Mac convert tip #5: Fix Finder frustrations with XtraFinder

The smallest things can sometimes cause the greatest friction. It’s a very close call as to which Finder “feature” is responsible for the most expletives since I switched to Mac about six months ago. The contenders are:

  1. using return to rename files instead of opening them; and
  2. alphabetical sorting which mixes folders together with files. I prefer the Windows approach of displaying folders ahead of any files.

Thankfully, a recent discovery has resolved both these frustrations.

File folders in a records centre

Photo credit: Chris Blakeley via photopin cc

Perhaps it’s just conditioning from using Windows for so long, but grouping folders together ahead of files makes more sense to me. Judging by the number of comments on support sites and the variety of third-party solutions for this problem, I’m not the only one. And then there’s the rename thing. I just can’t see the logic behind that. return is the convention for performing the default action using the keyboard. Surely for files and folders that’s opening them.

I tried sort by kind as a workaround. While this puts the folders together, it also groups related document types which can then make it harder to find files in the listing. Other’s have suggested naming folders with a leading underscore or other character to sort them first, but that really didn’t appeal to me. I was reluctant to use a third-party application. Operating system updates have a habit of breaking applications that modify the behaviour of core operating system tools like Finder. But in this case it seems like the only real option.

Update (13 March 2017). When Apple introduced System Integrity Protection (SIP) with El Capitan, it crippled XtraFinder and other applications that extend Finder’s features. Partially disabling SIP restores functionality at the cost of weaker security. 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 ForkLift.

I’ve now used XtraFinder for a few weeks and can’t see myself going back. It seems very stable and I haven’t seen any unusual behaviour. It’s resolved the two issues that most irritated me and has many other useful features like:

  • a handy dual-pane view which displays two locations side by side;
  • a pinnable Finder window which remains on top of other applications;
  • an option to remap backspace and delete to work as they do on Windows (ie. backspace moves to the parent folder and delete moves the selected files to the trash);
  • Finder context menu customisation; and
  • extensive control via keyboard commands.

Paid alternatives including Total Finder ($18) and Path Finder ($39.95) also address these issues. Both these applications let you fine-tune Finder’s behaviour to your liking. For the minor changes I was looking for the paid alternatives seemed like overkill. XtraFinder has done exactly what I needed and included a few bonus features.

Question: What’s operating system utilities can’t you live without?


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All tips: How to switch from Windows to Mac without the frustration


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1 Response

  1. February 17, 2016

    […] Fix Finder frustrations with XtraFinder. […]

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