Path Finder 5 - The Finder, greatly enriched again

Nov 10, '08 10:08:00AM

Contributed by: robg

This week's Pick of the Week is a two-time repeat winner...though its first win was actually many years ago, and under a different name. It was, in fact, the third-ever Pick of the Week, way back in March of 2002. At the time, the program was called SNAX, and it was a replacement for the Finder. Then, in December 2006, version 4.5 won again. Now, just under two years later, I feel the need to reward it again. Why again, you may ask? Because Path Finder 5 is a great upgrade from version 4, and has finally become my full-time Finder replacement. I've used the prior versions off and on over the years, but some of the differences between it and the Finder kept me coming back to the Finder more often than not. That's all changed with version 5, thanks mainly to a handful of great new features. Here are just some of the additions since the last 4.x release of Path Finder: Beyond the new stuff, Path Finder has a lot of other capabilities that you won't find in the Finder. In no particular order, here are some of my favorites: drop-down Terminal drawer, drop stack for moving multiple files, customizable contextual menu items, a custom bar for storing often-visited folders and files, a shelf sidebar for storing more often-visited places, a running list of processes in a drawer, customizable item labels and colors, easy navigation into packages, customizable sort orders, show or hide hidden files, and easy modification of file attributes.

Path Finder isn't a perfect Finder replacement. First of all, it's much more complex than the Finder, so there's a steep learning curve, including a ton of different preferences and views to learn and understand. Second, because it's not Apple's product, there are some limitations on integration. You can't, for instance, enter the Time Machine interface unless the Finder is running. (So I usually leave the Finder not running, and only launch it when I need to access Time Machine.) I also find that Path Finder works best on larger monitors, where you can have the various side and bottom panels open all the time. I have to compromise a bit on my 15" MBP, but I still use it regularly.

There's more, of course -- much more, and I'll be exploring Path Finder in more detail in this week's Macworld video blog, due out Friday. Path Finder isn't cheap, but if you find yourself constantly fighting the Finder and wishing it worked more as you wanted it to, it's probably worth the time to check out the free Path Finder 5 demo. With version 5, Path Finder has migrated from a program I used occasionally when the Finder frustrated me to one I use every day.

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