The Finder: An Idea

Discussion in 'macOS' started by elppa, May 28, 2007.

  1. elppa macrumors 68040


    Nov 26, 2003
    Many people say the Finder is broken or at least in need of some TLC. It hasn't had a update feature wise since Panther (2003) and arguably hasn't changed much since 2001. And I agree.

    There must be a better way to find and organise all the files we have on computers now? In 1997 it was common to have 4-10 GB hard drives (from memory), in 2007 100GB is standard and Hitachi already have a terrabyte (1000 GB) hard disk.

    I heard one suggestion of making the Finder to a more iLife like interface where files can be organised into projects. Maybe instead of icons using QuickView previews in their place.

    Another idea would be to have spotlight replace the finder (controversial), so every user file goes into a huge dump where it can be searched for by name, file type, date, meta data etc.

    Another idea would be to modularise the Finder, so responsibility for separate tasks (Networking, Disk Burning etc.) is given separate applications.

    Or even have separate apps for dealing with Applications, System Files (fonts, wallpaper, preferences**) and User Created Files (Word, pages, psd etc.).

    Apple basically admitted by creating iPhoto and iTunes that for managing particular types of files specialist tools are required. I think they started down this route with separate "Documents", "Movies", "Sites" and "Pictures" folders, but never really expanded the concept. Shouldn't Photos open up iPhoto and Music open iTunes or display an iLife media browser style view?

    If you think this is all too far fetched, note that iPhone has no Finder, yet it stores pictures, movies, music, email, notes, appointments etc. I hope this idea of "organisation by default" is a big theme running through Leopard.

    I also think the Desktop has to go. It does nothing to help people organise anything and just serves as a catch all dumping ground for people who find the traditional metaphors and techniques confusing for organising files*.

    Fine, people like putting downloads there, but really it wastes time, because you have to sort through them later. A better solution is to stick the downloads folder somewhere else and have Safari manage which are deleted (or whichever web browser).

    At the moment it's really clunky. Delete a download from the list in Safari and it remains in the Finder, delete it from the Finder and it remains in the list, so when you click the magnifying glass it tells you the file can't be found. The two should be synced.

    The real challenge is keeping it simple, yet powerful. Keeping pros and consumers happy. Maybe Apple needs finder and finder+. The Simple Finder is an attempt at this, but it's a bit too simple for most.

    One thing I think they should also do (although unlikely) is chuck is the Apple Menu**, it is completely useless to the point I only use it for "About This Mac". I accept that this is more of a OS X issue than a Finder issue.

    * This is not a criticism of these users, this means there is a problem which needs fixing. When I get home for the Summer I can guarantee there will be 20-50 files pilled high on the Desktop of my Mum and Dad's computer.

    ** Apple (rightly) tried this originally but there was a backlash, apparently it was "oh so important" at the time, although I can't for the life of me remember the reason why! There were also people unimpressed with OS X a swore they would stick with Mac OS 9 (I don't think they really understood the technology step-up). I wonder where they are now?

    Also, I know there is absolutely loads of stuff on the Finder already so mods feel free to delete this if you feel it adds little to the discussion, but I just wanted to stimulate a bit more debate and share my thoughts. Also , I have no ideal solution, but will be interested to see how it all pans out on the 11th.
  2. dpaanlka macrumors 601


    Nov 16, 2004
    The problem with most of your ideas is they focus on making lazy people's lives easier and organized people's lives more difficult and annoying. I don't want to use Spotlight to search for everything - I already know where everything is! And there is nothing wrong with the desktop. People should be putting things in folders anyway, but when you walk around offices you'll see messy desks and clean desks. They have the same amount of material, but the people who sit at the clean desks just organized and hide it all away like you're supposed to.

    I think the flux of the problem are the users, not he software. People need to be better acquainted with good filing habits.
  3. psychofreak Retired


    May 16, 2006
    I like having the desktop as a dumping ground (for things like screenshots and pictures dragged off Safari)...I barely use the Finder as I'm too in love with Quicksilver :)
  4. xUKHCx Administrator emeritus


    Jan 15, 2006
    The Kop
    Like this idea, but may cause confusion between the Finder iPhoto and the actual iPhoto, or are you suggesting to totally get rid of iPhoto, along with others.

    The desktop is very useful for me, I put all my downloads there and then sort out which ones i want to keep or get rid of. I don't necessarily do this straight away and if i had it elsewhere i could easily forget about something.
  5. synth3tik macrumors 68040


    Oct 11, 2006
    Minneapolis, MN
    I agree with dpaanlka. The file system itself is the easiest out of the big 3 OSs'. The idea of having spotlight replace the finder is great if you have an 8-core Mac Pro with 16G of RAM. To index everything on your computer in spotlight would take a long long time.

    I do agree that the finder is getting a little old, but the new GUI in 10.5 will address (hopefully) this issue. Adding more functionality to the finder is great, there are a lot of third-party apps that do this.

    Thank you for your ideas. It's nice to hear what other people are after in their computing.
  6. dpaanlka macrumors 601


    Nov 16, 2004
    And just think of how many people still don't even "get" the desktop metaphor.

    Now imagine changing the desktop metaphor to something complex Spotlight and QuickSilver - that would just totally wipe out a majority of public comprehension of computers.

    The Desktop metaphor works. It's based on real world logic and common sense. I don't think replacing it with something very abstract, complicated, and assuredly even more confusing to a majority of computer users is going to help.
  7. SMM macrumors 65816


    Sep 22, 2006
    Tiger Mountain - WA State
    Finder is OK and I use it. I also have PathFinder. I find that has more useful features at certain times. Between the two, I do not feel 'the need for want'.
  8. SC68Cal macrumors 68000

    Feb 23, 2006
    I straddle both fences. I have Finder and the ACP (including XFile) on my machine.

    I like Finder's spring-loaded folders, but I hate the .DS_Store files.

    Finder for my "dumb" tasks and Xfile for my serious business(tm)

    Xfile is what Finder should take some advice from.
  9. elppa thread starter macrumors 68040


    Nov 26, 2003
    Interesting thoughts!

    One thing that has always been drilled into me is never to blame the user though.

    If something is too complicated to figure out, that's your fault for poor design, not theirs.

    Also, the spotlight thing was just one idea.

    I have a tidy desk btw. ;)

    But if it wasn't there and these files went into organised folders by default, would you find it easier? (For example a screenshots directory or a downloads folder?)

    I'm not sure, I think it has to be reviewed though. Safari and Mail users are encouraged to put photos into iPhoto by default. I think the best thing for Apple to do is bundle iPhoto with the OS and then tightly integrate it into browsing photos.

    Isn't that the reality of modern life though? A lot of things to do and little time to do them? People work longer hours. We look for shortcuts everywhere: takeaway food, dishwashers, car journeys that probably aren't needed etc. People have relationships, other hobbies, interests and groups, sports, social events etc and it all has to be fitted in. So organising their files neatly folders probably doesn't come top of the list.

    Spotlight will be getting huge speed improvements in Leopard, so we are promised. That said this was just one idea. Although for what it's worth I think just about everything is indexed on the Mac using spotlight anyway.

    I see you are a System 7 fan. That was released in the early 90s. Computers then were primarily used in offices or in education. Fewer people had one in their homes than today. I think the desktop and filing system is particularly apt in that context, but less so when you think of the computer as a device at the centre of a digital hub.
  10. thejadedmonkey macrumors 604


    May 28, 2005
    I like those ideas.. it's what Vista tried to be, and IMO, failed to do. If anyone can pull it off, Apple can.
  11. SC68Cal macrumors 68000

    Feb 23, 2006
    Basically, you're proposing tossing out the notion of logical file hierarchies and replacing them with a relational model?

    Not where it is, but what it is?
  12. Luigi239 macrumors 6502a

    Jan 25, 2007
    No, no, no, and no.

    An operating system needs a basic file browser. To look and organise some photos into folders, I want to be able to work and see the original file structure. I don't want iPhoto to do it for me. I also dont want to have to search every time I want to use a file.

    Your ideas, although interesting, would make the OS a big huge mess.
  13. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus


    Jan 9, 2004
    Grand Rapids, MI, USA
    I think this is likely to happen ultimately. Hard drives and personal file collections are growing much more slowly than the internet, but the internet moved, for most of us, a long, long time ago to a point where we started using hybrid systems of hierarchical / traditional filing (our bookmarks) and search. Right now, what I do for my hard drive is relatively similar -- I put all my files into fairly meticulous folder hierarchies (which I do use) but then I look for them via search increasingly often.

    I think it's a natural progression. As people start to have hundreds of gigabytes of personal files, it becomes more and more necessary.

    But I think to this point, to think of Finder as having not changes is like saying that the bookmark menu hasn't changed much and citing that as a lack of attention to finding websites. Finder and spotlight work in fairly good harmony. There's room for a lot of improvement. But, to the extent that they have overlapping purposes, Spotlight changes how files are found dramatically. I think the most likely future changes to Finder are ones that make it work better with Spotlight.
  14. SC68Cal macrumors 68000

    Feb 23, 2006
    I'm not so sure. Originally when I first started using spotlight, I thought to myself: "my god, that's it! we're on our way to a relational-database model of file systems" (meaning it's not where it is, but what it is) but I think we're not there just yet.

    Plus, as I moved more into the UNIX-style and became more conservative in my computing beliefs (more traditional UNIX ways of thinking) I'm not sure I'd really want to throw out file hierarchies.

    For the user? That's easy, Spotlight and saved searches have basically opened the door to the relational-database model of doing things.

    For the developer and the OS? Definitely not! I'd rather have all that UNIX heritage be baked right into the OS, with no option of changing it. Can you imagine the operating system querying itself to figure out where the swapfile has gotten to? (shudders)

    Yes, an extreme example, but a relevant one.

    I think it's good that we're able to meet in the middle and allow the users to operate as they see fit, within the confines of their own sandbox. I know enough to know that Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie know way more than I do when it comes to building an OS.
  15. elppa thread starter macrumors 68040


    Nov 26, 2003
    No, I'm trying to start a debate on where the Finder should be headed.

    No solutions just yet.

    If "a relational model" is better for users than "logical file hierarchies" then so be it.

    I want things to be cleaned up, not the reverse! Also, iPhoto does organise your files into folders (albums), just at a different level of abstraction. Interesting to see how it bothers you that you can't see "how" it is all done.

    I am completely opposite. Providing I can access my pictures, I know they are backed-up and I can retrieve those backups and they won't get corrupted, then I am happy.
  16. dpaanlka macrumors 601


    Nov 16, 2004
    And that is certainly an excellent mantra to live by. But sometimes, it just doesn't work. The public chooses things that sometimes shouldn't exist. Look at MySpace. Regardless of how popular that is, it's just a tremendously crappy web site. It's not good because everybody likes it (now) and it won't be very popular in the future if it keeps it's current ways, that's for sure. The users made a stupid choice. Now they're paying the price in the form of spam, phishing, porno, free this and that, and lots of pointless garbage.

    But making it even more complicated and adding a level of abstractness isn't going to solve anything. People want to see some sort of connections to their real life. A lot of people still nervously use computers as if they're some sort of mystical magic box. Keeping some sort of connection to their reality makes the most sense.

    They'll probably be scared ******** if they thought the computer had a mind of it's own, guessing what they should do for them and such...

    No, and a perfect example is people who work on large projects. I keep all of my design and video projects filed away nicely, except for when I'm working on them. I want a nice big desktop to throw stuff around on, brainstorm ideas, and mash stuff together. Once everything is done, it gets filed away. But the desktop is key for creativity.

    How often do you see people work with their files by peeking into their filing cabinet and flipping back and forth between files within folders?

    It's pretty darn tightly integrated into the entire Mac life if you ask me.

    But this isn't your responsibility to solve their lazy habits for them. People have two options: have a messy desk, or a clean desk. It's not the IKEA's task to clean it up for you. They can make it more enticing for you to try to keep it clean, by making the desk easier to use. But removing the desk isn't the solution.

    It's still not a desktop replacement.

    No, everything still applies exactly as it did before. Files have changed from papers and line-art to huge photographs and videos and blogs, but we still sit at our desks to manipulate them.

    The only way eliminating the desktop metaphor makes any sense is if computers themselves are changed in such a way that we can just walk around and use them without using our hands or having the desire to sit down eventually.
  17. elppa thread starter macrumors 68040


    Nov 26, 2003
    Maybe I'm being far too idealistic, but the whole lazy/organised thing is kind of irrelevant as I though technology meant to provide tools to make lives easier, not give us more things to do?

    Also with the Desktop metaphor, the point I was trying to make is not where we use computers but what we do with them.
  18. dpaanlka macrumors 601


    Nov 16, 2004
    What your suggesting is that we "make peoples lives easier" by completely eliminating the reality-based desktop metaphor and replacing it with something that is not only very complicated to explain and understand, but also limits what you do.

    Searching for every file in order to open it is NOT an efficient, easy, or productive solution. It's just a lazy solution.

    And everything that we're doing with them has been done on a desk, table, or surface, and/or involved filing things, before computers existed.
  19. elppa thread starter macrumors 68040


    Nov 26, 2003
    I think you misunderstand.

    I do not understand where the "searching for every file" bit came from. That was one of many ideas.

    I don't think the Finder is perfect as it is, nor do I think the file and folder metaphor works for everything, like Music, coverflow is the way to go. I love the implementation on iPhone — like looking at real albums with the track listings on the back. That surely has to be better than clicking through files of MP3 tracks all with a pretty generic icon.

    Edit: I've noticed your tone has got a bit hostile. I am not trying to pick an argument with you. I've just realised now I've quoted quite a few of your posts and it may have appeared that way. I just think your views are interesting to discuss.
  20. indraunt macrumors newbie

    May 18, 2007
    I don't like the finder, and prefer to use Pathfinder instead... I find it irritating that I cannot just get rid of the finder and replace it completely. That would be my first wish.
    so... I guess this is what I'd like to see:
    1. Replaceable. Allow users to *completely* replace the Finder with something else.
    2. Plugins. If its not changed too much, then at least allow plugins to be made so people can tailor the finder to better suit their needs.
    3. Spotlight... I would like to be able to ignore the file system. I'd like to be able to select 'Images' and see all the images on my computer. Likewise for video, documents, etc etc. Then if you want you could create favourates in the same way you create playlists in itunes. Essentially a better integration of spotlight and smart folders.
    Files could be automatically organised acording to tags... So Applicatons just automatically go in the Applications folder, etc etc.
    This suits lazy and organised people - automating the organisation of files would be great, every week I can easily spend a few hours making sure everything is wherer it should be.
  21. SC68Cal macrumors 68000

    Feb 23, 2006
    I think elppa is making good contributions to the discussion. So I don't understand why some people are getting upset, or perhaps mistaking intense deliberation and debate for hostility.There has been plenty of discussion about moving on from standard file hierarchies. It's just that we have to educate users about it, not to mention have to perhaps go back to the train station and switch onto a different track.

    It would certainly be different.

  22. Fairly macrumors regular

    Sep 24, 2006
    Cambridge UK
    Hear hear. Nothing to add. Except that if the lazy ideas ever overtake the sensible ones, you'll see the end of computer science - and computers. Because there won't be anyone left with the competence to build them. And no technology left to build them with.

    Now if you'll excuse me, I have to be off. I have to get my scalpel and my sutures. I'm assisting a surgeon this afternoon who is going to operate on me. I'm a user and even though I have no medical training I have relevant opinions.
  23. elppa thread starter macrumors 68040


    Nov 26, 2003
    I think you are being a bit flippant. I did not claim my opinions were particularly relevant, just that (in my opinion) this is an area of computer use which needs reviewing.

    A lazy idea would be plugging in your digital camera and having it sync all the photos. Does that make use of a computer easier? Of course.

    There is nothing "lazy" about making things simple and elegant for the end user. Not all of which are computer scientists.

    Lay and sensible are not mutually exclusive, not at least in my eyes.
  24. janey macrumors 603


    Dec 20, 2002
    sunny los angeles
    The first thing I do after reinstalling OS X is disabling Spotlight, while even if I had the choice to remove/disable Finder, I wouldn't ever consider it (unless it was going to be replaced by something like PathFinder). So no, this won't work. I have apps like DevonThink to dump all my stuff in.

    But the idea is to not have that and have one app that'll do it all because it's a pain to open all these different apps separately. It's already sort of like this in OS X - what's Disk Utility if it's not a separate application for managing disks?

    But that's how it works on all cellphones and PDAs and smartphones - but they're nowhere near as complex as a desktop/laptop.

    It's a great place for temp files to go before I organize them. Most of mine go from Finder Desktop to catchall folder in DevonThink to sorted in their respective parts. Or, depending on what the file is, either added to my svn repository, burned to a disk, dumped somewhere else, or what have you. I personally love the Desktop idea.

    But the downloads folder wouldn't be displayed as prominently. And no, how does it waste time? Desktop or not, it's the same amount of time to sort or to not sort, and how would Safari know if it should be deleted or not? Sometimes when there's an app or an app update that's huge (like think 100mb+), I download it once, install it once, move it to other computers, and install them there instead of having to download multiple copies of the 100mb disk image.

    You realize there's a "Remove downloaded list items" option in Safari preferences?

    Exactly. I for one hate hiding it away because it makes it harder to find. Somehow having a messy but familiarly messy workspace is easier to navigate.
  25. Nym macrumors 6502a


    Oct 4, 2006
    Porto, Portugal
    I'll throw my 2 cents in :)

    IMO the current file structure is the way to go, some refinements have to be done here and there but in general I like how computers work, especially with Mac OSX.

    I like to name my folders the way I want and group contents according to how I think about things, I hate iPhoto because of that, it creates me a bunch of "Roll ... folders that I can't relate to anything concrete.

    For photo management Picasa is 100x better than iPhoto, imo, of course.

    What Finder seriously needs:

    A thumbnail/icon resizer slider on the bottom right corner of the Finder window so you don't need iPhoto to browse for pictures. (cmd + j doesn't cut it, sorry, one step too much).

    A way to preview EPS files (I work in graphic design and it sucks to have to open the Preview app and finding a specific EPS within a collection that has 24,000!

    The ability to cut files.

    The ability to delete by pressing... DELETE!

    Network not hanging up on disconnect, beach ball galore!

    A global shortcut that immediately opens a Finder window, no matter what app you're focused on (like windows key + E brings up Explorer).

    A more smart Smart Folders, I use none in Finder. Although I use smart playlists in iTunes, smart Albums in Aperture and smart folders in Mail I can't seem to get what I want from the Finder smart folder panel.

    Give the option of a toggle to split the Finder Browser in 2/4/6 parts so you can drag stuff around and manage a lot of stuff at the same time.

    I guess this is it, after 4 years working with OS X these are the things that still bother me.


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