The future of the Mac’s Finder

“This is the last installment of this column, and as such, I wanted to cover one of the most important features on the Mac: the Finder,” Kirk McElhearn writes for Macworld. “This file manager, browser, and user interface layer is the tool that people use to launch applications, work with and manage files and folders, and control pretty much everything their computer does.”

“The early Mac was revolutionary, bringing the desktop metaphor to everyday computers,” McElhearn writes. “While the desktop metaphor is practical and useful, maybe it’s time to move on. Apple has [made] a variant of this with iOS. It’s got apps and windows, but no files — though files appear in some apps, in lists — and the pointer is your fingers. Perhaps its time to start experimenting on the desktop. I would be surprised if Apple doesn’t have teams working on new interfaces, and I would love to see how they imagine this, even if it’s only as a proof of concept.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Apple iOS 11’s Files app is the Finder for iOS.


      1. But to this day, there are certain functions that can best be fulfilled by a horse.

        Obviously there are many functions that no longer apply to horses, but that doesn’t mean they are not the best for some functions.

  1. “Apple iOS 11’s Files app is the Finder for iOS.” Connecting to that link shows some images of iOS devices, absolutely nothing that explains what the “Files” app is.

    If its some damned screen full of icons that are supposed to be a way of organizing files and folders, then I am GONE.

    At this moment I am working on a web site for a company that has over 50 separate pages with over 1000 documents.

    Do these dumbass hipsters actually believe that I could manage that site without a FOLDER and FOLDER system organized in a way that could keep it all straight?

    Or is it possible that they are not aware that the “internet” consists of more than entertainment delivery icons?

    I hope the latter is not true.

    For contractual reasons, I have to work on this site on Windows,yes it is frustrating but because of the traditional file and folder system, it is at least workable.

    As I said: “50 separate pages with over 1000 documents.”

    Think about that before you respond with kneejerk fanboy response. I

    I havent seen the details so I dont want to do a kneejerk offense either, but I do worry with good reason I think.

    1. I think probably just pulled up short of knee jerk considering you haven’t used it but pretty damn close I would say, and probably too close tbh to start lecturing others about making their own assumptions without using it either.

    2. “Connecting to that link shows some images of iOS devices, absolutely nothing that explains what the ‘Files’ app is.”

      Scroll down, retard.

      Files. Wherever they are, they’re here.

      The new Files app brings all your files together. You can easily browse, search, and organize all your files in one place. And there’s a dedicated place for your recent files. Not just the ones on your iPad, but also those in apps, on your other iOS devices, in iCloud Drive, and across other services like Box and Dropbox.

  2. Maybe for those who just surf web, email and post their pics etc, but for researchers and ohers who have 10s of 1000s of files, reports etc etc on their computers, I suspect they will need the structure and hierarchy of the Finder. Spotlight doesn’t always find files I am looking for, so I would want to be seriously convinced that Files is a step forward.

    I have long believed there should be 2 versions of the Finder – the eye-candy, lowest-common denominator version for most users, and a ‘pro’ version that supports the writers, phototographers, researchers etc etc where eye candy is less of an issue and flexibility and features are supported more comprehensively.

    Flame me if you want, but in my opinion (as a mac user since 1984), all the emphasis on eye candy has distracted efforts from a better and more robust Finder. Nice to see HFS+ dropped (was a user of ZFS while it lasted), would be nice to see a reworked Finder that supports pro users.

    1. “Spotlight doesn’t always find files I am looking for”
      Under a new system you could always have it search for “pretty icon” and see what that gets you.
      Sarcasm alert is now off LOL

      1. Final Cut Pro X shows where this is headed. The app decides where your file are – not you. There actually numerous tutorials on YouTube trying to explain how to archive a project and make sure that you include all of the source files. Ridiculous. My solution was to dump Final Cut Pro and go back to Adobe Premiere. And my solution for the dumbing down, stagnant development, and high prices with Mac hardware and OS X has been to dump them and go back to Windows. It’s not as bad as I thought it would be.

        1. “There actually numerous tutorials on YouTube trying to explain how to archive a project and make sure that you include all of the source files. Ridiculous”

          I have been around Mac since 1988 and what made Mac and Apple a success was that you didnt need a YouTube tutorial. If you need one, that means whatever app it is has a basic design problem. Obviously there can be reasonable exceptions, but…..

      2. Spotlight delivers the weirdest results to me to the point I have no idea how it works, and it won’t even find files when I type in the file name while looking at it.

        I’ve been disappointed since Tiger and barely use it.

        Also I’ve had enough “where did they go” experiences with dragging files in Finder that I now do the much less efficient but safe “duplicate,” then “paste” and then go back to delete method.

        That’s a problem I almost never have in Windows. Ironic, since Apple introduced the metaphor…..

        1. Spotlight?

          POS that I no longer use.

          Of course, it is my “User Paradigm” that’s obviously wrong. Apparently, when I use Spotlight to try to find one of my files with a specific filename, I’m wrong. Its much more important to show me suggested websites, news articles, Wiki pages, etc.

          …and if you open up System Preferences – – there’s NO option to turn off these off-the-Mac search areas.

          Oh, look: there’s even Movie Search times! NO OPTION TO DISABLE.

          Apple has become worse than Microsoft.

    2. also finder just sucks in general.
      they have yet to get it right.

      need to view a large amount of files in a network folder? GET READY FOR THE BEACHBALL.

      finder is a dog, and it needs to be put down.

      Pathfinder by Cocoatech is proof that is pure garbage.

    3. Ahem… For managing 10s or 100s of thousands of files what they DON’T need is the structure and hierarchy of the current Finder UI. Ever heard of a relational database???

      The number of people on this forum supporting the current and very tired Finder UI is shocking. Such lack of imagination and vision is not what I’m accustomed to seeing on MDN.

      The Finder in its current form cannot handle big data. The notion of hierarchical folders is anachronistic in the extreme. Much better methods of file management are available should Apple decide to harness them and create a compelling and elegant new UI.

      It’s time for the Finder to die and then be reborn anew. Long live the Finder.

      1. “Ever heard of a relational database???”
        OH YES I HAVE!
        The website I am working on is a previously developed site produced in Joomla, which is actually a relational database for organizing files.

        Theoretically, Joomla would work ok IF the original site developer had produced the equivalent of a wiring diagram for the site. Such is not the case! So I am spending at this point 3 weeks just trying to track all the file relationships so I don’t die by the Law of Unintended Consequences Sword.

        This illustrates the point of how far in the toilet you can go in the subject of file organization and why I am distrustful of anything new that attempts to impose the iOS organizational model onto an actual computer, the Mac, which although its not perfect in the way it organizes files, is a complete universe beyond iOS.

        Ahead, not behind.

        And don’t even start on the childlike touch interface when you are dealing with thousands of files like I am.

      2. “The number of people on this forum supporting the current and very tired Finder UI is shocking.”

        Not supporting it because we all know it has problems, BUT very concerned that in the present change for the sake of change/its not important how it works, but how it looks environment that changing it will make it worse.
        There is plenty of precedent for that.

        1. Sorry you had such a bummer of an experience. Clearly, a lot of UI work needs to be done to make such a structure user friendly. I just think that if anyone can do it, it is Apple. In the same way that Steve introduced the iPhone (both really smart and really easy to use) I believe that easy and intuitive file management can be done using a relational database architecture. I can actually envision how it would look and work. Too bad I’m not a real software engineer otherwise I’d quite my day job and work on this full time.

          I totally don’t get why you think this could not be implemented in a touch interface. “Childlike” is not an adjective that comes to mind with touch. I think very sophisticated things can be done with a touch interface but we just haven’t seen many good examples thus far. Most everyone has ten digits to work with, no? Having said that, it is likely a keyboard interface would be faster.

          You clearly understand the power and potential of relational databases. For individual users who will be managing big data I just don’t see any realistic alternative. Big data is coming. You can’t really believe that average Joe and Josie are going to be able to manage all that with a hierarchical file structure, can you? Even veteran users like you and I are struggling at this point to manage the 10s of thousands of files we work with daily. I’m a big believer in meaningful file naming conventions and using a relatively flat hierarchical file structure. At this point I’d like a little help from the Finder. I want to spend less time managing files and more time working in them. Is that not a reasonable request?

          I believe with every fiber of my being that easy file management using a relational database structure can be done and that it would revolutionize file management. Apple must do it!

          1. I am not really arguing against relational databases as such but it is unbelievably easy to totally create a 2000 lb file of spaghetti, individual strands of which are almost impossible to trace.

            How many people are willing and able to properly plan a web site or, in my case with the Joomla site, that has the equivalent of a wiring diagram? Many people think they can but then they get busy, create a “wonderful new feature”, and they forget to tie it into the “wiring diagram”

            I love custom cars and have seen some fantastic functional art, BUT I wouldnt lay a hand on the electrical systems unless I was doing it purely by the hour with NO cost estimate forthcoming.

            It’s also the same for me when I work on any website that someone else developed. I will not give a cost estimate—well maybe somewhere between $100 and $10,000.

            NO question the Finder needs help, but with Apple these days; I worry about the remedy being worse than the illness.

  3. Apple has really neglected the finder for a while now. The original file view is now utterly useless with files unpredictably moving around. The other views are obsessed with truncating file names on any excuse, or wasting as much space as possible to drive other info off the window.

    Find is just as bad. The context sensitive default returns half your hard drive for every search. Find by name is buried in the options and sometimes inexplicably fails to see files even when I know their exact name.

    And it is so damn slow. Why do I have to wait for every hard drive to spin up every time I try to save to my SSD?

    It’s got to the point where most programs are building in their own file management because the finder handles files so poorly. iTunes, Final cut, Photos, ect.

  4. Really like the idea of “Simple” and “Pro” user interfaces. Most users only need “Simple”. Really like Eric’s idea of a Pro version as well. I also have many reasons to have many folders and many files.

    For a pro version, I wish that I could assign attributes to the files and folders.

  5. I don’t understand why this article was written at this time, seeing as Apple changed their policy regarding file accessibility in iOS 11. This change contradicts Kirk’s point. I know iOS 11 is still in beta, but:

    iOS 11: How to use the new Files app

    Files replaces the iCloud Drive app in iOS 11 and brings a number of enhancements to working with your files on your iPhone and iPad. There is a Browse and Recents tab at the bottom of the Files app. In the Browse tab you can easily navigate between files stored on iCloud or on your device, a Recently Deleted location along with Favorites, and Tags. Let’s dive into some of the details….

    1. Derek,

      Stuff I’ve read says the Files app actually has no device-local file management capabilities at least in the betas thus far.

      I have not tried it yet.

  6. When Apple can keep the Remote App on the iPhone for the Apple TV working through a few updates of its tvOS, ill trust them to change my finder. If there is a god, let It be sending Apple off in directions other than this. So glad I have moved to Windows for most of my work. Flame on!

  7. After all the iterations of Mac OS the finder is still flaky. It seems schizophrenic regarding preferences for display and there is not continuity in the Finder between views.
    I am typing this on iOS 11Public Beta and the Files app is a move in the right direction, but is still not there just yet.

  8. To quote Steve Jobs, Design isn’t just about how it looks; it’s about how it works. Apple’s Finder addressed a need over 40 years ago about designing an interface that would make computers more intelligible to use. How we interacted with this machine was the goal Apple was addressing. Nowadays, The iPhone is now, for many, our primary computer. Apple is mindful of this. The question I’ve often wondered is whether they will merge the two environments, and how that will look in practice. Apple will change it once they perceive that the way we use our systems has changed, and will develop an interface to address it.

  9. “Apple will change it once they perceive that the way we use our systems has changed, and will develop an interface to address it.”

    But will that interface cater to iOS entertainment users who only need to remember what the icon for their favorite entertainment addiction delivery app looks like, or will it still take into account the REQUIREMENTS of those of us who produce the entertainment (and real functional apps needed by people who actually work and produce services and things every day)?

    1. Yes. Easy and Pro versions. Kinda like I wish they added a preference for color or black & white icons.
      Color coded items in the sidebar WAS great.

      Sorry, functionality should always win over “looks cool”.

      1. “color or black & white icons.”

        yeah, agree with you whole heartedly.

        I don’t even want to think too hard about deep changes to the Finder as even simple features are missing.

        In the past with some third party apps you could change the look of the Finder sidebar for example (change the icon of Applications for example to something that stands out more or simply colour it like ‘red’ ). Now with sandboxing you can’t (unless you want to do dangerous hacks) and all the sidebar icons are the SAME grey , making quick selection slower .

        I have a complex workflow and it would be so much faster if I could manipulate the finder more (like changing those icons).

        There is less thinking of ‘ergonomics’ for the Mac UI today, just ‘looks’ (as in spare and minimal) — nice to look at if you DON’T actually use it work on complex things. A ‘colourful’ even skeuomorphic finder make actually WORK better just like a colourful org. chart or mind map works better than a bland one and there should be a ‘Pro’ choice for the finder for you to make it so.

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