Give your file management a boost with ForkLift 3

Before macOS Sierra, Finder had no option to list folders and files separately1. I’m still using El Capitan because of other dependencies and viewing folders mixed in with files really grinds my gears. And I still can’t understand the logic behind using return to rename a file or folder instead of opening it. Fortunately, several third-party Finder replacements have emerged to fill these gaps.

Finder alternatives either extend Finder’s native functionality (like XtraFinder and Total Finder) or run as stand-alone applications (like ForkLift and PathFinder). XtraFinder was a capable solution to my gripes for several years. When Apple introduced System Integrity Protection (SIP) with El Capitan, it crippled XtraFinder and the other applications using the first approach. Partially disabling SIP restores functionality, but I wasn’t prepared to compromise security and started looking for alternatives.

ForkLift 3 is the best dual-pane Finder replacement I've used

ForkLift 3 is the best dual-pane Finder replacement I’ve used

The candidates

TotalFinder was my first destination until I realized it was also a casualty of SIP. I found Commander One too reminiscent of old DOS based file managers. Path Finder can do anything you’d ever want but seemed like overkill for the handful of issues I was looking to solve. I’m not sure how I formed this impression, but I had the perception that ForkLift was an FTP client. It can fill that role, but it’s also an excellent alternative to the Finder. It has enough power features without the interface becoming cluttered and feeling too unfamiliar.

New features in ForkLift 3

File managers aren’t exactly the sexiest application category, but Binary Nights’ release of ForkLift 3 this week includes some seriously cool features. ForkLift addresses all the issues I have with Finder and delivers a stack of extras.

I’ll cover some highlights here. You can find the full feature list on the ForkLift product page.

Dual pane file management

The split window arrangement used in most Finder replacements makes life a lot easier when you’re moving or copying files. Naturally, you can switch to a single file pane and tabbed windows are also supported.

ForkLift 3's dual-pane layout simplifies moving and copying between locations

ForkLift 3’s dual-pane layout simplifies moving and copying between locations (click to enlarge)

Quick open

This feature lets you jump to a location or run a command with a few keystrokes. Press esc to activate quick open, then type a few letters of the command or location you want to apply. It makes jumping between locations easy without using the mouse.

With Quick Open you can run commends or change locations without taking your hands off the keyboard

With Quick Open you can run commends or change locations without taking your hands off the keyboard

Quick select

Another feature keyboard-oriented users will love. Once you activate Quick Select with cmd + s, you enter some text to match a set of files you want to work with. You can then select them, add them to, or remove them from the existing selection.

Use Quick Select to modify the current file selection from the keyboard

Use Quick Select to modify the current file selection from the keyboard

Bulk file renaming

There’s no easy way to bulk rename files in Finder. Prefixing a group of files with a date or adding a sequence number is a one-at-a-time operation. I normally use NameChanger for bulk file renaming, but ForkLift 3 can also handle this. Multi-rename presets let you template name transformations you use repeatedly. For example, you might create a preset to replace spaces in filenames with underscores or prepend the file creation date. Just drop your files onto the preset in the sidebar to rename them.

Forcing filenames to lower-case and adding a sequence number with ForkLift 3's bulk rename feature

Forcing filenames to lower-case and adding a sequence number with ForkLift 3’s bulk rename feature

Edit text files in preview

Text files are editable in the preview area without opening them in a text editor. This can speed up small changes to text files.

Other features

There’s plenty more on offer like:

  • support for Amazon S3, FTP, WebDAV and other remote server connections
  • file synchronization between local and remote hosts
  • synchronized navigation when working with similar file structures in different locations
  • dark mode.
Forklift 3 adds dark mode

Forklift 3 adds dark mode (click to enlarge)

I sometimes found the older ForkLift 2 sluggish. ForkLift 3 addresses those performance issues and feels far more responsive than its predecessor. Together with the slew of new features, it’s well worth upgrading.

Introductory discount

ForkLift 3 is on sale for the next few days. There’s a free trial with access to all features to let you kick the tires and decide if it’s right for you. If Finder’s configurability is too limiting, make sure you check out ForkLift.


  1. Thanks Marc for pointing this out. It’s been a long time coming. 

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1 Response

  1. March 13, 2017

    […] After auditioning various alternatives, ForkLift emerged as the best option for me. See my ForkLift 3 review for more details. If you’re looking for a Finder replacement, I’d start with […]

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