A Fresh Look at TotalFinder: The Tabbed Finder You Should Be Using

It’s coming up on two years since we first took a look at an interesting Finder replacement app called TotalFinder, which was in its initial stages of development at the time. It was a little shaky back then but it has come a long way and is definitely worth another look.

In case you’ve never used it, we’ll walk through what TotalFinder is and why it just might make you leave the normal finder behind for good.

What’s Wrong with Finder?

The Finder app is a large part of the OS X experience. It defines how we interact with the system and even our impressions about the overall aesthetic of current Mac software. It does all of this in an almost invisible fashion. Finder is the Helvetica of apps, you see it a million times every day but you don’t really notice it.

However, when you really start to think about it, it’s easy to find some downfalls. For instance, overlapping windows may have been a revolution in 1982, but these days UI developers tend to look to tabs to help keep things clean and user friendly. Outside of a web browser, Finder is perhaps the most natural place for tabs exist. However, despite years of user demands, Apple has yet to implement them. TotalFinder is the best attempt I’ve seen to do just that.

Is This Safe?

Replacing Finder is no easy task. You can use a third party file browsing app, but it’s nearly impossible to escape your instincts to just use the default file system. For this reason, TotalFinder actually takes over and puts itself in the place of your Finder.

This sounds scary, and to be honest, there’s no way around that. However, the good news is that it doesn’t actually modify your actual Finder app. Since TotalFinder is super easy to uninstall, you can always go right back to the way things were should any problems arise (even a killall dock command does the trick of returning things back to normal). Also, it’s important to note that the developer is a daily user of his own app, which means he’s really on top of it if an Apple update ever causes any issues!

Rebels Only

That being said, plenty of OS X users would never touch an app with such seemingly deep control and indeed Apple likely wouldn’t let it anywhere near the App Store. Personally, in a time when Apple is trying to control developers as much as possible, I think it’s awesome that we still have enough freedom to dig in and make OS X whatever we want it to be. This might not always be the case.

A Seamless Transition

When you open up TotalFinder for the first time, your overall impression will no doubt be surprise at how much everything feels just about like it always did. This is intentional, TotalFinder seeks to blend into the system by emulating Finder as much as possible while still adding improvements that users really want.

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TotalFinder

The user experience here is 100% seamless. You open new windows, browse and perform other actions just like you always would, even the Finder dock icon still functions though it has been updated slightly to reflect TotalFinder’s presence.

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TotalFinder's Dock Icon

Finally, Tabs

TotalFinder has a decent feature set, but its claim to fame is built on a single idea: tabs. If you only appreciate one thing about TotalFinder it’ll be this.

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TotalFinder Tabs

The Chrome-style tabs are perfectly integrated into the visual interface and don’t add any unwanted clutter. They operate exactly like you’d expect. You can use ⌘T to open new tabs and ⌘W to close them, rearrange them via drag and drop and easily transfer files between them. Also, ⌘N still brings up a new window and Spacebar still launches Quick Look so your old keyboard shortcut habits will still function just fine.

Windows users will be glad to know that TotalFinder brings cut and paste capability to files and folders in Finder, making it easier than ever to move files around using only the keyboard.

Dual Mode

Hitting ⌘U will bring up Dual Mode, which merges two tabs into a side-by-side format in a single window. This is perfect if you’re doing a lot of file shuffling.

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Dual Mode

As you can see, this view allows for each column to have its own separate view mode, even the sidebar is carried over and flipped to the other side; a nice touch.

Preferences

Under the TotalFinder Preferences menu you’ll find a few more features that you can enable and experiment with. On the right below you can see the “Tweaks” tab, which contains great options like always keeping folders on top of a list, showing hidden files and forcing user actions to open new windows instead of new tabs (freelance windows).

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Dual Mode

The Visor

On the left above you can see the options for a really cool feature called The Visor, which allows you to set up a keyboard shortcut that quickly slides up a Finder window attached to the bottom of the screen. You pull up this window when you need a quick look at the Finder and it disappears as soon as you’re done with it. Even as a standalone app this would be great, built into an already great app like TotalFinder it’s just icing on the cake.

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The Visor

Same Old TotalFinder?

The last time we looked at TotalFinder, it was a free beta app. Now, it’s in version 1.3, will cost you $18, and the feature set is about the same as it was back then. What gives?

The thing about the TotalFinder beta is that while it was fun, it wasn’t always usable. Comparing the features above to those in the early releases, you won’t find many discrepancies, but the experience is an entirely different matter.

I used TotalFinder for a while during the beta and it was (like any true beta app) always crashing or behaving in an unpredicted way. One day it simply stopped working altogether on my Mac.

Comparatively, version 1.3 is a dream. I’ve been using it without any real hitches. It’s smooth, highly functional and is the Finder replacement I’ve been waiting for. Other apps seem so far away from the Finder that I can never quite get used to them, TotalFinder on the other hand is the same old Finder you know and love, just better!

Lion Ready

Another thing that you should keep in mind is that OS X has evolved quite a bit over the past few years, especially with the Lion release. TotalFinder has evolved right with it and is now fully Lion compatible. You’ll notice in the screenshots above that the Finder windows are styled just like they should be and haven’t lagged behind in the old Snow Leopard design.

Almost There

To be fair, TotalFinder is not 100% perfect yet, but it’s close enough for me to use daily. I have two primary complaints. First is speed. There’s a slight lag when opening a new tab that’s just enough to be annoying. It’s still quick, but not instant.

Also, while I love the idea of the Visor, every time I enable it I encounter somewhat erratic behavior that eventually leads to me turning it off. This feature still needs to be ironed out. Otherwise, TotalFinder works great and is a pleasure to use.

Conclusion

If you’ve tried other third party file browsers but keep returning back to OS X’s default Finder due to feature bloat or interface wearies, it’s time to give TotalFinder a run through. Even if you tried the beta, the latest release is worth a fresh look.

If you have any doubts about TotalFinder’s usefulness, try disabling tabbed browsing in Safari for a week and see if you don’t go nuts. This is what it’s like to use TotalFinder, you almost can’t go back to the plain old Finder once you’ve seen the light.


Summary

TotalFinder is Finder, only better. Its main draw is the integration of Chrome-style tabs into file browsing. TotalFinder is out of beta and much more stable than it used to be. You should definitely give it a download and see what you think.

9
  • Yojimbo

    Used for a while, it’s probably the best app I bought on my mac. It really changed my everyday-computer-life :D ! Love it.

  • T.W.

    This app extends the normal finder app with a great operating comfort.

  • Alexei

    It is actually a very useful app. What I hate was how they removed the “new tab” opening in the same directory instead of the default address.

    Anyways, TotalFinder should be implemented by Apple itself. Finder sucks.

  • Chris

    Great app and something Apple should have implemented years ago.
    Is there any way to give it a more osx-like look though, with tabs like Safari?

    • fractalfrog

      Why in the name of everything that is good and holy would you want to emulate Safaris crappy tabs instead of the much better Crome style tabs???

      • http://web.tursos.com Josue Ochoa

        1+

        Safari tabs sucks.

  • Michael Solis

    TotalFinder is a must have app for most Mac users. When I first got it, I was thinking about getting PathFinder instead but I realized that PathFinder has all these extras that you really don’t need and costs twice as much. A lot of people may say that TotalFinder is pricey at $18, but the fact is Apple’s Finder is incomplete, it needs to be perfected and made to be much more user-friendly. If Apple were smart, they would try to buy TotalFinder from the developer and integrate it into the stock Finder app.

  • http://www.heymonkeydesign.com Lenny Terenzi

    Love this. Two things for me… My dock icon never changed and I personally dont like how the side bar flips to the other side. But other than that, LOVE IT!

  • Sigilist

    I’m a diehard PathFinder user, an app I found and switched to from almost day one of moving over to a Mac. Perhaps that’s part of its appeal as Windows user, who still runs multiple virtual machines/apps as well. It operates like a true system explorer and file management program. And no, OSX doesn’t do an adequate job on its own, and Finder is joke by comparison. That being said…

    I’ve watched TotalFinder closely and even tried it out now and again. And I keep trying it out, so that says something. Though it is not as potent as Pathfinder (in many many ways), I have actually enjoyed watching TotalFinder’s growth, which has been a slow and very steady, as it should be for sound development, and that’s been pleasing to see. Occasionally during a test run, I’ve even found myself spending more and more time in testing it out (but I always return to PathFinder in the end). And still…

    TotalFinder fills that broad, obvious, and annoying gap between Apple’s “have it our way” design paradigm and the “toolbox stuffed to the gills” that is Pathfinder. There’s no questioning that even in its simplest mode, TotalFinder has something that can make even the most basic user sigh with relief at least once a day.

    • Sigilist

      Here’s hoping Apple never gets its hands on TotalFinder. Here’s hoping TotalFinder remains rebellious and doesn’t knuckle under to “Big Brother” running the AppStore. Here’s hoping I don’t see another worthwhile “small business” (private developer) in my virtual neighborhood get snuffed out by another “big box” store on the internet. I’m sick of that!

  • http://stephenorsini.com Stephen Orsini

    Love it, have been using it for years (wow, has it been that long?) – coming from Windows… and being a list/detail viewer, it works perfectly for me. I do not, however; find the visor to be useful. Still worth the admission $$ though.

  • Joe

    TF was my go to Finder Replacement for about a year or so until it starting crashing. I’m not sure if it was ‘just me’ or if there was some systemic issues going on. I may try it again one day but until then, I’m back Pathfinder.

    • Joseph Cotton

      UPDATE:

      Downloaded the update yesterday and been using it since. I must say, Activity Monitor is showing some really nice utilization stats for TotalFinder. Prior to this last update, TF was a resource hog.

      It’s back on my system for now…

  • Matto

    Well, it’s quite good piece of software. But is really slows my mac and now keeps crashing all the time. Uninstall. Finder, welcome back.

  • Frederiko

    Its always my first recommendation when people ask what they should install on their Mac as an extra. Its first class. I couldnt live without it.

  • Quine

    I have been using TotalFinder since the very early beta days and it’s been great (and, for me, pretty stable even in the beta period). I am thankful for it every time I use a computer without a tabbed file browser and have to open up multiple windows and have no way to group windows based on task.

  • http://allthingswebdesign.com Tom

    Do people like this better than Forklift? I’ve recently been using that and I love it. especially b/c you can connect to FTP.

  • http://www.marcesadrian.com Marc Esadrian

    Meh. I think the current system Apple is running with provides plenty of options. The tab system is just another way of doing things—no better, no worse. I think it would be a good idea for Apple to look into incorporating this into their system, though I doubt I’d use it; I like my overlapping windows. :-)

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  • Chris O’Brien

    Whist it’s a very nice addition to the Finder, it is buggy (I’ve found 2 repeatable crashes and 1 fairly serious cosmetic bug). After reposting these bugs to the authoron different occasions I received ZERO response.

    I have REMOVED TotalFinder from my computer.

  • soccerislife8

    This is a very nice review, I also found this review on another website and it seemed to be pretty indepth. Check it out! http://imbyter.com/2012/02/app-review-totalfinder/

  • Pingback: A Fresh Look at TotalFinder: The Tabbed Finder You Should Be Using | Mac.AppStorm | Emil Indricău

  • Sam

    My brother-in-law tried dragging 7000+ pictures to another folder and accidentally dropped them on his desktop. Result: his brand new mac ran slow and the only way to remove the files was one by one… So he called Apple support.

    TotalFinder enables cut,copy and paste shortcuts, so stuff like this won’t happen.
    I also love the tabbed browsing and the ability to display maps first and then files alphabetically. Why Finder does not contain these features by default is beyond me. This was one of my frustrations when switching from windows to mac, but lucklily I found out about TotalFinder, which which incorporates this added functionality seamlessly into your existing Finder. Should come with every mac if you ask me.

  • Nguyen Kien

    I found free software with same functions.
    http://www.trankynam.com/xtrafinder/
    Please compare with total finder

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