A Better Finder with TotalFinder and Path Finder

Finder is the first element of the Mac OS you interact with after booting your computer. On a fresh Mac with nothing installed, it is the only program that starts automatically. It’s such a central component of the system that you can never close it, and only restart it. Finder lets you mange the files and documents stored on your Mac. It’s where you interact with files, disks, and network volumes and therefore the main way to find your files and documents for all users and how you keep things organized the way you like.

In spite of this ubiquity, Finder has rough edges. For the power user there are many lacking features that would save time and speed up common operations. Two programs look to extend Finder by adding additional features and functionality. TotalFinder expands the functionality of Finder while Path Finder provides a full alternative to Finder with many additional features and functions. How helpful can they be? Let’s see.

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TotalFinder works by extending Finder. TotalFinder is developed by BinaryAge and a 14 day trial is available on the company’s web site. The program ties directly into Finder and the current version only runs on Lion and Mountain Lion. An older version supporting Snow Leopard is still available, but updates do not support that version of Mac OS. After the trial you can purchase the software for $18.00.

TotalFinder Window

TotalFinder’s Most Visible Change – The Addition of Tabs

I’ve used TotalFinder for so long that I’ve almost forgotten how Finder works without it. Probably the most notable addition TotalFinder makes to your experience is the addition of tabs to the Finder Window. Now when you open a new window, instead of a complete separate window you get a new tab in one window. The concept is similar to having multiple browser tabs open at one time and, in fact, the appearance reminds me a lot of Google Chrome.

TotalFinder Dual Mode

TotalFinder Dual Mode

TotalFinder also provides a dual mode which let’s you display two windows together side by side. This doesn’t simply place the contents of the two tabs beside each other, but reformats the display on the right so that the files are on the left side of the window, next to the files on the right, and the folders are along the right of the window. This flipped second folder makes it easy to compare the contents of two folders or quickly move files between folders.

There are a few other smaller additions. You can sort the list of files and folders so that folders are always grouped together first instead of being spread among the other files contained in the current location. Keyboard shortcuts are added for moving files around. You can choose to display normally hidden files. There is also a Visor mode that allows you to keep a TotalFinder window at the bottom of the screen.

Path Finder

Path Finder is an additional application to extend the default Mac OS Finder. It comes from Cocoatech and a 30 day trial is available on the company web site. It supports Snow Leopard in addition to Lion and Mountain Lion. Path Finder is a more extensive addition to Finder than TotalFinder, but comes at a greater cost. Path Finder will cost $39.95 to purchase if you decide to keep after the trial ends.

Path Finder Window

The basic Path Finder window. It adds a number of views and ways to view your system and files including supports for tabs and a dual display mode.

Where TotalFinder seeks to tweak some of the rougher edges of Finder, Path Finder seeks to basically give you a framework within Finder to do whatever you want. The customizability is extensive and is built around modular views that that you can customize as needed. You can toggle windows showing more information when needed then move them out of your way when no longer necessary.

Path Funder allows you to dig deep into your files and folders in ways that otherwise would require a trip to the command line. You can create bookmarks to frequently accessed files and folders and store groups of tabs together for quick recall later. There are
It supports tabs and a dual pane view too, but adds more features such as the drop stack, a temporary holding place you can collect files into and then move or copy the contents of the stack in a single step. This is very handy when sorting files from multiple folders into another folder. You also can search for files based on criteria instead of just name and contents. Path Finder also lets you tag files to ease finding them again later.

In fact, Path Finder adds so many features it’s hard to discuss them all. For developers and designers, you gain direct access to Subversion and Git source control without needing the command line. Power users gain an integrated terminal window and the ability to run command line tools directly from the GUI. The program includes a hex editor along with text and image editors. It seems as though Path Finder was built with the idea of including everything anyone could want to interact with their file system. And for the most part it all works together and is clear to use.


Both programs provide a big jump in the ease of managing the files on your Mac. Almost any user can find benefit in TotalFinder. Tabs and dual view both come in handy quite often and for almost any user you’ll find enough to benefit you. For the power user, Path Finder offers a lot of addition functionality. It provides so many additional features that you’ll almost definitely find at least one that’s invaluable and probably more.

The key difference is the usage. TotalFinder integrates into Finder adding additional features and functionality directly to the program. Path Finder is a separate program that you can run in addition to Finder. As such the two programs do not conflict and can both be run on the same Mac and at the same time. Most of the time you’ll only run Path Finder when doing specific tasks.

Overall, both programs are stable and well written software that do their job. I think most users can benefit from the additional features TotalFinder brings to your Finder environment. If you spend any time managing files, then the extra features will save time and make this management easier. Power users will gain the most benefit from Path Finder. While an excellent program the additional features can be overwhelming at first and many only will benefit specific audiences.