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A detailed look at replacing the Finder with Path Finder Apps

Cocoatech's Path Finder is a powerful file browser that has tons of cool integrated features. Many people swear by it as being a much better solutiion than Apple's Finder for browsing and editing files. I love it. Here's how I've replaced the Finder with Path Finder, which works pretty well.

Your mileage may vary with this hint: some applications require Apple's Finder to work (mostly AppleScript-based ones, but some others require it, too). That said, I haven't found very many problems, and this hint allows the Finder to still launch when needed.

Read the entire hint for details...

[robg adds: We've covered Path Finder (previously known as Snax) before -- see this older hint. However, this hint provides additional details on truly replacing your Finder with Path Finder, if that's what you'd like to do...]

  1. Start up Path Finder instead of Apple's Finder at login

    To get Path Finder to launch on start up instead of Apple's Finder, you will need to edit a preference file called This file is normally located in /Users/[your username]/Library/Preferences/.

    The easiest way to add the preference we need to get Path Finder to launch instead of the Finder is to launch the Terminal and type the following:

    defaults write Finder /Full Path To/Path

    One way to get the proper formatted path (spaces need to be escaped with a backslash, like My Harddrive Name) to your install of Path Finder is to drag its icon into the Terminal window. It'll insert its file path into the Terminal window. Or, you can edit the file by hand. Open it in a plain-text editor, and then add the following right after the first tag:

    <string>Full Path To/Path</string>

    After making this change, save the file and log out and back in again to test. Path Finder should now start up instead of Apple's Finder! If not, double check to make sure you have the correct path to the Path Finder application. This gives you the best of both worlds. Path Finder launches on login, and if an application does require Apple's Finder, it will launch and take over.

  2. Add the ability to Quit the Finder

    To add a "quit" feature to the Finder's application menu so that you can quit it if another application launches it, check out this hint, or use an application like the great TinkerTool.

  3. Remap the command+click menu on toolbars to Path Finder

    If you command+click on the title bar of a Cocoa window that currently has a file open, you can see a hierarachy menu of the path to that file. (Try this in Text Edit - open a file, and then command+click on the title bar.) To get selected items in this menu to open in Path Finder, developer Mike Solomon (best know for his essential content / ad filter plugin for Safari called Pith Helmet) has created a small plugin called PathFinderHack.

    Check out the PathFinderHack page for more details on how to install this, but it's pretty easy to install, requires no tweaking, and helps make Path Finder's integration with the OS that much better.

  4. Get Path Finder to intercept Finder-related stuff

    Many applications make specific calls to Apple's Finder, mostly to open new browser windows. The Dock is a good example of this - put a folder into the dock, and when you click on it, the dock creates a system event that tells the Finder to open a window at that location.

    If you really want to go "all the way" (well, as far as possible for the moment) and have Path Finder intercept all calls to Apple's Finder, you'll need to do the following. To intercept these events in Path Finder, we need to "fake out" the system so that it thinks that Path Finder is the Finder. We do this by editing the PkgInfo file inside of Path Finder, and changing its package info to that of the Finder. To do this, find your install of Path Finder on your hard drive, and right-click (control-click) on the application icon. Select "Show Package Contents" and you should see a Contents folder appear.

    Click on the Contents folder, and inside of it there will be some more folders, a file named "Info.plist", and a file named "PkgInfo." Open the PkgInfo file in a plain-text editor and replace what's inside it already (the text "APPLPFdR") with the text APPLMACS. Save, and log out and back in again. Path Finder should now intercept all of the events that used to be sent to the Finder! Of course, this will sometimes pose a problem if an application or AppleScript requires some functionality that Path Finder doesn't support, but the developer is very responsive and will usually add in support for things that are missing. Your mileage will most definitely vary here.

I hope you find this useful! I would recommend checking out the Cocoatech Forums for more Path Finder tips. If you have any other tips on how to better integrate Path Finder with the OS, or tips on usage, post them in the comments here...

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Last tip is incorrect
Authored by: milhouse on Mar 12, '04 02:42:54PM

You must use "FNDRMACS" (no quotes) not APPLMACS, at least that's the case under Panther.


[ Reply to This | # ]
A detailed look at replacing the Finder with Path Finder
Authored by: garbanzito on Mar 12, '04 08:41:16PM

i have used Path Finder to the almost complete exclusion of Finder for several months, but i keep Finder running hidden because there are several features that Path Finder can't replicate.. for one thing, Path Finder doesn't match Finder's AppleScript dictionary, for another, some contextual menus (like XRay) work in Finder and not Path Finder.. i also found using Path Finder's desktop features buggy to the point i turned them off, and use Finder's desktop, but Path Finder's trash

Path Finder is very good, and a more useful tool for me than Finder, but it has enough weaknesses & gaps that i don't advocate complete replacement of Finder.. they coexist peacefully

[ Reply to This | # ]
A detailed look at replacing the Finder with Path Finder
Authored by: frautschi on Jul 13, '05 02:37:09PM

in 10.4 the .plist files are in binary instead of ascii... but apple provides a conversion tool: plutil.
to convert a file, you run it like this from the command line while in the ~/Library/Preferences folder:

plutil -convert xml1

Then you can edit with a text editor. I believe OS X can read the xml formatted version as well, but to convert back simply type:

plutil -convert binary1

Another thing: 10.4 does not automatically create this file. I had to copy another and remove all the existing properties. (I'm not sure if it creates it automatically using the "defaults write..." command or not - i think it does).

One final side note: you can start up OS X using a UNIX script file too by adding the .command extension to the script and placing its path under the Finder key as outlined (that's what I am doing).

[ Reply to This | # ]