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WhatSize - A tool to help manage free disk space Pick of the Week
WhatSize imageThe macosxhints Rating:
9 of 10
[Score: 9 out of 10]
This week's Pick of the Week is a simple little app that does one thing very well -- help you see what's taking up space on your hard drive. WhatSize opens two windows; one displays a summary view for each of your hard drives; the other, as seen at left, displays a columnar view of a particular location in your file system.

In the shot at left, the view is set to my home folder, with the Pictures directory selected. As you can see, the files are sorted by size and color-coded (megabytes in purple, kilobytes in green), making it easy to see exactly what's taking up the room in any given location. WhatSize also displays all normally "hidden" directories, as indicated by the normally hidden .FBCIndex file in the left pane of the screenshot.

You can, obviously, do all that WhatSize does in either the Finder or via the Terminal (in fact, it was a comment to an earlier hint about using du that tipped me off to WhatSize). However, WhatSize makes it very simple, and it's expandable column-view window lets you easily traverse a folder hierarchy to see exactly what might be taking up unexpected amounts of drive space. If you're not a fan of column view, you can switch to a "browser" view that's somewhat like list view in the Finder. In the browser view, you can easily see the actual size of the files in any given folder (along with the disk space actually used, and those two numbers can differ appreciably for large folders). You can also use the familiar disclosure triangles to drill down the hierarchy.

WhatSize is one of those useful little utilities that you'll try a couple times and then find that it's quickly become a key part of your maintenance routine -- I use it to keep an eye on my Downloads folder, which I sometimes let get a bit out of control! The fact that it's free is simply an added bonus...

[Note to readers: This is actually last week's Pick of the Week. In a fit of stupidity, I wrote the whole thing up and ... left it sitting on my local server all week! Later this (Tuesday) morning, I'll post this week's Pick of the Week, and I'm going to try to fit both of them in the header since this one got the short end of the "time on site" stick.]
  • Currently 2.70 / 5
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WhatSize - A tool to help manage free disk space | 20 comments | Create New Account
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copy of OmniDiskSweeper ?
Authored by: lagroue on Nov 18, '03 03:17:28AM

This app seems to be a pure simple copy of (non-free) OmniDiskSweeper by

The only feature that OmniDiskSweeper adds (or WhatSize lacks) is showing you whether which packages a particular file belongs to (eg /Applications belongs to iCal, iPhoto, etc, etc)

That's all, folks !

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copy of OmniDiskSweeper ?
Authored by: bentucker on Nov 18, '03 03:48:35AM

I was about to say the same thing...

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copy of OmniDiskSweeper ?
Authored by: robg on Nov 18, '03 08:41:40AM
Answer: They both have similar ancestors. DarkForest was a NEXT utility that looked identical to both Omni's DiskSweeper and WhatSize. It took me a few searches, but I eventually found a screenshot of DarkForest for NEXT. Edit: This one is even better...

In case you're thinking that the author of DarkForest went to Omni and/or they licensed the code, that's not correct. DarkForest was written by one Garth Snyder, and Ken Case himself wrote Omni's DiskSweeper (originally called OmniDiskUsage) in 1998 [reference].

So yes, Omni's code was "first" on OS X, but it wasn't original even at that time. WhatSize is just another implementation of DarkForest, and the author admits as much on the WhatSize page. So of course, they're nearly identical, as they both have the same "parent." But to call WhatSize a copy of Omni's product is to skip over the fact that Omni's product is a copy of DarkForest.

Before selecting WhatSize as a PotW, I was scanning the comments on VersionTracker to see what others thought (usually good for some tidbits), and found this quote:
The second main difference is that omnidisksweeper has an unforgiving destructive delete, although it gives you a warning, it doesn't send stuff to trash, it permanently deletes on the spot. WhatSize is far more forgiving of stupid moves, you not only get a warning, but if after ignoring the warning you still regret deleting something, just open the trash.
I haven't purchased DiskSweeper, so I can't verify this, but if it's true, that's a solid vote for WhatSize in my book.

Two programs, one parent, similar operations, but nobody's stealing from anyone other than the fact that they both borrowed look and feel from DarkForest :).


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DarkForest itself was a copy of Bacon!
Authored by: thereitis on Nov 18, '03 04:44:32PM

Nice historics but I will add a precision.
DarkForest was written in 1992 by a NeXT employee, Garth Snyder (and has the NeXT copyright).
But itself was a copy of an older NeXT internal utility called Bacon!
Though Bacon was never seeded outside (it was a little bit buggy), DarkForest was made available on the usual FTP sites.
But it's Bacon that originated that very usefull interface.
And no, you can't do the same in the Finder because you would have to wait for the counting in each folder and when you'd be in a new folder you would loose the counting of the precedent!
In the utilities everything is recorded. You have an instant photography of your hard drive. Its interest is intimately associated with the column view. Use it in list view can be interesting for a small amount of files but a non sense for an full hard disk!

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DarkForest itself was a copy of Bacon!
Authored by: robg on Nov 18, '03 09:04:33PM

Wow, thanks for the expanded history lesson! Interesting that it traces that far back...


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Well, it fried my Finder...
Authored by: kirkmc on Nov 18, '03 04:43:49AM

Great tool for demoing the beachball. It fried my Finder so totally I couldn't force quit, and I couldn't even get out of it by sshing in from another Mac.

Had to force a restart - not nice at all.

In the Trash...


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Well, it fried my Finder...
Authored by: robg on Nov 18, '03 08:28:18AM

Very odd -- worked fine on a dual G5 and a 12" PowerBook G4. No other problem reports that I can find about it on the web...


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I would NOT recommend using WhatSize!
Authored by: GammaRay Rob on Nov 19, '03 09:25:46AM

I had the same experience!

What I did was to select the root level of my hard drive: "/". This went fine until WhatSize started into the /Network directory and tried to log onto *every* node there (I am connected to a *very* large LAN...)! Very bad hang ensued. I would NOT recommend this program until this is all sorted out!!!!

-- This line no sig

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WhatSize - A tool to help manage free disk space
Authored by: syko on Nov 18, '03 04:52:08AM

i'll stick with omnidisksweeper- these guys are 'real' programmers and you don't have to worry about anything 'frying' anything...

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WhatSize - A tool to help manage free disk space
Authored by: cvandyck on Nov 18, '03 08:25:28AM

It ran beautifully on my machine. Not sure I would worry about anything 'frying' anything. Also, the programmer seems real enough to me, and this app is free.

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WhatSize - A tool to help manage free disk space
Authored by: raider on Nov 18, '03 03:48:14PM

Many "real" programmers write code in their spare time, not-for-pay. Many "real" programmers have done so since computers were invented.

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Authored by: dkulp on Nov 18, '03 08:18:33AM
An old X11 app that still works fine is xdu. It provides a simple heirarchical graphical display of directory sizes. It builds from source on OS X without problems. There are several slightly fancier descendants, but xdu does the trick for me.

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WhatSize - A tool to help manage free disk space
Authored by: dpwk on Nov 18, '03 03:22:17PM

I like JDiskReport the best:

Yeah, it's in Java, but the nested pie view just kicks sassy. It is reasonably stable, configurable, and quite OS X friendly. (One of its themes is OSX Aqua)

Check it out!

(not affiliated, lest my enthusiasm be misattributed..)

gigabling megashiznit

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WhatSize - A tool to help manage free disk space
Authored by: syko on Nov 18, '03 04:38:45PM

Ok, so since my comment was taking so literally, should I say instead that Omni has been around since before Day 1 and have more experience programming on this platform than many others?

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WhatSize - A tool to help manage free disk space
Authored by: seven5 on Nov 18, '03 07:52:08PM

great tool as long as you don't have any network shares available, or that can be seen by Os X.

WhatSize totally tries to traverse these directorys to see what size it is, and i have 400+ gig servers at work, and it was toast...

Testing showed that omnidisksweeper does the same thing, i THINK, but wasn't sure.

It looks like its a problem with Panther and the network shares being under /private/var/automount/Network

this is a real bummer, i really love these apps. Anyone have a suggestion?

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WhatSize - A tool to help manage free disk space
Authored by: Frederico on Nov 18, '03 09:47:29PM

I haven't tried the latest version, but one I tried a few weeks ago had some pretty wild, impossible results indicating that I was consuming more space than I had on a number of volumes, to the tune of a few to several GB. This, after taking an *insane* amount of time to catalog eight volumes across 300GB (as compared to similar tools).

If I actually navigated into some of these allegedly massive directories, I found that they often contained little, if anything at all. Upon opening these directories, and clicking 'Remeasure' the numbers then might, or might not, self-correct. It seemed to have something to do with locked files part of the time.

It was far too tedious getting this app to "tell the truth", and the problem was repeatable on multiple machines; the developer never responded to feedback, so it hit the trash. I guess I should remember how much people depend on Version Tracker for this kind of feedback.

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WhatSize - A tool to help manage free disk space
Authored by: Frederico on Nov 18, '03 10:04:01PM


I just tried the newest version, and it claims I'm using over 149GB on a 40GB volume. Cool trick. Wish it were true.

For a second I thought it had really lost its mind when it showed my 100MB iDisk using 3.2GB, but realized it was actually measuring the Sym-Linked Apple directories (Software, Extras, etc.). I wonder if that added to the length of time it took to diagnose my computer (it's still churning away while I write this).

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perl script using du
Authored by: joshuajestelle on Nov 18, '03 11:41:34PM

I found a great perl script at the above website called 'dus' which did a similar thing. Unfortunately I couldn't find it again on that website, and i'm getting a 'forbidden' error on one of his pages.

So if you really want the script, let me know and i'll send it to you.


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WhatSize - A tool to help manage free disk space
Authored by: paulpro on Jun 09, '11 10:14:39AM

For those who find this page through a current search:

WhatSize is now $12.99 -
OmniDiskSweeper is now free. -
GrandPerspective is still free. -

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WhatSize - A tool to help manage free disk space
Authored by: paulpro on Jun 26, '11 12:31:23PM
DaisyDisk also does this for $19.95.

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