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7 things I like about Path Finder for OS X

I've received a minor surfeit of email since yesterday asking me to talk a bit more about Path Finder and why I think it's so swell. Here's a few fast reasons for my own affection.

The Drop Stack

PF - Drop Stack

The Drop Stack gives you a functional temporary pocket into which you can dump a pile of folders and documents, then amble over to someplace far away on your Mac, add a few more items, then walk to someplace else on your drive and drag all the contents to their new location. You can even choose to compress the contents of the Drop Stack, email them to a friend, or even burn 'em to a CD. This rules.

Think about the Fridays when a package needs to go out to FedEx in 20 minutes and you're tearing ass all over your Network collecting assets. This makes that kind of sprinting stress-free and convenient as heck. One of several bits in Path Finder that will soon be tantamount to introducing a microwave oven to your life. You'll wonder how you did without before.

Finder Previews

PF - Preview

Select any text file, HTML, PDF, RTF, audio file or movie and view it in the "Preview" drawer of any PF window.

Great for listening to a download before adding it to the iTunes library, checking a bit of documentation, or for seeing if a given document is actually what you think it is (or the correct version of what you think it is). Best of all this is more than a preview. There's a scroll bar, so you can read a whole book or watch a movie that way if you like.

This seems so crazy obvious once you use it that, again, you'll puzzle over how you used to get by without it.

Integrated Shell

Sometimes there are little tasks that are much faster and easier to do in the UNIX shell. And it's nice to not have to fire up iTerm to perform them.

A fresh shell session is a click away in any window -- and, of course, you automagically "cd" to the current directory to make things even easier on you. Bash comes to the desktop whenever and wherever I need it.

Filter by Name

PF - Filter by Name

At the risk of Tiger heresy, I miss "searching" my Mac. Sometimes I really don't want the big production numbers that Spotlight puts on; I just want to see the files in a given area of the Mac that match a string in the name (yeah, I know I can do this and that to do that with Spotlight, but I don't want to have to do "this and that" -- I just want my results).

Each PF window has a handy little box for finding whatever you need -- in the selected area or the whole computer etc. -- by using Spotlight, Search, or (God how I love it) Filtering. Just want to see everything in your Home directory with "finance" in the title? You got it. And fast as hell without that weird mystery meat non-window Spotlight spawns.

Create new text files in any folder

You know me and the text files. I love that I can option-command-n in any folder and create a new text file. Again, yes you can and usually do perform the same work in other place. But once the option is there, you'll find it really useful not to have to change modes.

Compression options

Select any file in PF and control-click to zip it. Or tar it. Or bz it. Or binhex it. Or whatever. I use this constantly.


I love that so many of the bazillion tools of Path Finder are available from the traditional menu bar, from a key command, or from the very configurable control-click menu. Much of the beauty of Path Finder is that, as feature-packed as it is, it's just a pleasure to navigate (IMHO) and can be configured and re-configured in ways that just aren't there in the current OS X Finder

I'm really just scratching the surface of what Path Finder can do here, and that's some people's legitimate beef with the application; it can reasonably be argued that Path Finder is in fact so overstuffed with buttons, utilities, menus, commands, and functionalities that it's antithetical to the "one-button" approach to the Mac.

I definitely get that criticism, but I think the option for folks who feel strongly about this is simple; save your thirty-some bucks, and stay with the standard OS X Finder. Which is, of course, not to say that the Mac's Finder is the responsive model of efficiency that it was in, say, System 6. But not everyone needs all the stuff that Path Finder has, and for them, the stock Finder (with the addition of, say, Quicksilver) is probably plenty enough functional power. So, yeah, Path Finder is definitely not for everyone. I don't think it's intended to be.

But if you're looking to fix a host of the Finder's numerous deficits, extend its functionality beyond your imagination -- and if you want a boon companion to Quicksilver that's tuned for fast machines and fast users -- then Path Finder is most definitely worth a look.

I know I'd feel lost without it.

About Merlin

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Merlin Mann is an independent writer, speaker, and broadcaster. He’s best known for being the guy who created the website you’re reading right now. He lives in San Francisco, does lots of public speaking, and helps make cool things like You Look Nice Today, Back to Work, and Kung Fu Grippe. Also? He’s writing this book, he lives with this face, he suffers from this hair, he answers these questions, and he’s had this life. So far.

Merlin’s favorite thing he’s written in the past few years is an essay entitled, “Cranking.”




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