Developing Java software on a Mac: file management

For a developer, file management is an essential task. More than the average computer user, the location and name of a file matters to a developer. Often, (sets of) files have to be copied, either on the local machine or to or from a network share. Sometimes the command line is very fast and efficient for file management tasks. However, as directory structures get more complex, I prefer a visual file management tool, as it gives me a better overview of the structure.

Short after switching to the Mac, I was pretty satisfied with the default file manager on Mac OS: Finder. Finder is a pretty good file manager, at least it is better than the Windows Explorer. But, like Explorer, Finder needs some tweaking to make it more suitable for programmers:

  • First of all, as a programmer I want to see the file extensions, so I enable the “Show all file extensions” option.
  • Since changing file extensions is more common in programming, I disabled the “Show warning before changing the extension” option.
  • Then I set the list view as default view, via “View” > “Show View Options”, “Always open in list view”, “Use as Defaults”.

After applying these tweaks, I was pretty satisfied for a while. However, after using Finder for a longer period, I had collected some annoyances:

  • I too often found myself positioning two Finder-windows next to each other to be able to drag files from one location to another.
  • It sometimes confused me that directories were not listed at the top, as I was used to on other systems.
  • There’s no easy way to open a finder window without using the mouse, unless you remember to keep always one window open, so you can Command-Tab to it.

Then I stumbled upon TotalFinder, an add-on for the OS X Finder. It adds several very handy functions, which helped me to overcome my annoyances:

  • TotalFinder has a “dual mode”, which shows two adjacent views. Pretty much like the good old Norton Commander and its clones (Midnight Commander, …). No more aligning Finder windows before dragging and dropping files!
  • TotalFinder adds tabs to reduce the clutter. Although this is the most prominent feature, it is not as important to me as the dual mode and the other tweaks.
  • TotalFinder can show directories on top, just as I was used to.
  • The (optional) Visor mode can make TotalFinder to slide into view at the press of a shortcut key. Now I have the finder at my fingertips!
  • TotalFinder adds a pretty handy “copy path” menu to the context menu; especially time-saving if combined with the Terminal.

Long story short: File management on the Mac is a joy since I found TotalFinder! It keeps the good parts of Finder and adds some excellent features to make it more suitable for a software development environment. At US$ 18, I think it is reasonably priced. I have only one wish for a future version: it would be very nice to have an “Open in Terminal” option in the context menu, that would also integrate with TotalTerminal

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