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