Enhancing the Finder's capabilities is one of the most discussed Mac-related topics on the web, as the Finder clearly lacks some features that power users need on a daily basis, such as cut / paste or dual-panel display for easier file transfer.
There are quite a lot of great alternatives and plug-ins to the Mac Finder, but most of them are commercial. XtraFinder is a free and feature-rich Finder plug-in that improves almost every lacking aspect of the Finder and offers a set of very handy additions to the OS X's standard file browser.
The plug-in is lightweight, occupies just 1.5 MB and installing the package required a minimum amount of time and effort. As far as the uninstallation is concerned, it can be easily handled from the menu bar item.
Zero problems were encountered during the short installation and we were able to use the Finder straight away.
The utility greatly modifies the Finder's interface with tab support, dual-pane / window mode, enriched context menus and so on.
However, since XtraFinder is not about customizing the appearance (colors, themes, etc.) but about adding extra functionality, the Finder's look and feel remain the same.
At first, the Finder did not show any sign of change, since all the options of the plug-in are disabled by default and you need to manually toggle them. The Preferences window can be accessed via a menu bar item.
Nevertheless, there is one default feature which, by the way, can't be enabled or disabled – the starting size of the Finder window is bigger. This seems like a natural modification, as tabbed browsing needs considerably more space to avoid cluttering.
Before we go into details about the tab functionality, it might be wise to state that it's still in experimental stage, thus some issues might occur sooner or later.
The tabs look great, come in two styles – Google Chrome and Opera, and we could switch between them as quickly as with a web browser. Moreover, tabs can be opened using the standard Cmd +T command and closed with Cmd + W and reopened with CMD + Shift + T; of course, the 'x' (close) and '+' (open) buttons are also viable alternatives.
In order to test the response time of tabs, we've opened about 20 and the result was average. Navigating through them using Cmd + Tab was flawless, but the mouse-click response time was disappointing. Some tabs didn't even respond, while others needed two or more clicks.
As with any application, the more windows / tabs you open, the more RAM it consumes. 30 tabs took about 250 RAM of our Mac's memory, though it could have been worse. With this in mind, you should be careful of how many tabs you open, unless your Mac has a large amount of RAM installed.
Further down the list of features that can be enabled is dual-pane mode. With a simple press of the Cmd + U hotkey, or a click on the View > Toggle Dual Pane option, the Finder turns into a reliable tool for fast file transfer.
Copying files from one place to another is as easy as drag-and-drop and no errors were encountered. Note that the dual pane is activated only in the selected tab and, if there is only one tab open, it will be duplicated in order to create a dual-pane view.
In addition, XtraFinder comes equipped with the cut and paste option that the default Finder unexplainably lacks. Although the classic CMD+ V and CMD + C worked as expected in any situation, a small glitch occurred on our Mac (it didn't on two other Macs) during the file transfer initiated through the "Move to" option from the context menu.
The Finder crashed and XtraFinder quit when we've tried to replace files with the same name from another location. Overwriting files using keyboard shortcuts did not cause any problems, though. In any case, if you move files with "Move to" and don't replace other files in the process, the Finder will work properly.
Furthermore, the plug-in brings a variety of useful options to the context menu which can be enabled from the Preferences window. The most commonly used are probably “Copy path” and the option to open a new Terminal window with the path of the currently opened folder.
As far as the "Copy path" option goes, it can be used on as many files / folders as you like and, to our delight, harvesting all this data from about 1500 files ended successfully.
Moreover, the Terminal window popped up really quickly; therefore, this feature practically eliminates the need to use a separate application that opens the Terminal in the selected path.
You'll find dozens of other tweaks in the plug-in’s arsenal, but some of them are generally unimportant and others are just rarely used. As a final note, the utility provides another layer of optimization by allowing you to assign keyboard shortcuts to most of its actions.
In our tests, XtraFinder certainly changed the way we use the Finder for the better. We’ve successfully managed to transfer files with the help of the dual-pane display, browsing through tabs went smoothly, and the cut / paste action via the keyboard shortcuts did not disappoint.
We’ve experienced a bug concerning the “Move to” option from the context menu. Additionally, if a lot of tabs are open, their click response is quite slow.
With all its great features, the plug-in can't but deliver more convenience to the user. In spite of a few minor drawbacks, every action worked as advertised.
All things considered, chances are that you won't know you needed a plug-in such as XtraFinder until you actually give it a try, even if you are happy with the current state of the Finder.
Here are some snapshots of the application in action: