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Your Mac’s Finder is probably one of the last things you ever think about. It’s just kind of there, doing pretty much the same stuff it always has. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. Path Finder from Cocoatech takes Finder’s basic functions and adds in tons of new features that will appeal to average users and Mac geeks alike.
At first glance, Path Finder looks exactly like a standard Finder window. There’s a sidebar containing shortcuts to all your mounted volumes, network shares, and other goodies--just like Apple’s Finder. And as expected, the right pane shows you the contents of your current folder in Icon, List, Column, or Cover Flow views. Along the top, there’s a customizable toolbar that can be used to access your favorite views and other commands, and that’s where Path Finder makes its first big departure. Regular ol’ Finder offers just 17 mix-and-match options for custom toolbars, but Path Finder offers an astounding 48. That gives you a taste of the powerful extra features that Path Finder’s packing.
Our favorite of the bunch is its tabbed interface. Instead of keeping two (or 10) windows open to move and view files and folders, you can have a single Path Finder window open with multiple tabs. A tab bar similar to Safari’s sits at the top of the window, and you can drag files quickly between them. It’s the kind of thing that left us smacking our forehead and wondering why Apple hasn’t already done this. After 10 minutes with Path Finder, we don’t want to go back to using multiple Finder windows ever again.
Path Finder's deep feature set is best suited for aspiring Mac ninjas, but even recent converts will immediately benefit from features like tabs and dual browsing.
Our favorite tabbed Path Finder setup with iTunes and recent folders on the right.
The Drop Stack is another innovative, must-have feature that allows you to drag multiple files into the stack and then perform actions on them all at once--compressing them or moving them into another folder, for example. Path Finder also offers a cool split-screen dual browser view that allows you to view the contents of two folders side by side in one window. Even better, each of the two panes can have their own independent sets of open tabs, which makes it dead simple to navigate even the most convoluted folder structures. To keep everything straight, there’s a path bar on the top of each pane, keeping you informed on where you are in your Mac’s file system.
Cover Flow fans will really appreciate Path Finder’s implementation because it lets you use Icon or Column views in the lower pane, instead of just the standard List view. For serious information junkies, Path Finder has slide-out drawers on the bottom and sides of your window. Drawers can be individually configured to show a variety of different modules, from a list of recent documents to an iTunes browser to a fully functional Terminal window for quickly firing off commands. There’s even a Subversion module that lets users of the version-control system quickly perform commands on their document repository.
The only downside to Path Finder is that it’s so good, you’ll want to use it to completely replace Finder, which isn’t possible. Certain apps like iTunes, iPhoto, and Time Machine are hard-coded to work with Apple’s Finder, so you’ll have to go back to it occasionally. But for the overwhelming majority of day-to-day tasks, Path Finder outperforms the Finder and offers a near-infinite level of customizability. But as in Spider-Man, with great power comes great responsibility, and we were disappointed that an application as deep and potentially confusing as Path Finder didn’t offer more thorough documentation for all of its features. Experienced users can make do by just trying things out, but newbies could definitely use more guidance than the application currently offers.