Improving Finder with XtraFinder

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.


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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.

Tabs in XtraFinder

XtraFinder adding tabs to Finder.

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.

XtraFinder Features

XtraFinder Tabs Preferences

The Tabs Preferences options.

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.

XtraFinder Features

XtraFinder can add numerous changes and tweaks to Finder.

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.

XtraFinder Menu Additions

XtraFinder also can add new items to the menus in Finder.

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.

Conclusion

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.


Summary

Freeware program to add tabs and features to Finder.

8
  • Felix

    What I like most about XtraFinder is that it is a lot faster than TotalFinder, especially when switching between Tabs. XtraFinder reacts immediately and TotalFinder takes its one or two seconds.

    • Jeremy

      How old is your Mac? My 2009 iMac doesn’t do that at all with TotalFinder.

  • st.

    Thanks for mentioning this app! I’m usually aware of new mac apps, but this was a new one! I hope the performance is good and I like the ability to toggle on/off the tabbar. I mostly want these type of apps for the cut/paste. And it’s cool that it’s free!

  • rhet

    Your experience stands in stark contrast with mine. XtraFinder is absolutely a TotalFinder replacement for me. Not only because it’s amazingly faster but also some small features that TF doesn’t have.

    • Curt

      TOTALLY AGREE!!! And yes, that warranted all-caps! This app is AMAZING. the ability to do light text on dark background, as well the ability to set freaking enter to open a file instead of rename it is by far one of the best qualities. Add to that the fact that it does everything Totalfinder does plus more (with the exception of the visor which I found useless anyway), and this is like app of the year for me. /In heaven!

  • Hawk

    This app is great. It offers a number of nice little enhancements that I’ve been wanting to have in the Finder.

    I’m always hesitant about software that injects a ton of features into other programs like the Finder. I don’t want to end up with cluttered interfaces, resource drainage and instability. I also don’t want to become too dependent on such software as that makes it all the more awkward for me when using someone else’s computer.

    But because of the charm of this app I am going to give it a try for a while and see what happens.

    One thing I do not like about it, though, is that it’s very opaque about how it works. Does it modify system files? What files does it install? Both the installer package and the uninstaller provide very little information about these things, yet they require root privileges in order to run. The developer is not well known and there is no source code available, so I would say that using this software is not without risk at the moment…

    • Tran Ky Nam

      Hello,

      The XtraFinder installer installs these two files:
      /Library/ScriptingAdditions/XtraFinder.osax
      /Applications/XtraFinder.app

      It requires administrator privilege to copy file to /Library/ScriptingAdditions/ folder.

      XtraFinder does not modify any system files. It only changes one or two Finder settings related to animation effects. It tries to revert any changes made to Finder preferences when quitting Finder.

  • http://ijd65.com Iain

    I bought TotalFinder but have uninstalled it due to bugs, system issues etc. I keep hoping performance will improve with new versions, but no luck so far.

    Only early days with XtraFinder but so far it works like a charm, no issues at all. Great job by the developer.

  • Luís

    My experience with XtraFinder is also way different. Faster, stabler and more features than totalfinder. I recommend it to everyone I know who owns a Mac.

  • Karam

    I’ve been using this app on Snow Leopard for a few months now and I haven’t experienced any major issues.

    Love the new updates with shortcuts to switching tabs!!

  • MO

    I use TotalFinder three years, but xtafinder maybe be better.
    It is my experience after ten minutes. I like those functions:

    – Color Icons
    – Automatic sort by name in icon view, when change size (zoom)

  • Steve

    Worked only once in 10.8.2.

    Installed it, launched XtraFinder.app manually, got the preferences screen, changed a few things, then saw it work successfully in Finder once. I liked it!

    Then I could not get XF preferences screen back, so I relaunched Finder. Finder launched without XF.

    Tried reinstalling XF, to no avail. I tried every combination of uninstalling/reinstalling/rebooting. XtraFinder.app won’t launch in any instance and Finder doesn’t show any evidence of it.

    • Curt

      Did you try going to the developer’s website, where it specifically tells you how to do this? By clicking on “Finder > Xtrafinder > Preferences…” ? (After you have restarted Xtrafinder again obviously, and with finder in focus)

      • Steve

        Thanks for your reply.

        Yes, I should have said that’s the first thing I tried. “XtraFinder” doesn’t appear in the Finder menu. There is no evidence of XtraFinder in Finder anywhere.

        Update: XtraFinder is apparently running in some fashion on my machine because it notified me today of an update to 0.14.2. I uninstalled .1 and installed .2 and nothing has changed. Still not working.

  • Steve

    Thank you! I did/do have the menu bar icon and was able to reset preferences that way. That’s the part I didn’t know. I now have tabs. XtraFinder is working!

    FWIW, I could not find com.apple.finder.plist anywhere on my machine, and XtraFinder is still missing from the Finder menu, but I don’t mind.

    Thank you very much!

  • Msx

    The only thing bothers me with XtraFinder is that Aerosnap from Hyperdock is not usable at all when using Finder window. :(

  • AK

    Awesome app!

    Beats the shit out of Total Finder and that too for free!

    The guy doesn’t even have a donate button on the site for such a beautiful and useful app.

  • Joe Cotton

    Does xtrafinder have a Visor feature and native Dropbox integration? No?

    Fail.

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