Apple’s macOS Finder has evolved slowly over the years. It started simple, got faster and more refined, but never evolved dramatically. But Cocoatech’s Path Finder, now at version 8, has.
The last time I visited Cocoatech’s Path Finder (PF) was in June of 2015. But I’ve been using it since its earliest incarnation in 2001. It’s essential to my daily workflow. See my 2015 article below for a description of features I really like.
Most all of my favorites have endured, but there’s been one significant change.
Drop Stack. Think of it as a temporary parking space for a file while you move it to a new location. It’s amazingly helpful.
Fully customizable alternate row colors. (See the screenshot below.) This really helps manage visual clutter in list view.
Instant Text File Creation. File > New Text File. I use this often when I’m working on a project, and I want to create a quick text file of notes. Later, by default, my text file opens in BBEdit.
Shelves. In Path Finder 8, the classic shelves are gone, but they’re replaced by something much better: more dynamic modules. Shelves, explained in my earlier article, were cool, but, in my experience, tended to have visual, cosmetic bugs from version to version—even in PF 7. I’ll have more to say on modules below.
Archiving can be helpful for transmitting large files, but it’s not so critical anymore for saving disk (SSD!) space.
Printing. One enduring feature of PF that I didn’t mention previously is the ability to print. Amazingly, after 17 years, the macOS Finder still can’t print a listing of a folder (directory). This has come handy for me, for example, when I’m ready to upgrade to a new version of macOS and want a listing of my /Applications folder and mission critical apps. Here’s a sample printout from my Background Mode podcast folder. Sweet.
There are many, many more cool features, but I don’t have room in this Quick Look review. I included Cocoatech’s feature list below.
Path Finder 8
Cocoatech has published an interesting and informative blog post about the history of Path Finder and what led them to a complete overhaul of the app. It is essential reading. In part….
With each major release of macOS, the application was getting more lines of obsolete code, deprecated APIs and officially unsupported features. The moment of imminent redesign and rewrite was getting closer. We tried to postpone it as much as we could in a passionate desire to offer yet a few new features, so we kept patching and finding workarounds for unsupported and obsolete stuff. But with the latest macOS updates we have finally come to the inevitable; going back to the drawing board and give Path Finder the proper overhaul it needed for a long time.
Part of the rewrite was the transition from static shelves to more flexible modules. In shelves, there were bottom and side shelves that could accomodate a limited number of modules. But, as Cocoatech describes it….
Even older versions had modules in window drawers. Still, those modules were pretty much static and fixed to a place. Not in Path Finder 8! It sports completely new and flexible modules structure. You can put as many modules in a single browser window (or “Get info” window/inspector) as you need. You can arbitrarily arrange them anywhere around browsing view of your single or dual pane. You can dismiss or drag them away when you don’t need them any longer.
Here’s what a PF 8 display looks like with an admitted overload of modules (for emphasis) dragged in.
The way to access the palette of module is with Window > Modules. Two that I find very helpful are “Info” and “Preview.” For example, when editing a podcast, these two modules instantly tell me the .mp3 file size and also allow in-place, active playback, respectively. Also, new in Preview is in-place text file editing.
As an aside, I must say that’s it’s particularly fun and geeky to have a terminal window open in a module. And close it when not needed. Here’s more on modules from the Cocoatech blog…
Everything about modules is new inside and out. They look new, but they also work in a new way, using completely rewritten, redesigned and modernized code. We started the above mentioned Path Finder overhaul with them. But they aren’t the only new thing. A lot of things around modules had to be changed and redesigned to allow them to fit in into the old code structure. It will not be visible to users, but a lot of things are changed and made better, faster and more robust.
The Cocoatech home page has a video showing how to manage modules.
If you’re ready to upgrade to Path Finder 8 and want a traditional list of new features, it isn’t available yet. But I can say that I’ve been using PF 8 for awhile now, and I haven’t found anything obviously missing compared to version 7. My feeling is that the upgrade is worth it for the dramatic increase in speed of operation (what a blessing) and the new, better module management.
Path Finder 8 has a free, 30-day trial, and then the cost is US$40. The upgrade cost for current users is a mere $20. I think this is a bargain because Cocoatech’s official policy allows you to run a single Path Finder license on up to three of your personal Macs at the same time.
If you’re curious, here’s Path Finder’s official list of features.
Finally, one may ask, how does the new Finder in macOS Mojave compare to PF 8? Ah, but that’s, perhaps, a future article. However, my estimate is that for a US$20 upgrade fee, you won’t go wrong. Path Finder is, and seems likely to remain, a valuable supplement to any version of the macOS Finder.