Path Finder 6: Do Much More With The Finder

We all love our Macs, otherwise we would have opted for a different hardware/OS combo. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t great alternatives to some of Apple’s apps which are worth considering. The Finder, for example, is great for beginners, but for advanced or power users, it lacks.

Since we are fortunate enough to live in a world filled with creative and imaginative developers, there is an alternative, of course. Many, actually, but one of the best is Path Finder, now available in version 6 and it takes the Finder concept to a whole new level. Read on to find out how.

The Look of Path Finder 6

I have to confess something up front: I won’t be convering all the features Path Finder 6 has to offer. There are simply too many; the app is so powerful it would force me to write a small book. But I’ll introduce you to the features I think will intrigue you most, compared to Apple’s own Finder.

Let’s start with the most obvious difference, the look. Upon launching Path Finder 6, you’ll see familiar elements but also some stuff that’s different.

Welcome to Path Finder 6, the powerful Finder alternative.

Welcome to Path Finder 6, the powerful Finder alternative.

Many of the icons on the top are in the normal Finder as well, so you’ll have no difficulties with them. The left pane offers quick access to your hard drives and other places. Most notable is the Favorites category here. In Finder, you can drag files and folders into the Places category to have them quickly accessible; in Path Finder, you can fav them and they’ll appear in their own category. The benefit? It keeps your Places uncluttered.

Another great feature is the split screen option: when activated, it allows you to open two different places at once, say your Dropbox folder and your desktop. It’s never been this easy to move documents around within just one window.

Use the split window feature to quickly compare and move files.

Use the split window feature to quickly compare and move files.

In the upper area of the app window you’ll notice the biggest difference compared to Finder. There are three Module buttons, there’s an additional quick access bar that holds your standard folders (documents, music, movies etc), a cryptic circular icon and then you have tabs. Let’s take a closer look at all of these.

Diving Deeper Into Path Finder 6

Path Finder 6 has three modules which extend to the left, bottom and right if selected through their separate buttons. They allow you to display additional information without cluttering the main window.

Modules display a wealth of additional information.

Modules display a wealth of additional information.

You can change which information is displayed by hitting the tiny arrow symbol and then choose from a dropdown. It’s very handy to have these information at hand quickly instead of having to call them up with right-clicks on the file or having to open a file in a separate application to obtain the info.

If you’d rather stick to the normal sized window there’s an option to show those details there as well (icon in the top part of the window) and it’s the same here: select the type of information to be displayed from the tiny arrows.

For now, let’s assume you want to work with just one pane, but quickly move all those screenshots from your Desktop to a folder. That’s where the Drop Stack comes in handy, the circular icon on top of the left pane. Simply drag all files you want to move somewhere onto the symbol and then navigate to the folder you want to put them in and drag them there from the Drop Stack. You can do that with files from within Path Finder 6 but also with any file that resides anywhere on your computer. It’s a great way of collecting stuff that needs to go into one place without having to jump between folders and apps all the time.

Use the DropZone to gather files from different locations that need to be moved to the same folder

Use the DropZone to gather files from different locations that need to be moved to the same folder

Next up: the quick access bar of your standard folders. Now, it’s different from the left pane, because there you just open a folder. From the bar in the upper window area you can access a dropdown that allows you to quickly drill down any folder structure. The detail I like most about this feature is the separation of folders (which are sorted in the upper part of the pop-up window) and files (in the lower part).

Use the drill down feature to quickly access any folder from a pop over window.

Use the drill down feature to quickly access any folder from a pop over window.

Last, but not least, let’s take a closer look at tabs. They behave just like tabs in your favorite browser. The main advantage I see in this feature is organization: instead of having multiple Finder windows open – may that be to compare or copy content, you can have all of it within just one single window. And it doesn’t even stop there: Path Finder lets you save tab configurations as Sets. So when you perform the same tasks often, simply call up the associated tab set and go to work.

Tabs allow you to keep everything tidy and still have everything you need at your fingertips.

Tabs allow you to keep everything tidy and still have everything you need at your fingertips.

The Huge Variety of Additional Features

What we covered so far are only the basic additional features which Path Finder offers over Finder. I’ve found some additional things that you might find interesting. Let’s run through a selection of them quickly.

Path Finder allows you to launch apps. When given the command, a translucent window appears that displays all your apps. You can either scroll or use the search field to find a specific one. Be patient the first time you try it; if you have a lot of apps, Path Finder needs a moment to index them.

Quickly launch apps with Path Finder 6.

Quickly launch apps with Path Finder 6.

Create files directly from within Path Finder 6. Yep, you can do that. If you need a new text file quickly, do it right from within the app. Or tag your files, if you’re into that. You can even create tag groups to assign at once. Developers especially will like the ability to create disk images and you can do basic image editing from within Path Finder 6.

There's also basic image editing build into Path Finder 6

There's also basic image editing build into Path Finder 6

My favorite, though, is the batch renaming feature. It’s something I need all the time and if you ever had to rename a large number of files, you’ll appreciate any help you can get. Path Finder allows for intelligent renaming with the help of different functions that can be combined – and, best of all – saved.

Batch renaming becomes a breeze with this feature set

Batch renaming becomes a breeze with this feature set

Verdict

We are at the end of the review, but I have barely scratched the surface of Path Finder 6. When I started to test the app, I took the time to go through all the support videos which are available from Cocoatech because it’s a much easier way to discover what you can do with app than reading a documentation. I’m sure that there are many other features which will surprise and help you with your daily work.

The worst I can say about Path Finder 6 is that it’s incredibly powerful and takes a while to find out all the neat things you can do with it. But, on the other hand, it will save you so much time and and so many clicks down the road so the time invested in learning it will really pay off.


Summary

Path Finder is a powerful Finder replacement that takes some time to learn, but offers an incredibly feature set that goes far beyond Apple's own Finder.

10
  • Sigilist

    I’m a longtime PF user, so I’ll leave that at that. One shortcoming that has yet to be overcome is the lack of DropBox (and other) cloud integration. It may never come because PF isn’t native OSX code driven. Just something to be aware of before you try it out. And I still use it just the same… and the only time I go back to Finder is, well, obviously when I need to actually get a link to something live on my DropBox account.

    • JC

      If you want Dropbox integration, try TotalFinder. Awesome Finder enhancement/plugin and not a replacement. I tried PF a while ago but got tired of all the ‘funky’ Finder subversion tricks that were needed in order for it to be made the default file handler.

      TotalFinder has this cool feature called Visor that allows you to select a hotkey combo that slides your finder window from the bottom of the screen to about a quarter the way up.

      I have my window configured for screen edge to edge and again, a quarter the way up. Check it out:

      http://totalfinder.binaryage.com/

      Nothing against PF but TF is a native Finder plugin that’s simple yet functional.

      Just my 2c.

    • lowell

      > It may never come because PF isn’t native OSX code driven.

      What…? It’s a Cocoa app. Run `otool -L` on it. It links to a bunch of Objective-C frameworks, many of them from the developer themselves. Run `class-dump` on the app bundle and you can see the Objective-C interfaces for the app; it’s a Cocoa application written in Objective-C, and thus native to OS X.

    • http://noahj.net Noahjnet

      @Sigilist, just to let you know (if you don’t already). Try Fluid for your dropbox. I use it. It takes any web application (with a URL) and converts it into a desktop icon. So when I need to access Dropbox I click it out of my dektop icon and do it from there. I use it for youtube, cPanel, and Disqus so far. [link] http://fluidapp.com/

      I absolutely love Path Finder and hope it stays around for life. I definitely love it over Total Finder. It just has a ton more features.

      I do wish it had great ftp qualities like Forklift though. Then it would be probably complete in my mind.

  • Jürgen

    Well I often tried Path Finder, but always came back to Totalfinder. Totalfinder provides an easy way to use the built in finder. It also has Tabs, can show hidden files, has a dual mode for using 2 tabs, especially useful when you copy files from different places. There is also the possibility to eliminate the .DStore files or to cut & paste. The main advantage for me is, that there is no need to kill or hide the finder, because it is only a plugin for it and the features it has were all that i needed. It’s for sure not as powerful as Path Finder but more than enough for me.

  • Victor

    I haven’t tried PathFinder, but I am currently using TotalFinder. I really like it a lot, the only drawback is that I can’t resize the columns when in dual mode. Path finder seems to be able to do this, but the price tag is a little bit high for me. I think I’ll stick with TotalFinder for now.

  • Michael

    I’ve been using TotalFinder for years and its one of those apps that I really can’t live without. I tried the lastest version of PF a couple of weeks ago to see what all the hoopla was about and found that while it sports a ton of great features and goodies, its really something that only a power users could get the most out of. Its so massive in scale and it has so many different options that its just too complicate for everyday use. The videos alone (which are a must if you want to use it) took a while to get through. I liked it, but I don’t use Finder that much to justify spending $40 bucks on it and having to learn another thing to operate my Mac. Maybe, Maybe if it was like $10, then I’d give it a try. But I know that isn’t going to happen, the developers could never justify dropping the price that low, they’ve invested too much time and energy to waste their time with such a low price point.

    For me, TotalFinder is all you need. The average user could use it and get a lot out of it. Its not as jam packed as PF, but it gets the job done. Plus, TotalFinder works within the stock Finder app instead of as a seperate app, thats another negative for me.

  • Ian

    For how amazing the icon looks, one would expect the app to be a little more…polished. The app’s functionality aside, it seems a little stuffy and cobbled together. The app tries to bend itself to fit inside of a finder body. Kinda like Edgar from MIB…

    For what it is worth, I would suggest that the devs abandon the finder-esque digs, and move into their own place. Find a good GUI developer, and make this app sing!

  • John Opaygo

    Haha, quickly launch Alfred from Path Finder to quickly launch other apps.

    Great app by the way. Path Finder will always have a special place in….my dock — plus the icon looks much more updated.

  • Dan

    I’ve been using TotalFinder since the early beta-version and its the first app I install on every new Mac/system! I love this piece of software.

    I use the Visor function of TotalFinder to have access to all my commonly used files and folders in one window with multiple tabs – just one key press away – system-wide, in any application! Visor is great if I want to drag files in open/safe dialog-boxes quickly.

    Double-clicking a tab in a TotalFinder-window (or Visor) brings up the dual-mode. (similar to Path Finder, but system-wide). Handy when you want to move, copy, paste or cut files.

    TotalFinder can show hidden/system files and display folder on top, all features can be toggled by shortcuts.

    I love the way TotalFinder integrates itself perfectly into Finder. For me, there’s no need for a separate file manager-app. – The new Path Finder 6 icon looks nice, tho. ;-)

    • Curt

      Hey man, I like the visor feature, but it stops my keyboard from functioning every single time I use it. Did you run into this at all?

      • Dan

        Hey Curt!

        That’s strange!

        I never ever had any problems with my keyboard while using Visor!

        Are you sure you are not using the same keyboard shortcut for any other System Service or by any other App? (check your keyboard System Preferences)

        Are you using the default shortcut? (“option <") I not, try so.

  • Passer-by

    I use both Path Finder and TotalFinder. There are some features I like in PF and then there are some things I like about TotalFinder.

    Works well for me… I’ve been liking PF6 a bit. Convenient tool.

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