The Best Alternative File Browser For Mac

The Finder isn't perfect, and the Mac developer community has created plenty of alternatives. While there are cheaper options, Path Finder is our choice for the best thanks to its excellent power user features, deep OS X integration and customisability.

Path Finder

Platform: Mac OS X Price: $US40 (with a 30-day free trial) Download Page

  • Dual-pane file browser (or single - it's your choice)
  • Cut and paste.
  • Integrates into Mac OS X to work as a full Finder replacement.
  • Drag and drop files into a temporary stack so you can perform actions on multiple files from different sources.
  • Tabbed browsing.
  • Create bookmarks for common locations.
  • Sort by folders first, or limit a list of files by name or extension.
  • The command-line is built in.
  • Create and convert disk images.
  • Subversion support.
  • Window drawers that can contain frequently used applications and recent documents.
  • Navigate through your favourite directories via drop down menus at the top of Path Finder windows.
  • Save different sidebar configurations and swap them quickly and easily.

In a lot of ways, Path Finder is the more powerful version of the Finder you always wanted. It probably has more navigation options than you could ever need, but you use the ones that work from you and ignore/disable the rest. It really shines in the places where it solves common Finder issues. For example, if you want to create a zip archive of files in different folders or copy those same files all at once, the Finder would require you to move them all to one location first. Path Finder will let you drop them in a temporary stack so you can aggregate files for a specific purpose without changing their location. Path Finder also adds the sorely desired feature of cut and paste. Navigation-wise, you have just about every possibility you could want, including tabbed browsing and folder menus right in the Path Finder windows. Despite all of this, Path Finder still feels like the Finder. You're not getting thrown into some brand new idea that you have to figure out. Instead, you're getting something that works with the features you want.

It's expensive and it's not as quick as the Mac OS X Finder, but neither of those things should come as much of a surprise. You can't throw a rock without hitting a pricey Mac app and, despite the Finder's shortcomings, it's a tough challenge to perform better than the native option. Apple has the advantage there. But if you're not deterred by the price and are willing to trade a little performance for all the features you ever wanted in the Finder, Path Finder will serve you pretty well. The only thing it's sorely missing, in my opinion, is file copy queuing - but you can say that about pretty much every file browser.

For those of you who want a free options, you've got muCommander. It's cross-platform, so if you like it you can use it on your Windows and/or Linux PC as well. It's very utilitarian, with no flashy features but support for local volumes and many remote file transfer protocols. You get full keyboard access and plenty of room for your own configuration.

Leap is a departure from your traditional file browser, relying more on tagging and search than actual browsing. It's designed to rely on your memory of the file rather than its location. Some love it, some find it too foreign a concept.

Flow is a file transfer app made for the web, but it also considers itself a file browser alternative. If you want an app that's very Finder-like but with better online capabilities, Flow is a good choice.

TotalFinder isn't so much an alternative file browser as it is an enhancement to the existing Finder, but it makes enough significant changes that it's an alternative to the default option in its own way. Total Finder adds tabbed browsing, a drop-down Finder window (called a "visor") that's accessible via keyboard shortcut, the option to view folders on top in list view, dual-pane browsing, cut and paste, the ability to see system files, and more. It'll cost you $US18.

Lifehacker's App Directory is a new and growing directory of recommendations for the best applications and tools in a number of given categories, each week with a different focus.


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