Give Finder a Turbo Boost With TotalFinder

The Apple experience is pretty slick, but one thing that frustrates many users is the Finder. Although it gets the job done, it hasn’t evolved a great deal in recent years and is missing a few widely-requested features.

As an integral part of OS X, the aptly named ‘Finder’ is used to find, move and delete files, install applications and even preview files – but all of this activity leaves us with a lot of windows open. Sure, you can keep pressing ‘cmd + w’ until they’ve all gone, or you can download TotalFinder.

Tabbed Finder Windows

TotalFinder is a major update from the default finder app, but it still retains that ‘Mac’ look and feel. Once installed, when a new window would be opened, TotalFinder opens a new tab instead – as all modern web browsers now do. Google’s Chrome browser inspired the design of the tabs, but there are plans to possibly allow users to choose between this design, or tabs more similar to Apple’s Safari.

TotalFinder Interface

TotalFinder Interface

You can drag tabs out into their own windows and slide them back in (just line the tab up with the tab in the window). This clever little app even allows you to view two tabs side by side, in one window (double click the tab or press ‘cmd + U’).

Side By Side Tabs

Side By Side Tabs

Tabs are the main, and most obvious feature of TotalFinder, but it has a few subtle tools and tweaks up its sleeve too.

The Visor

The visor allows you to quickly open a Finder window when you need it, and for it to instantly disappear when you’re done.

Preferences

Preferences

After pressing a pre-defined keyboard shortcut, Finder will slide up from the bottom of the screen. Press the hotkey again, or click behind the window, and it will disappear. Not only that, but when you next open the visor, it will be as you left it, with all tabs intact.

Sliding Up

Sliding Up

.DS_Store File Management

This is a hidden file that Finder creates in each folder it accesses. The ‘Desktop Services Store’ saves how you like to view each folder (e.g. thumbnail view for a folder of pictures) so it’s the same when you go back. By default, it even creates these files in the shared folders of networked computers.

.DS_Store Files

.DS_Store Files

TotalFinder allows you to redirect all of these files into one hidden folder, to keep the default behaviour, or to prevent them being created altogether (it pretends the disk is read only). There is also the option to prevent the .DS_Store files from being created on other computers when browsing them on a network.

Other Notable Features

Show hidden files – The OS X system and various applications create a lot of hidden files. If you like to know exactly where everything is on your computer, or you’re searching for something in particular, this little check box will reveal all.

Folders on top – When you view a list of files, the folders will always remain at the top, no matter how you sort them. For example, if you sort a directory alphabetically, the folders will be alphabetised first, will the remainder of the sorted files underneath.

Panel switching – Use the ‘option + tab” shortcut to switch between panels.

Show icon in the menu bar – This is useful, as it gives easy access to the preferences menu, the uninstall option and – in case something goes wrong – the restart option. The TotalFinder preferences are combined with those of the standard Finder application, so you can always get to them by clicking ‘Finder -> Preferences’, or by pressing ‘cmd + comma’.

Don’t customise the dock icon – By default, TotalFinder gives the Finder icon a pair of sunglasses. It’s up to you whether they are kept or not. This is a very welcome option for those who like to customise every aspect of the appearance of their computer.

Tweaks

Tweaks

Installation and Requirements

The only system requirement is that you’re running Snow Leopard. When Apple was working on the latest installment of OS X, they re-programmed the Finder in Cocoa, which is what has allowed for the creation of TotalFinder.

Installation it is a fairly easy process, but you need to install SIMBL (which is included in the package) before you do anything else. Once the SIMBL installer has finished, run TotalFinder.mpkg.

To uninstall it, click the TotalFinder icon on the menu bar and select the uninstall option. The window may say that it failed, but try logging out and back in and it should be gone. A SIMBL uninstaller is included in the SIMBL folder.

Pricing

TotalFinder is in the early stages of development (currently still in alpha), and while it stays this way, TotalFinder will be free. Once it reaches beta, a paid license will be required.

Although no definite price has been set, the developer is planning to charge $15, which for the current set of features, may be too much for most people. However, there is a list of ‘future goals’ that the developer wants to add, such as better keyboard shortcuts and access to the Terminal within a Finder window. With more features like these, the $15 price tags seems a lot more reasonable.

Conclusion

Due to the fact that it is in such an early stage of development, TotalFinder still has a few bugs. It may occasionally crash, and because it runs as part of Finder (not as a separate app), it would be wise to back your system up before installing. However, TotalFinder doesn’t modify Finder.app in any way, it just sits on top. This means restarting the app, or removing it should usually fix any problems.

Updates are released very regularly, so those bugs that remain are quickly being dealt with. If you’re the kind of person that likes to tweak every part of your Mac, this may well be worth taking a look at.

It’s worth pointing out that there a few other options when it comes to trying to improve the file browsing experience, but these are all separate applications. The great thing about TotalFinder is that you’ll forget that it’s even there.


Summary

TotalFinder is a great way to add a bunch of extra features to your Finder: tabbed browsing, showing hidden files, better managing .DS_Store files, and a pop-up visor. It's still in the early stages of development, but can make Finder far more useful!

7
  • Ed

    “…all of this activity leaves us with a lot of windows open. Sure, you can keep pressing ‘cmd + w’ until they’ve all gone, or…”

    …you can press cmd+opt+w to close them all at the same time.

    I’d been using Macs for a while before I discovered this shortcut, now I use it all the time.

    • http://l1theproducer.info L1

      +1

      Also shame this isn’t available for 10.5

  • http://www.daniel.roeven.com Daniel Roeven

    Ooh, it looks pretty slick! I never understood why finder doesn’t have these features. I might try it out. How well does it run? Does it clog up the CPU in any way? Does it boggle Finder down? Does it make anything unresponsive? It’s the main reason I don’t use other Finder apps, because often they make the whole system a lot slower.

    Also, what’s the desktop picture in the fourth image?

    • http://anothermatt.com Matt Longman

      I didn’t run any proper tests to see what it does to the CPU, but I didn’t see a noticeable difference, and Finder runs just as quickly.

      Sorry, I can’t remember where I found that background image..

    • http://joeldt.net Joel

      Well, if you’re part of the unlucky few (like me) it’ll pretty constantly be using 99% of your CPU. Nobody’s really sure why.

  • Tuomas

    I find the Google Chrome -style tabs very unappealing.

    • kevin

      I actually like them! I guess they cant please everyone…

    • ato

      Yeah, why Chrome style it’s lame.
      Go with Safari tab style for consistency within the OS. Will look beautiful and consistent.

  • http://jpc101.com James

    I’ve been using TotalFinder for a couple of months and honestly don’t know how I’d live without it now!

    I’d happily pay $15 for it. It makes moving files around so much easier. I’m really surprised the design boys at apple haven’t thought of this themselves!

  • iyyy69

    This looks pretty cool. I’d like to see a true “Cut & Paste” for moving files. The tabs makes it much easier to drag and drop files, but it’s still not the same. That missing feature in Finder is why I had to spend $50 for PathFinder. It boggles the mind the total ridiculousness that Finder doesn’t have that most basic of features.

    Also, once you use tabs in a file manager, there’s no going back. It took about ten seconds with Pathfinder’s tabs to realize they should be in any modern file manager.

    Really don’t understand why Apple seems to be incapable of getting their act together on the Finder.

  • Ben

    FOLDERS ON TOP! At last!

  • BEN

    Path finder just had too many panes – this looks to be a much slicker and simpler way to have two panes. OK I cam from 20 years of PC to now a couple of years of (devoted) mac, but I really thing Finder needed / needs this type of support.

  • Alan

    I’ve been using TotalFinder for a little while and find it very useful and recommend it. I find the chrome stile tabs excellent to keep things under control.

    In these days of low cost iPhone apps $15 sounds a bit much for all the Mac’s in my home but I’ll probably sucumbe with a few more features :)

    Excellent review even found a few things I hadn’t played with.

  • Arnoud

    This looks fantastic. I agree with the others that PathFinder is a big step up from Finder but overkill at the same time for many. I could get ForkLift for a great price one day and actually prefer it over PathFinder because it’s cleaner and simpler. TotalFinder looks like it could replace ForkLift for me (even cleaner and better integrated), so I’m definitely going to try it!

  • Jake

    Hi – what exactly does “panel switching” mean? What is the significance of the tab + option preference? I did some googling but I can’t seem to figure it out…

  • Vlahn

    This looks interesting. I use Pathfinder and my one gripe with it is that everytime I start my Mac up I need to remove the Finder icon from the Dock as Pathfinder is a separate application.
    As this is integrated into the native Mac Finder, it eliminates this small but annoying problem. I like the idea, I look forward to a beta and final release.

  • http://www.perezfox.com Scott Perez-Fox

    I installed the Alpha, and it seems the only immediate feature is the tabbed Finder windows. However, since dragging and dropping between tabs is slow and inaccurate, I’m not a fan. The ability to see hidden files and move the .ds_store files are not unique to this app, and therefore it seems like a single-feature app. But not one that I find a lifechanger.

    Gave it a trial, not impressed. Uninstalled.

  • AS

    You bas****d. You had me watering at the mouth, I would have paid anything for this… hidden files, no DS_Stores, tabbed, I was right there ready to pay, then you drop this:

    “The only system requirement is that you’re running Snow Leopard.”

    … But mum, I want it nowwwwwwwwwwwww… I don’t want to go to the Apple Store and spend a day upgrading to Snow Leopard…

    Ah well, I knew it was coming one day. Now I have no excuse to do it. Bring on the Snow Leopard! Ha ha!

    And thank you for the review, I’ve been wanting a Finder Replacement that does all of the above for the last two years. Much appreciated.

  • HAns Waasdorp

    I’ll stick to pathfinder, looks nice though but too spread out

  • http://santoscreative.com/ Cesar

    Looks interesting! I’m already using PathFinder but may have to give this one a try. Hopefully it’s safe to run both at the same time while trying it out.

  • George

    I installed it yesterday and though it says it is in its alpha stage, it’s been running nicely so far. I like it. I also got PathFinder but I deactivated it. I like this app. I only wish I could deactivate the menu item because nowadays, so many apps have top menus so the screen top gets too crowded. Especially on the laptop, space is limited.

    thanks for having posted this app.

    • Arnoud

      You can disable the menu item. Just go to Finder Prefs > TotalFinder > Tweaks.

  • http://www.sbmrockcrusher.com mack

    looks interesting. May be i will download and try.

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  • Chris

    This is a superb addition to Finder and as one of the commenters says, why didn’t Apple make Finder like this to start with? For me, it has replaced Pathfinder which I always found too busy. The initial problems with the early releases seem to have been dealt with completely as far as I can tell.

    In dual pane mode, each pane has its own sidebar which I much prefer to the Pathfinder and Forklift implementations of dual pane browsing. In those apps, I frequently select the wrong folder from the sidebar inadvertently because I didn’t check which pane was active.

  • Will

    I’ve been using TotalFinder since about January 2011 and I love it. Being a developer, I tend to have multiple Finder instances open and it’s much easier to do that with tabs in TotalFinder. The find hidden files helps whenever I need to modify a .htaccess file locally, too.

    For me, it was definitely worth the money and I have recommended it to lots of friends.

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