Wednesday, April 2, 2003

About the Finder

John Siracusa:

Since the dawn of Mac OS X, I've been waiting for one of two things to happen to the Finder: either a radical revamp according to a bold new vision of what the Finder could be, or a return to the core values that defined the classic Mac OS Finder and made it so well respected and loved. Neither has happened so far, and so in this article I've proposed a way to do both.

The OS X Finder, though it has improved a lot since 10.0, still has me cursing it almost every time I use it. For the past month, I’ve tried using Columns view instead of the spacial views that I prefer, hoping that maybe that side of the Finder would be more polished. In some ways it is, but I still think Siracusa is right. The current Finder is neither here nor there. It is a half-baked spatial Finder and a half-baked browser Finder melded together in a confusing way.

Siracusa pushes a bit too hard on the idea that the spatial Finder is a better match for human brains. It may be true, and I think it probably is, but his argument is not a proof. Either way, I worry that browser Finder advocates will put down the article before they get to his interesting ideas in the second half.

Spiffy new features and a religious war over the spacial and browser paradigms are putting the cart before the horse. At this point, all I want is a polished Finder. Just something basic that lets me manage my files without frustration will be enough. By basic, I mean windows that auto-refresh and remember their settings, being able to move large numbers of files quickly, and other things that we used to take for granted. For the rest, I can wait for 10.5 or 11.0.

The OS X Finder still feels like a beta. Apple’s been eager to build countless iApps and compete with third-party developers, yet it is unwilling to finish its most important application. Everyone uses the Finder, and it’s not replaceable. Apple should make it first-rate.

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You do realize that the next version of Mac OS is going to be 10.3, and that Apple shows no signs of jumping to 0.5-level increments any time soon, putting "Mac OS 11.0" out to about 2011, right?

We'll see if they have the discipline to only go up 0.1 each year. I think they'll want to make a marketing splash with a big version jump before 2011.

Don't utilities like SNAX and and Path Finder dispute your statement that Apple's Finder is not replaceable?

Path Finder (the new version of SNAX) is nice. I'm testing it right now, actually. However, it's not a complete replacement. Programs that talk to the Finder will continue talking to the Finder. For instance, I regularly use the Reveal command in BBEdit, the Dock, iTunes, etc. There are hacks to actually replace with Path Finder, but they break all the applications that rely on the Finder for the services it provides. For instance, many applications send Apple events to the Finder to create alias files.

I will say this, though. With older versions of SNAX that I tried, I found myself switching back and forth between it and the Finder because it was missing features. The new version is much better. I've been using it most of the day and have not yet needed to drop back into the "real" Finder.

I just opened NetNewsWire and saw that John Gruber had already weighed in. He says the people who told him they like the OS X Finder are computer nerds. (But so are Daring Fireball's readers, one would assume.) Anyway, that's an interesting perspective because I've generally heard the opposite argued, that new Mac users like the OS X Finder better because it's more like Web browsers and Windows.

What great timing. Today's MDJ says of Path Finder: "It's a good program - but it's no replacement for the Finder."

John C. Welch now has a blog and has added his two cents.

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