With Lion’s interface so dramatically different, more iPad like, who needs Path Finder these days? Perhaps Path Finder 6 may convince you. I was engrossed in particular by its tagging feature, its built-in Hex editor, its automatic column resize feature, and much more. Oh, and Path Finder regularly saves my day, enabling me to do things others must use the Terminal for.
Since I first reviewed Path Finder (it was called differently back then, I believe), I’ve always had a soft spot for the app. I always found it hard to believe that some people fired up the Terminal only to see some “invisible” files, while I could see them simply by selecting an option in Path Finder’s menu. Path Finder also offered a number of advantages in the file management department, such as collecting files in a Drop Stack and then batch process them.
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But version 5, although still very useful, somewhat disappointed me. As Apple made OS X increasingly easy to use and powerful, there weren’t that many unique features that set Path Finder 5 apart anymore. Path Finder 6, however, is a whole different ball game.
Yes, you can still invisible files and decompress files that were compressed with compression methods OS X still doesn’t know about. But there’s a lot more and most of it is more than cosmetic. The first thing that I was eager to find out about was the ability to split the browser window and simultaneously also split the Preview panel beneath it. It took an email message to the developers to find out exactly how I could get to see two different images one next to the other, each in its own Preview panel.
That’s also my only criticism of Path Finder 6: it lacks a good old-fashioned user guide. Yes, the developers are busy creating screencasts where they explain a good deal of what you can do with Path Finder 6, but videos can take longer to view than it takes the average user to read through a user guide. And you do need one if you want to exploit Path Finder 6 to the fullest.
A modular approach to file management
The reason why is that Path Finder 6 has become a real powerhouse for file management. Cocoatech has programmed all these features as modules. The result is that you can use the Preview panels for no less than 15 modules, varying from a Hex viewer to a Preview, to extensive file information.
The best part of this is that while you can have as many browser tabs as you wish — the Path Finder browser is tabbed — you can also have a split view of your file system in the same browser window. By default, the split view comes with one Preview panel beneath where you can load one of the 15 modules to zoom in on a file or a folder. But you can also split the Preview panel, so that you essentially get a unique preview/info panel for each browser.
Photographers, designers, authors, and everyone else who want to compare two versions of an image or other file, can quickly see the differences right in Path Finder itself. As with version 5, the viewable file info is much more elaborate than the Finder’s. For photographic images this means you get to see all EXIF and IPTC information right in Path Finder 6.
Modern functionality that Lion lacks
Path Finder 6 also delivers in terms of metadata and semantic capabilities. It has a tagging functionality that complies with OpenMeta. If you have a program like Tags, you can browse the associated files in Tags. For the moment, you can’t find nor browse through files with a specific tag in Path Finder 6 — at least, I couldn’t find a way to search for tags (yet).
A new essential tool in Path Finder 6 is the batch processing module. When in the past I wanted to rename a bunch of files, I would launch File Buddy and process them through this app. That’s no longer necessary; I can do that in Path Finder now. I can replace parts of the file name using literal or Regex search patterns.
Another great addition is the file queue. With OS X, if you drag a bunch of files to copy them to another disk (as an example), the copy process will start immediately, on all files simultaneously. In Path Finder 6, the default is to queue the files and have them copied one after the other. The advantage of this new feature is that your copy operation finishes each file before starting on the next one. In many cases, this speeds up your workflow — provided that the finished file is what you want to be working on first.
A very nice gimmick if you wish is that the File Queue icon gives visual feedback when a file is added to the queue.
Finally, Path Finder 6 offers the ability to set file and folder permissions using Access Control Lists (ACL). Lion does so too, but as so often with OS X, users only get to see the surface. Path Finder 6 goes all the way, allowing you to set permissions on the most granular level, and view them as well.
More exotic to most of us are the Hex Editor and Hex Viewer; these two additions will be liked most by programmers.
Path Finder also has a built-in text editor that’s slightly more powerful than TextEdit, comes with better support for a larger range of file compression methods, and has an image editor that can compete with Preview — actually it’s better because it compresses to smaller files. It even has its own App Launcher, which — just as any other menu option — can be linked to a keyboard short cut.
Path Finder 6 is more of a file management app than the OS X Finder. It hands off more of the power of OS X to you, the user. It doesn’t sacrifice ease-of-use or design in the process. Version 6 comes with enough new features to be worth the upgrade price!