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Path Finder: It's Like the Finder, Only Better...

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Episode 54
February 17th, 2006

I was fortunate enough to have been invited to present several sessions on the most recent Geek Cruise (MacMania IV/Photoshop Fling III) with ports of call all along the Mexican Rivera (i.e. Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallerta). This was my third Geek Cruise and, as usual, a great time was had by attendees and instructors alike.


Figure 1: The good ship Oosterdam, where I spent last week on a Geek Cruise.
(Click on the thumbnail for a larger image)

One of the coolest parts of being on a Geek Cruise is getting to hang out with a wide range of Mac experts such as Chris Breen, Andy Ihnatko, Jason Snell, Bert Monroy, Deke McClelland, Jack Davis, and many others. I even got to spend a bit of quality time with Steve Wozniak…


Figure 2: Woz (left) and LeVitus (right).
(Click on the thumbnail for a larger image)

I'm not sure I can refer to Woz as a "close personal friend" just yet, but I did get to spend some time with him. At any rate, the photo above was taken at the "Mac Gems Shootout," a panel which featured Woz, Leo Laporte, and yours truly showing off cool software. (For an uncool picture of all three of us in semi-formalwear, visit Leo's Flickr gallery.)

Which brings me to the point of this column… During the aforementioned Mac Gems Shootout each of us had exactly thirty minutes to demo our very favorite Mac OS X programs. Leo demoed a very cool program called Path Finder 4, which I had heard of but hadn't tried before the Shootout. So as soon as the panel broke up I downloaded and installed it.

It rocks. In a nutshell, Path Finder 4 is what the Mac OS X Finder would be like if I designed it. First and foremost it's a file browser and manager like the Finder, but it also offers a number of innovative and powerful tools that make it ever so much more useful than the Mac OS X Finder. Even if you think you're perfectly satisfied with the Mac OS X Finder, I urge you to read the rest of this column and see what you're missing.

Tabbed browsing is probably my favorite way Path Finder 4 improves upon the Mac OS X Finder. Imagine, if you will, having a very Safari-like tabbed browsing feature in every Finder window. That's exactly what Path Finder gives you as you can see in Figure 3.


Figure 3: A Path Finder browser window with four tabs: bobl, Desktop, Work, and DMConsulting.
(Click on the thumbnail for a larger image)

Combine the tabbed browsing with the also Safari-like bookmark bar shown in Figure 4 and you'll begin to understand how Path Finder makes working with your files and folders easier than ever before.


Figure 4: A Path Finder browser window with the bookmark bar highlighted and one of its menus (Desktop) pulled down.
(Click on the thumbnail for a larger image)

But wait-there's more! See the Drop Stack at the upper left of Figure 4? It's incredibly useful… You can drag a bunch of items onto it from different disks, folders, or servers and then burn, compress, or compress and email the whole bunch at once. Slick!

I also love the myriad of ways Path Finder lets you search and filter the contents of your disks and folders. It has its own Spotlight search mechanism built right in (of course), but it also has its own searching mechanism (Figure 5) and a very cool Select tool (Figure 6) that let you find or select just the files you want quickly and easily.


Figure 5: Path Finder's Find window.

Figure 6: Path Finder's Select items sheet.

(Click on the thumbnails for a larger image)

Path Finder also includes built-in applications including a PDF viewer, text editor, multimedia viewer, lightweight graphics editor (resize, convert, and manipulate graphics), Hex code viewer, disk burner, application launcher, screen shot utility, disk image creator, FTP utility, terminal (use UNIX commands from within Path Finder), and Console (shown in Figure 7).


Figure 7: Path Finder's built-in Console application.
(Click on the thumbnail for a larger image)

Another nice touch are Get Info windows that include much more info than OS X Get Info windows as shown in Figure 8.


Figure 8: Path Finder's Get Info windows give you a lot more detail than the Finder's Get Info windows.

There are many other features, most of which I have yet to explore. And, of course, the user interface is almost endlessly customizable.

The bottom line is that I like it. I mean I really, really like it. I like it so much I touched the OS X Finder in several days. Furthermore, it turns out I'm in good company:

(Path Finder 4) …is like the Final Cut Pro of file management. It's a file browsing tour de force.
- John Siracusa, Ars Technica

Cocoatech's Path Finder may be just what you've been waiting for.
- Dan Frakes, Macworld magazine review (rated 4.5 mice)

Path Finder supplements OS X's Finder windows with pure interface joy.
- MacUser UK magazine

Don't just take our word for it. Cocoatech offers a 21-day trial version of Path Finder 4, so download a copy and give it a try. I predict you'll like it so much you'll hardly ever use the Mac OS X Finder again.

And that's all he wrote...

Resources
If you're interested in the other programs we demoed during the Mac Gems Shootout (complete with links so you can download 'em), Mr. Laporte was kind enough to put them all on a little iWeb site he whipped up while we were still at sea. You'll find it at .

Geek Cruises. (Prices vary)

Path Finder by Cocoatech. $34.95.

Bob "Dr. Mac" LeVitus has been a Macintosh user for a long, long time and has written 49 computer books including Mac OS X Tiger For Dummies and GarageBand for Dummies. He also offers expert technical help and training to Mac users, in real time and at reasonable prices, via telephone, e-mail, and/or unique Internet-enabled remote control software. For more information on Bob and his services, visit www.boblevitus.com.

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