Tigersharks: Taking Path Finder 10.4-only

by Joshua Scott Emmons

Path Finder

Last week (and the week before) we heard some compelling arguments for the support of legacy platforms. We also learned of the customer service advantages this kind of support can lend a company. But what if there is no company? What if, instead of a team of coders on a project, you find yourself the sole developer? And what if that project, instead of being a simple arcade game from the ’90s, is nothing short of an award-winning replacement for the Finder itself?

This is the situation Steve Gehrman, sole developer of the acclaimed utility Path Finder, found himself in when contemplating the fourth major release of his über file manager. In moving forward, he decided to eschew legacy platforms and, with the help of tech support and web design whiz Neil Lee, make PF4 a Tiger-only app. How has this strategy worked out for these two gentlemen of Cocoatech? “It was the right decision,” says Steve.


13 Comments

MacFanDave
2006-06-05 09:55:44
"To paraphrase Homer: we didn't want to do Path Finder 4 half-assed; we wanted to put our entire ass into it!"


I'm really glad when I see a programmer who has a background in Classics. The Greek poet who wrote The Iliad and The Odyssey sure had a way with words!

Trevor
2006-06-05 10:10:54
"The #1 motivation [in going Tiger-only] was to take advantage of the new stable frameworks and bug fixes to Cocoa"


I think it's a sad commentary on Apple that the #1 new feature of Tiger is bug fixes. I guess now I know what my $129 upgrade fee was paying for: bug fixes to Cocoa. C'mon, Apple, why not ship 10.3.10 with these fixes instead of (for lack of a better phrase) scamming us?

Josh Peters
2006-06-05 10:24:03
MacFanDave: it's amazing that Homer not only wrote the Odyssey, but starred in a parody of it too!
DanielEran
2006-06-05 11:15:39
Hey Trevor - would you prefer that new releases of Mac OS X lather on features without making significant code refinements underneath? Because that's what you get from Microsoft. Apple actually does both: they pack in lots of splashy features that work for bullet point marketing, while at the same time introducing bug fixes to the basic frameworks and making other invisible refinements (like the introduction of launchd) that make the OS faster, more reliable and stable.


You complain about why 10.4 wasn't just 10.3.10. The 10.3.x updates (of which there have been nine - free - up to last year) fix bugs with 10.3. But 10.4 introduced new and cleaned up frameworks, new features, and redisigned mechanisms that could not be ported back into 10.3 without breaking things.


Guess what? 10.5 will do the same thing. Apple is managing the balance between fresh thinking and API stability rather brilliantly. They're rolling out new tech at such a fast pace they had to delay new versions of OS X from a 1 year cycle to 1.5 years just to keep people from suffering new-fatigue.


It's amazing you can still find people who pout the opportunity to pay for something fresh in a world full of yawn software, lead by microsoft. It's like walking into a organic food market and complaining that you're paying for "no pesticide," and then complaining that after you eat it, you'll need to buy more later. Maybe you could instead appreciate that there is food left on earth that isn't mass grown, nutrient free and tasteless.

Neil
2006-06-05 21:11:12
Um, that was supposed to have been attributed to Homer SImpson. I don't think Hephaistos ever referred to his ass at any point, though maybe I slept though that part. :)
swisswuff
2006-06-07 16:37:35
Konqueror and Finder for OS X 10.4 both offer better setups and features for good file control and browsing than Pathfinder.
Joshua Emmons
2006-06-12 12:39:58
swisswuff,


You'll excuse me for noting you comment is tragically light on details. If you expect to be taken seriously, I would suggest fleshing your claims out a little bit. Otherwise you run the risk of labeling yourself a "clueless luser".

swisswuff
2006-06-13 05:21:56
Anyone halfways fluent in browsing / organizing lots of files, huge files and complicated setups (otherwise, why worry about browsing intricacies at all) will probably share some of these observations:


1. Konqueror offers full integration of FTP services, plug-in based file previews (including simple postscript files that are neither previewed in Finder or Pathfinder, immediate text-previews neither offered by Finder or Pathfinder, et cetera), as well as X-windows capability which neither Finder nor Pathfinder offer even remotely {pun}.


2. Finder offers an extremely light and well structured fluid-feeling file surfing experience. Pathfinder's main window is a view-jamming, mind narrowing experience of redundantely placed control items that mainly should be turned off, as long I'm not trying to impress other people with the illusion that I'd be "controlling the world" but, in fact, navigate a directory structure and handle files. At the moment where Pathfinder is not overloaded any more, it's like Finder, so why not use Finder.


4. Finder and Konqueror preferences are ordered somewhat logically, whereas Pathfinder preferences are one single big mess. Maybe that's good for people who like their commands "grouped together", but I'm not one of these.


5. Pathfinder crashes out of no apparent reason every once in a while, like, every 10-50 minutes on a PPC OS X 10.4 system with admittedly somewhat large (huge?) files under full file browsing, which neither Finder nor Konqueror do without any further test why that would be. Personally, I like OS X because many applications crash far less often than Pathfinder. Maybe it relates to Pathfinder's occasional, somewhat unnerving milling through setting up new windows or pulling down some menus neither experienced on Konqueror or Finder. Even though, if you're the patient type of guy or you just keep up to 20 items per folder (which was, I think, the recommended maximum number under some OS 7 or 8), I'm sure it's not such a big deal.


6. Konqueror is the only one of these that allows drop-then-decide commands such as move-/copy-on-drop, which is a decision you'd typically base independently of the physical location of a file - whereas Finder or Pathfinder both force you to have your other hand on the keyboard to press down "option" AND consider the physical file location(s), in order to get copy to work unless you're copying something to another volume however without the option to move at all then - which you may just find out after you release the mouse button. Extremely useful if file admin/organization is what you actually want to achieve, and if you do scatter your directories across a range of physical volumes. Of course, if all you do is have 1 volume and some pics and music on it you'd be ok - but then, why power-browse?!


7. Browsing history is something that Konqueror offers, but neither Finder or Pathfinder have. I do like browsing histories :-) It's like having your own foot print over the digital landscape. If all you do is go back to your same old five folders, then of course you can easily do without browser history.


8. Finder is easily expanded using Applescript, Automator and Quickeys. I currently use a Unicomp Terminal keyboard and mapped some of the keys to frequently used functions.


9. Little stuff. Like trying to changing permissions on a folder. Obviously, you either want to change that folder's permission, or additionally apply changes to what's inside. Both Finder and Konqueror offer that option - Pathfinder doesn't. I'm not saying anything's bad with Terminal, don't get me wrong.


So here's my ranking:


1. Konqueror. Particularly good features: Specific advantages to real file organization and administration, most logical structure of setup and navigation, and thus, best usefulness.


2. Finder. Particularly good features: Very elegant and very light. Easily expanded / integrated with other applications on OS X.


3. Terminal commands. Particularly good features: Very powerful, and nice themes.


4. Pathfinder.


2006-06-13 05:25:10
> If you expect to be taken seriously, I would suggest
> fleshing your claims out a little bit. Otherwise
> you run the risk of labeling yourself a "clueless luser".


So seeing as if they call that piece of program "Pathfinder", this post of yours makes you the "brainy light shiner", right?

Joshua Emmons
2006-06-13 08:32:34
swisswuff,


Thank you for taking the time to write a post with actual content. Doesn't it make you feel better to have your opinions and advice laid out where someone (perhaps the developers of Finder or Path Finder?) can make use of them?


My own thoughts on your wish-list:


1. FTP integration would be nice, but I doubt Finder or Path Finder could add anything that's not already covered by Transmit, so I could understand if it's not a high priority. X-Windows capability, on the other hand, I have absolutely no use for in a file manager. In the age of Remote Desktop, I can't imagine anyone else would, either.


2. I agree Finder is light and Path Finder is heavy. That's kind of the point. Path Finder offers features not found in Finder. That's why some people prefer Path Finder. I agree that it may be an uncomfortable-yet-necessary marketing ploy to have all these features enabled by default — rather like how OS X used to have dock magnification turned on by default. It wows customers and moves units, but is not a very practical way to use the product.


However I must take issue with your claim that people might as well use Finder because Path Finder is overloaded. This might be true if the first thing a Path Finder user did was turn off all extra features in the program. But that is obviously never the case. People who use Path Finder have bought it because it offers some feature (often many features) that makes their file management tasks easier. One could easily say, "lynx is light and Safari is heavy, so you might as well use lynx." But that would be a bit silly, wouldn't it.


3. Intentionally left blank?


4. It seems you can only have it one way or another. Preferences can either be "one single big mess" or they can be "grouped together". They can't be both, so I'm not sure what your point is. But it seems to me as though Path Finder's prefs are of the "grouped" variety, and that this is a Good Thing. Path Finder has so many tweakable settings that to put the all in one big window would be overwhelming.


5. Having your file manager crash must really suck. But I suggest the problem may not reside with Path Finder. I've been using it for a year, routinely use it to copy files >1Gb, and I've yet to have it crash on me. I guess it could be I'm just lucky, though.


6. I've never known this "drop and decide" behavior was a feature of Konqueror. I've never come across it and it's not mentioned in the app's documentation, so I'm not sure how it works. Though surely if a key press isn't required, some other button press is? I hope it's not like Windows, where you have to right-click-drag to perform this type of operation, as that requires you to know what you're going to do before you start dragging, which is a pain.


As to your confusion as to whether you're dragging a file to a local or remote volume, I shouldn't think that'd be too big a problem for you as the pointer sprouts a big green (+) badge if it's copying, regardless of location. Why worry about if it's local or not? All you need to worry about is if it's copying or moving.


7. While both Finder and Path Finder have a Recent Folders menu and OS X itself has a Recent Items menu full of documents and applications, I also wish these features were more robust. Konqueror's implementation is the one to beat, here.


8. I agree. And so does Steve. From the FAQ, "Some applications do require Apple's Finder to work properly, and this was hindered by poor Applescript support for Cocoa applications in Mac OS X. We plan to do a major upgrade in this area in a future version once Applescript support in Cocoa applications is improved."


9. Again, I agree. This is on my Path Finder wishlist as well. On the other hand, I change the executable permissions of single files more often than I change the read/write permissions of groups of files (though I admit this is not normal behavior). In that area, Path Finder has the lead over Finder.

swisswuff
2006-06-14 00:36:38
About the Konqueror feature:


http://docs.kde.org/stable/en/kdebase/konqueror/moving.html


"Release the button and you will be presented with a menu choice of Copy or Move."


Point is, that this is an extremely useful feature if you like a instant distinction between (a) puttting a file /group of files / directory somewhere for archiving it ("move", no matter what), (b) backup it/them ("copy", no matter what).


Particularly for the "file heaps/stacks" which Pathfinder seems to tentatively offer, copy/move distinction seems to be extremely important to me, as you may not want to go through the move/copy question for each individual file. You'll end up with an inconsistent user action when relying on green + signs on your cursor.

Joshua Scott Emmons
2006-06-14 08:09:07
Release the button and you will be presented with a menu choice of Copy or Move.


My mistake. When you were talking about "drag and decide" I thought you were talking about a way to get around the menu that Konqueror insists on popping up. "I've decided I want to move this, so don't ask me."


As I now understand it (and correct me again if I'm wrong), it is exactly that menu that you think is a feature of Konqueror, right? The fact that Konqueror pops that menu up whenever you drag is what lets you "drag and decide"?


If so, let me be honest and say that I hate that menu. I think it's horrible interface design and it annoys me whenever it pops up (thus my supposition that you must be talking about a way to avoid it). So we may have to agree to disagree here. I think I understand you position, that when one assumes, one makes an ASS out of U and ME, and when you assume about a drag operation in a file manager, you're likely to make an ASS out of your filesystem as well. So it's always better to be explicit and have the user click on a menu item.


My position is that, seeing as it is possible for the file manager to intuit your intended action 80% of the time, I would rather it perform that action by default without any further fuss. If that action needs to be overridden, holding a modifier key down seems a reasonable trigger.


I don't know that there could ever be a lot of overlap between these two views, unless you would agree that we could let the file-manager intuit what you want to do with files for most situations, and I would agree that if you wanted to change the default behavior (or if you just want to be sure), holding down the modifier key would pop up a menu.


You'll end up with an inconsistent user action when relying on green + signs on your cursor.


I'm afraid I still don't understand what you're talking about here. When is the + sign ever inconsistent? Whenever you see it, you're copying. Whenever you don't, you're moving. That seems the very definition of consistent (unless you know of some situation where the above is not true?)

Webb
2007-08-23 14:19:21
Let's give Steve Gehrman a round of applause for his courage.


In spite of his battle with schizophrenia, his firing from Final Draft, a very reputable fly-by-night company (formerly known as the famous BCsoftware!) and drug addiction, he has now joined the ranks of the few, the proud, the 14-year old scripting monkeys of Macintosh with his Pathfinder!!


We should also thank O'rielly for publicising this great piece of news!


And I dont wanna hear any steve is a moron, or steve stole this stuff from open source shit you hear?