There have been many attempts over the years to expand on Finder, which some Mac users consider too basic or just too awkward to use when many windows are involved.

Cocoatech's Path Finder is the most famous example, offering tabs, dual-pane file-browsing and additional list sorting options; however, Path Finder is essentially a standalone application, and so if you use it you'll find yourself switching between it and Finder proper.

TotalFinder isn't nearly as advanced as Path Finder, but it takes the most important components and brings them to Apple's native Finder minus any extraneous interfaces.

Tabs, TotalFinder's dual-pane mode and the system-wide Visor are explored in the walkthrough below, so here we'll cover some of TotalFinder's smaller features.

Most of these are easily accessible by going to Finder > Preferences, selecting TotalFinder and then clicking the Tweaks tab. Here, you'll see checkboxes and user-definable shortcuts for: showing otherwise invisible system files; Folders on Top, which places folders above files in list views; and Always Maximise, which makes a Finder window full-screen when you click the green 'zoom' button.

There's also a Freelance Windows checkbox. When checked, this retains Finder's default behaviour of opening a folder in a new window if it's Command-clicked; if you don't check this, TotalFinder opens Command-clicked folders in new tabs.

The tutorial starts by assuming you've installed TotalFinder and have launched the application. On doing this, Finder will restart, so TotalFinder can integrate itself into Apple's file browser. For more information about TotalFinder, including any possible future developments, visit http://totalfinder.binaryage.com.

Note that if you work through the tutorial and decide that TotalFinder's not for you, click TotalFinder's menu extra and select Restart Finder to revert to Finder or Uninstall TotalFinder to remove the application entirely. Of course, you could always read our review of the latest version of TotalFinder before you install it – simply turn to page 100.

How to master TotalFinder

1. Work with tabs

step 1

When TotalFinder is running, new Finder windows start life with a single tab, which replaces the title bar. The tabs are akin to those in Google Chrome, so click the + icon (or use Command+T) to get a new tab, click × to close a tab, and note that each tab displays the folder's icon.

2. Manage your tabs

step 2

Tabs are managed like tabs in modern web browsers. You can click-hold and drag left or right to reposition a tab within a window, or tear one free to create a new window once you let go of the mouse button. You can also drag tabs between Finder windows.

3. Drag content to tabs

step 3

TotalFinder makes it simple to move content between tabs. Click-hold a file and drag it over a tab. When the arrow appears, let go of the mouse button and the file will be moved. Alternatively, pause for a second to switch to the destination tab and go further in the folder.

4. Activate dual-pane view

step 4

Select View > Toggle Dual Mode (or press Command+U) to activate dual-pane mode. If you've only one tab open, it will be cloned; if you've more than one tab, your selected tab will join to the one to its right (if available) or to the one to its left. (Command+U also reverts.)

5. Work in dual-pane mode

step 5

When in dual mode, tabs 'link' in the tab bar and are managed as one. A dual-mode's window is split, providing a Finder window instance (including sidebar) on each side. Set both sides to list view to get an efficient file management workspace akin to an FTP client.

6. Activate Visor

step 6

Go to Finder > Preferences and select the TotalFinder section. Click the Visor tab and check The Visor Feature. Visor is a system wide Finder window that slides up from the bottom of the screen when you activate it using the shortcut (Command+' by default).

7. Work with Visor

step 7

Visor is handy for stashing regularly used folders, which can be accessed with a single keyboard shortcut from any app. When Visor is deactivated (using Command+' or Esc if you check the option in the Visor preferences), the app you were in is automatically refocused.

8. Pin Visor

step 8

At the top-left of Visor, you'll see a non-standard blue button. This is not a close button – but, it pins Visor open when clicked (you can also use the shortcut Shift+Command+P) and therefore stops Visor from automatically closing when you switch to another application.

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First published in MacFormat Issue 229

Liked this? Then check out 5 smart Mac OS X Finder alternatives

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