants to view where I’ve downloaded it in Path Finder. I click on the “Show in Finder” button. But instead of immediately switching over to Path Finder, it instead switches over to one of my desktops. But the menu bar shows that Path Finder is the application that’s currently in focus.
To be fair, it may not be a Path Finder bug but an OS X bug instead. But it’s still is a problem nevertheless. And it’s actually hard for me to replicate this issue too. Sometimes it decides to annoy the heck out of me, but other times it just works as it should. So just beware that anytime you use a 3rd party application to replace an app that’s pretty much a primary feature of OS X.
3. Search kinda sucks
I just don’t get bother with the search feature in Path Finder. And because Spotlight search is just too awesome and with the improved user interface and experience on OS X Yosemite, I never had any real need to use do searches other than just using Spotlight. I would have been nice if Path Finder search works well so that I can have a seamless interface for anything file related. Maybe it does and I’ve not figured it out yet. But the truth is, Spotlight is just too awesome. Anytime anyone asks me why OS X. I’d show them Spotlight.
These are the major issues that bothers me most of the time. There are some little UI-related bugs here and there but it’s little annoyance to me.
“So is Path Finder worth it?”
At this point, it should be pretty obvious I think it is. The benefits and productivity gains I get by using Path Finder far outweighs the minor issues and annoyances that I’ve stated above. So if you’re already looking for an alternative to Finder, I strongly recommend for you to at least download Path Finder and give it a try for 30 days.
“But what if I’m already using Path Finder 6, is version 7 worth the upgrade?”
That really depends if you need the new features in Version 7. According to Cocoatech’s website, they are as follows:-
- Dropbox integration: Full Dropbox integration. Just link your account and you’re all set up.
- FolderSync: FolderSync is Cocoatech’s Folder Comparison and Synchronization tool. And it’s powerful.
- Arranging and Grouping items: Arrange files in a group based on a specific file attribute
- Editable Path Navigator: Directly type in the Path Navigator to get to your files quickly.
- Shelves: 8 total configurable modules in both the right and bottom shelf.
- One-Click Dual Pane Copy: Use Path Finder’s intuitive dual-pane browser to copy files from one pane to the next, with just a single click.
Based on the list above, I would say that the only feature that’s worth the $19.99 upgrade license is if you need the FolderSync feature. It’s pretty powerful and if you do need such a feature, especially if you need to sync files between different remote file servers, I can easily recommend upgrading to Path Finder 7.
The other features are nice to haves in my opinion. Path Finder 6 also works pretty well on OS X Yosemite and there wasn’t any major bugs that requires an upgrade to version 7 to get it fixed. So, if not for the good souls at Cocoatech in providing me with a review copy of Path Finder 7, I would have happily continue to use Path Finder 6.
I hope this write-up has been helpful if you’ve been wondering about using Path Finder 7 and how it would compare OS X Yosemite’s new Finder.