Dual Pane, Tabbed Finder – TotalFinder vs Path Finder

As a bit of an Apple fan-boy it’s not often that I moan about the short-comings of Apple products, the Mac or OSX, but one thing that I’ve wanted for a while in the Finder is tabbed windows and a dual pane function.

Tabbed Windows

We’ve all got used to tabbed windows in our web-browsers. Almost all web-browsers offer tabbed windows and it has become a feature we couldn’t live without. Many other apps that I use on a daily basis such as Photoshop and my text editor Coda also use tabbed windows and it’s something I now come to expect of an application. It keeps things tidy and well organised and makes managing multiple windows within in application a breeze.

The Finder shouldn’t be any different, I often have multiple Finder windows open and trying to find the one I want from a whole stack of them can be a nuisance. Tabbed windows would make so much sense in the Finder – Quite why it hasn’t been implemented in the OSX I don’t know.

Dual Panes

The Finder in Mac OSX is used for file management, this often involves moving and copying files from one place to another. Again, finding the two folders you need can be difficult when you have a whole load of Finder windows open. Dual Pane file browsing allows you to view the contents of two folders or volumes side-by-side in one window. Perfect for those comparing, copying and moving tasks within the Finder – Except that the Mac OSX Finder doesn’t support his feature.


Tabs in TotalFInder

Tabs in TotalFInder

I’ve recently come across TotalFinder which “brings tabs to your native Finder and more!”. It’s a small application from Binary Age that adds both Tabbed Browsing and Dual Pane Browsing to the Mac OSX Finder. I’m in the process of testing it at the moment, but so far it seems to be working well.

It works as an add on to the Finder, so all of the usual Finder features are available meaning there is very little new to learn. However you can now use tabs which look similar to Google Chrome’s tabs, and provide similar functionality as well; you can move tabs around within a window, drag tabs into their own separate windows, combine multiple windows into one tabbed window, and more.

Dual Pane Browsing

Dual Pane Browsing

A quick keyboard shortcut also brings up the Dual Pane view which instantly displays two separate Finder windows side-by-side, letting you easily move files from one panel to the other. Once you know the keyboard shortcut it is pretty intuitive and easy to use, and something that really should be in the Finder as standard.

TotalFinder also offers a few other features such as Visor, which is s system-wide TotalFinder window displaying at the bottom of the screen. Accessed by a keyboard shortcut, when you activate Visor a TotalFinder window pops up from the bottom of the screen above all other windows. It is fixed to the bottom of the screen but has all of the features of a normal Finder window along with those additional features of TotalFinder. A handy way to get to the FInder when in any application. TotalFinder also has options that allow you to show hidden files and arrange the contents of windows so that folders are always shown at the top above documents. I’m still testing this application but it seems to address some of the shortcomings of the Finder in a neat an unobtrusive way. Total Finder has a 14 day free trial and then costs $15.

Path Finder

Path Finder

Path Finder

I’ve looked at Path Finder a few times in the past as an alternative to the Finder but never actually decided to buy it. It is a really nice application and has lots of extras built into it. As well as Tabbed Finder windows and Dual Pane windows it also has features such as Drop Stacks that allow you to move files from various folders around with ease, a built in Terminal drawer and many many ways to customise your Finder experience. I’m going to give it another go as it really is an impressive application that does everything the Finder should do and more, however it is quite expensive at $39.95.

I’ve never really felt like paying that for something that should be in the OS as standard. Especially as I’ve been holding onto the hope that Apple would just buy it and add it to the next release of the Operating System – I live in hope.

Path FInder runs as separate application to the Finder. This used to be pretty annoying but there is now an option to quit the Finder on launch and obviously one to start Path Finder at start-up which should make the experience of replacing the Finder fairly transparent. Although I’d really like to see these features within the Finder itself rather than having to run a separate program that duplicates the Finders functions. Quitting the Finder like this also means that certain features of the Finder aren’t available, such as the ability to enter Time Machine interface.

Path Finder is a more powerful alternative to the Finder than Total Finder is, but as a separate application it takes a little more learning and does look a little different to the  Finder we are all used to. It is available as a 30 day trial so I might just give it another go.

In an ideal world, many of the features of Path Finder should be in the Finder as standard. Part of me wants to use Path Finder as some of its features are perfect, but I’m not sure that I want to spend the money on it. Until these things are incorporated into OSX, Total Finder seems like a very useful way of adding Tabbed Browsing and Dual Pane Browsing at a low cost without too many changes to your usual Finder experience.

3 Responses

  1. Thierry says:


    After more than a year… which one did you decide to use?


    • Alan says:

      In the end I decided against using any of them… I’m just using the plain old Finder as none of them quite seemed to improve productivity so i decided it was an unnecessary drain on resources and I’d be better off with simple OSX.


  2. Scott says:

    Thats how I felt about it, I like keeping my machine lean, and not being redundant in getting multiple apps that serve the same purpose. However what I decided was to use pathfinder only when having to do file management or other tasks that might be tedious in the standard finder, or for anything that can be performed more efficiently. But for daily normal use I use finder.

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Alan Cole

Alan is a Freelance Website Designer, Sports & Exercise Science Lab Technician and full time Dad & husband with far too many hobbies: Triathlete, Swimming, Cycling, Running, MTBing, Surfing, Windsurfing, SUPing, Gardening, Photography.... The list goes on.

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