Last month I looked at a couple of programs to improve the experience with Finder on your Mac. Several readers mentioned XtraFinder in the comments to that post. This program appeared to be very similar to TotalFinder so I decided to take a look at the program to see how it compares to the other Finder tools already examined.
What is XtraFinder?
XtraFinder differs from both TotalFinder and Path Finder in that it’s a free program. It compares more closely to TotalFinder in that it extends Finder, but doesn’t replace it. To install you download the image file from the developer’s web site and run the installer file. The package also includes an uninstaller you can use to easily remove the program in case you run into problems.
When the installation completes, XtraFinder adds an icon to your menu bar to set the program’s preferences along with several other options. These additional options include making Finder pinable (always the topmost window), quickly tiling two Finder windows horizontally or vertically to ease file operations between folders, and hiding the menu bar icon. There are also menu items to manage the program such as checking for new versions and restarting Finder.
It seems every Finder replacement or extension adds tabs and XtraFinder doesn’t break the trend. Tabs are listed as an experimental feature, but seemed mostly stable if occasionally a bit sluggish. The tabs can be styled similar to those in the Chrome or Safari web browsers. It also allows undoing the accidental close of a tab. Tabs are to me one of the most useful additions to Finder and XtraFinder does them well. I did see the occasional bug as you’d expect in a feature marked experimental, but overall they work quite well.
Sharing the preference tab listing these Finder tab features are options allowing you to set the keyboard shortcuts for XtraFinder and a few options for dual pane mode. Dual pane mode as in TotalFinder and Path Finder allows one window to show two folders side by side to ease copy operations.
The Features tab under preferences contains most of the other options in XtraFinder. Most of these are minor, but useful changes to Finder. None are turned on by default. I like this choice as it lets you turn on only the changes you want without throwing a bunch of changes on the user when the program first runs. Many of these options are also present in TotalFinder such as Cut & Paste functionality and putting folders on top of listings. Other features add functionality to the Path Bar. You also have two unique features in automatically adjusting the width of the name column to match the width of the folder and file names and putting color back into the sidebar, a useful feature that makes icons more visually distinct.
The last group of additions that XtraFinder brings adds items to the Finder menu. Many of these are handy time saving options such as toggling showing hidden files, opening a terminal in a folder (including support for several common alternative terminal programs), launching a program as root, and opening a folder in a new window. The Copy Path option gives you a quick way to get the path to a file or folder in several different formats for use in other programs or terminal.
You can also select a shortcut key to allow fast selection of one of these new menu items.
There are a few advantages to XtraFinder compared to TotalFinder. It’s free where TotalFinder is a paid program. TotalFinder only supports Lion and Mountain Lion in the latest version where XtraFinder’s current version also still supports Snow Leopard. I did find XtraFinder a bit buggier and less stable than TotalFinder. The bugs were mostly minor and could usually be cleared away by restarting Finder and the rapid release pace means a bug is likely fixed quickly.
There are some areas I’d like to see improved. The preferences panel could use some cleanup to the layout. An example is that the Tabs panel contains more than just the tab settings and you’d not know that from the name. Adding menu items to the Finder menu is a bit inconsistent to where they appear. Some will show in context menus, others are added to the drop down Finder menus. It would be nice if the preferences provided some indication of where the new menu option would show. The documentation is also a weak point and this program could really use a demonstration video showing the added features in action.
I came away from testing XtraFinder impressed. Many of the features of TotalFinder are here along with a few additional ones I like. The program is also under very active development and sees several releases a month. The primary communication for XtraFinder appears to be the program’s Facebook page. The developer seems quick to respond to bug reports and feature suggestions made here. If you’re not already using TotalFinder, I’d definitely suggest giving the program a try. If you’re running TotalFinder I’m not sure there is enough here to change yet, but it’s definitely a program to keep an eye on as it continues to develop and evolve.