Tuesday, October 21, 2008

20 ways to improve Finder in 10.6

So apparently Apple is finally making Finder a 100% native cocoa app. I'm not sure what took so long. Finder in 10.5 is much improved over 10.4 in terms of stability in performance but the new feature(s) are underwhelming. CoverFlow is useful sometimes but I feel like it needs a lot of refinement. For example, creating thumbnails is just too slow. I can manually find the file quicker than it can make a thumbnail for me.

If they're re-writing Finder it's probably safe to bet they're looking at revamping it also. I'm a fan of Finder's simplicity and usability. For any serious file management I use Terminal or Path Finder. I don't want to see them make Finder too cluttered but, at the same time, it feels like a very dumb app. I find myself repeating the same clicks over and over again. So for 10.6 I'd like to see:

1) More view options -- especially a view option that takes into account the type of data I am looking at. CoverFlow is a good start but there's a ton of room for improvement. For example, when I'm looking at a folder full of MP3s I should be able to see the ID3 tags. Windows Explorer has had this feature since Windows 2000 IIRC.

2) An option to automatically zoom the window size depending on folder contents. This is a feature I've used in rox-filer (I think..?) on Linux. It's quite handy. I find myself hitting the zoom button way too often.

3) SpotLight needs to default to the current folder I am in. It makes no sense to search the entire computer first. Perhaps it could be done with a prefix. For instance, if I type in _filename it knows to search the current folder first.

4) A highlighting find-as-you-type feature ala Safari where the unmatched items get grayed out and your search term gets highlighted.

5) TABS. I just have too many Finder windows open sometimes. Make sure they are movable and detachable like Safari.

6) Genius for Finder: If I'm always working on file A, B and C together a sidebar should show me them. If I'm always opening another folder when I work on file A, B and C, show it in the sidebar too. All the data is there -- it just needs to be parsed.

7) Icon view thumbnails. CoverFlow is nice but probably the #1 thing I miss about Explorer or Nautilus are the icon based thumbnails. It's just a more efficient use of screen space.

8) Intelligent font/icon sizes. If I'm looking at a folder with 5 items why not make the text/icon bigger? if I'm looking at a folder with 1000 items make them smaller.

9) Copy & Paste. It's about time guys. Personally I am able to cope with copy and manual deleting but the average Windows switcher is probably really put out by the lack of this feature. It's harmless to add, so why not?

10) Better Spotlight for network shares. This isn't exactly a Finder issue per say but it's something we need. I know it can be done with OSX Server but that's overkill.

11) More toolbar options. They don't have to be on by default but it would be nice to customize them. Mount network share, browse network, copy/paste, etc.

12) Stop doing that thing where sometimes a Finder window open that is rooted in nowhere. You can't go back, you can't turn on column view to see where the folder is on your file system. It's confusing and it wastes time.

13) Add a toolbar button for application expose so I can quickly see all my Finer windows.

14) Rectangle drawing selection in list-view mode.

15) Get Info sidebar /w hotkey.

16) Customizable shortcut keys. Hide it away somewhere in System Preferences so the average user who doesn't care about customizing them never has to bother with it.

17) I like how Finder remembers what items I have expanded in list view but sometimes it's beyond annoying. I'm not sure how to fix it but there has to be a solution.

18) Warn me if I'm about to accidentally open a gazillion files. I do this probably at least once a week. It's a little on the nagging side but I kinda doubt many people do it often on purpose so why not?

19) "Install" option on DMG packages. It's kinda cute to drag the icon into your Apps folder and all but an item in the context menu to do it for me would be pretty slick. Install the app, automatically unmount the DMG, done.

20) QuickView should keep playing audio & video when Finder is in the background. I really like the simple UI for viewing movies & audio and I would like to just use it as my primary media player most of the time. I rarely need more features than play, pause, seek. As things stand right now as soon as Finder is not the foreground app it stops. It's a little contrary to the logic behind QuickView, I admit, but I think it makes it a more valuable feature for people.

And, of course, option 21) Blow it up. Totally rethink the way Finder works. Free us from this archaic file/directory structure we've been dealing with for decades. I don't really care where my files are most of the time. In fact, I would truly love a way to mask that information for most of my day-to-day tasks. I would love to just have some virtual concept of "OK, here's all your music sortable by album/artist/etc with artwork and all your other meta data" or "OK, here's every GarageBand project you've worked on with previews." Maybe one file is on my iMac, another is on my MacPro, maybe another is on iDisk. Who cares where it is? I tend to breakdown my usage of Finder for viewing only. Serious file management requires Terminal or PathFinder. It might make more sense for Apple to extend this concept. Finder should be a portal to your data -- not a file management tool. I would highly suggest Apple purchase the company who makes PathFinder and integrate it into OSX as the advanced file management tool while Finder become simply a way to access your data in a passive way.

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