Discoveries in Mac OS X Snow Leopard: The Finder

Finder Desktop Small

If you listen to Apple, pretty much all they did for the Finder in their latest OS was rewrite it using the Cocoa frameworks (oh, and report hard drive size differently). But they tend to dwell less on just what the Finder gained from all that rewriting.

File Icons As Big As Your Screen Used To Be

SL Icon 512x512_SmallThe file icons in Snow Leopard can be bigger than the original Mac’s screen. Consider that for a minute. This icon for the System folder in Snow Leopard is larger than the entire screen of the original line of Macs.

Original Mac Screen SmallTo put the two into perspective, they’re shown below full-size with the Mac’s 512 x 342 desktop on top of a Snow Leopard 512 x 512 icon. Wow. We see proof of how far we’ve come in computing every day, but for some reason this one kind of blows me away:

Original Mac vs SL Icon

You can preview these large icons. For example, you can scroll though a PDF page by page, or even play a movie. With sizes this large it’s actually workable. However, when I want to preview something I use the excellent QuickLook, which opens an even bigger window.

For me, the larger icons (and slider in each window to control them) have other purposes. For example, they’re perfect when browsing through a folder full of images. Sure, you could use QuickLook there, too, but it’s a little clumsy just for random browsing. Much better to make the icons a big size  — kind of like a photographer’s light table — and scroll through them, as below:

Finder icon Scrolling

In case you’re wondering, those are 224 x 224 icon sizes. Previously, the highest you could go was 148 which wasn’t large enough sometimes, forcing you into QuickLook. However, at the larger size it’s easy to distinguish them, so now a selection can be made (if necessary) for more detailed viewing via QuickLook or an app. I go though lots of images for this blog, and I already find this feature great.

For another Finder feature, notice the above window has the toolbar and sidebar neatly hidden. Just a click on the “pillbox” in the upper right of the title (or Command-Option-T) takes care of that. Do again and the window’s back to normal.

Saved From The Trash

Put BackClassic Mac OS used to have this, and Windows has it, so I’m only dwelling on the new Put Back feature in the Trash because it’s one of those things that, simple as it seems, I believe they had to dig into the OS to add. Without a rewrite this likely doesn’t happen.

The same is true for the improved disc eject, where the Finder is now kind enough to tell you what app has a hold of the drive you’re trying to get rid of. Apple said addressing this required getting “deep” into the OS, and only a rewrite was going to make it possible.

By the way, no keyboard command for Put Back is listed, but it has one. It’s the same as the one that put the file in the trash to begin with: Command-Delete.

The Finder on Speed

There are no screenshots or benchmarks that do this justice. You’ll just have to see (and feel) it for yourself. But the 64-but rewrite of the Finder brings much speed to the interface. Icon previews — even in the new larger sizes — draw much faster than before. File operations, windows openings, and stacks draw faster than ever.

It’s very noticeable, so much so that when you move to a Leopard box after only a day you begin to feel that OS is slow.

The Finder is Stacked

I looked forward to the navigation of Finder stacks perhaps as much as any other feature of Snow Leopard. The good news is I love it, though it’s not without a downside for me.

The good news is obvious, many times I don’t want to go to a Finder window, but would rather just keep navigating the stack. Previously, if you clicked a folder the Finder window opened and you were on your own. Now, it opens up in the stack and you can just keep navigating. An arrow in the upper left corner takes you back up the hierarchy. I love this.

The bad news is, well, sometime I wanted to open a Finder window, and now I can’t easily do so. For example, consider this stack:

Stack Navigating

You can see by the arrow at the top left that I got here via stack navigation, which is good. But now I want to open the “_Blog Potential” folder in the Finder. If there were a keyboard shortcut (say, Option-click), that would be great. But there’s not.

What I have to do is click the folder (opening it in the stack), scroll to the bottom, and then click Open in Finder. Alternatively, I could Command-click it, which opens the enclosing folder in the Finder with the clicked folder highlighted, and double-click it. Either way it’s more clicks or scrolls than I’d like. Apple, please provide a keyboard-click in stacks to avoid either of these options.

The above doesn’t spoil stack navigation for me. I’d much rather have it than go back. But it does put a damper on the process.

I also wish I had some control of icon size in the stack’s grid view. They were shrunk quite a bit in Leopard to show as much as possible. Since Snow Leopard can scroll, I guess Apple felt they may as well make them huge. I’d rather make them a bit smaller, especially since I have a 13” MacBook and it doesn’t fit that many on one stack “page”.

Other Niceties

Search FolderI love that the Finder has more control over file searching now. Why go to a folder and do a search when the Finder couldn’t start there? Well, now it’s your call. Set the new option to Search the Current Folder and you’re all set. If you invoke a search from a folder that’s where it will begin to search.

View Search ResultsAnd once the Finder has found your stuff, you can change the order in which it’s displayed. After a find is completed, the View/Arrange menu lists multiple options, each with a keyboard shortcut. Finally. Further, a preexisting or saved search can now have the view setting changed like any other Finder folder, and those setting will be retained. I have a saved search for recent image files, and it’s great now to always have it in the order and icon size I want.

Finally, if you drag everything out of a Finder sidebar category, the heading itself is smart enough to disappear. A nice touch.

You Can’t Be Done, What About the Dock and Exposé?

Actually, I am done. This article is long enough. Besides, I want to write about the Dock, Exposé (and Spaces) in their own article to point out the great window and workspace management they provide, and how it’s enhanced in Snow Leopard. That’ll be the next article in my Discover series.

Previous Articles in the Snow Leopard Discovery Series:

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10 thoughts on “Discoveries in Mac OS X Snow Leopard: The Finder

  1. “But now I want to open the “_Blog Potential” folder in the Finder. If there were a keyboard shortcut (say, Option-click), that would be great. But there’s not.”

    Command Click?

  2. Pingback: Friday Morning News | MacTalk Australia

  3. George,

    I understand your point, but I must admit I’d been frustrated in the past that I had to click a name to select the thing. Seems to me the whole row should have counted. Now that it does, I see why the new behavior could be bothersome for other tasks.

  4. snow is really good.. though i have found i really big drawback on the finder!!! when you are ion list view and the window is full of file names ( the finder shows many files in the folder and not just some files to have empty space to click) you cannot use the right click to paste or create new folder! it selects the file now with right click and gives you other options!! really annoying!!

  5. OK, I must be having a senior moment. I can’t seem to find that Finder search option to search the current folder. Where is that widget you clicked on that gave you the 3 choices?

  6. Regarding the “Put Back” feature in the trash: ever since a long time ago, if you put something in the trash, you can push command-z (which is the shortcut for undo) and the file(s) will go back to their original location. Only downfall is that you can’t use undo after you’ve put other files in the trash, but I use this all the time.

  7. Armand,

    True enough, but The Dock’s functions overlap. It’s hard to discuss them without discussing other parts of the OS. As a file/folder navigator and launcher, I believe it’s appropriate to discuss that functionality in a Finder-related article.

    Meanwhile, when discussing windows management I believe it’s appropriate to discuss the Dock along with Expose and Spaces.

  8. stacks are a function of the dock.app, not the finder.app.

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