Pathfinder 5

When I first got a Mac I thought that the Finder was so much better than anything I had ever experienced on a Windows PC it never dawned on me to consider an alternative. Over the years Apple have fiddled a little with it (Cover Flow for example), but basically have left it well alone.

While this may well be OK for the majority of users, the more experienced Mac users have long bemoaned the lack of a more ‘powerful’ Finder substitute that would allow them to assign colours to labels, change the Font size, unlink the toolbar and sidebar, move stuff around easier etc.

Path Finder ($39.95) is a almost cult like application from Cocoa Tech, and answers most if not all of the more advanved users ‘If only Finder could do ….’ type of statements:

Path Finder is an award-winning file browser and management application for Mac OS X. If you’ve ever wished Apple’s Finder just did *feature X* or *Y*, Path Finder may be what you’ve been looking for.

Designed from the ground up to for speed and extensive system integration, Path Finder is a standalone application that leverages what you already know about working with your files.

Path Finder takes the Finder’s familiar interface and adds numerous powerful features and interface innnovations to help anyone be more productive on Mac OS X.

I have been using it on and off for a couple of months now, and if I am totally honest about it I can’t get as excited about it as many of my friends and fellow reviewers, but I think that may be less to do with the application, and more to do with my own work pattern.

Let me try and explain:

I am not a heavy user of documents. The vast majority of my work is done online, and while I produce a lot of content it is primarily blog posts, photos, audio and video. I have a huge digital movie collection, and a lot of digital music. This is all spread across a number of Macs and external drives, and does tend to require a fair amount of management. For example, if I produce a video of one of our cats Moreno & Saidi I will create the movie and export it to the Mac Pro desktop. From there I will move a copy over to the Video drive in the Mac Pro. I will also move a copy over to Sands iMac and the Mac mini. Why? Well the copy on the iMac syncs with Sands iPhone, the copy on the Mac mini is used if I want to watch the movie on the TV in the lounge via Front Row, the copy on the Mac Pro is used to sync with my iPhone.

As such it is not unusual for me to have (when using the Finder) 4 or 5 windows open at any time, as it is more than possible that I will have added the MacBook and MacBook Pro into the equation when moving stuff around. Now I am lucky enough to have a couple of 23″ Apple Cinema Displays hooked up to the Mac Pro and so having multiple Finder windows open isn’t an problem for me:

Multiple Finder Windows

In fact this has been the ‘norm’ for so long for me that I still can’t get into the habit of using Path Finder as a default option.

Another reason for this is that I use ForkLift ($29.95) as my FTP client, but also as a excellent dual pane Finder substitute:

ForkLift – perfectly adequate Dual Pand Finder Substitute

Again I have been using this application for so long now that whenever I think Dual Pane, I reach for ForkLift, and not only for my FTP requirements.

I mention Dual Pane as that is the one feature that really stands out when I ask people what they really like most about PathFinder, which in a way is a shame as there is so much more to PathFinder when you dig around in the features.

  • “QuickLook” support
  • Use Path Finder as your “Default File viewer”
  • Per-Folder settings
  • Subversion plugin
  • Operations as Superuser
  • Application Launcher
  • Advanced tabbrowsing (Tab Sets, Combine as Tabs, drag-reorder, vertical tabs, etc)
  • Bookmarks bar
  • Reload button
  • Size browser
  • Drop Stack
  • Select tool
  • Find window, and filter inside the browser
  • Integrated Stuffit Engine
  • Create and Convert Disk Images
  • Customize menu keyboard shortcuts
  • Integrated Terminal
  • Smart Sorting

For me the main attraction of PathFinder is the amount of information that you can look at and access at any one time, through the combination of panes and drawers that it offers. Be warned though, if you are going to use all these features you really do need a widescreen display in my view, and a pretty big one at that. I was ‘just about’ comfortable using it on the 17″ MacBook Pro, but anything smaller it became too stressful for me:

PathFinders many options, but are they all required?

If you are a advanced Mac user then I have very little reason to doubt that PathFinder will answer many issues that you already have with Finder. If you are less advanced but want to take the time to explore PathFinder over a period of times (weeks not days need to be put aside I suggest) then you will find a lot of really neat options that will probably be of interest. Of how much interest will depend on your individual circumstances.

For me I still don’t go to the Path Finder by default. When I do I always get reminded how clever it is, but not really that I need it that much. If like me, you tend to do the same stuff day in and day out, and Dual Pane is really all that you are after then there are other options, that are cheaper and wont distract you as much. If on the other hand you want to pack your Mac with the ‘latest and best’ applications you will probably want to head on over and download yourself a trial copy now.

2 thoughts on “Pathfinder 5

  1. Wayne LeFevre

    I really like PathFinder. I even bought a 5.0 license. On the other hand, it has so many things that are “useful”, that I almost appreciate the Finder for it’s simplicity. I could really use a couple of screen casts to show me all the features because I simply don’t have the time or inclination to learn it all!

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