10 OS X Finder alternatives compared and reviewed


Love it or hate it, Finder is the default file manager for macOS. But there are other choices out there, and this article offers reviews, screenshots and links to download 10 different alternatives.

Note: this was initially published back in 2006. It has been updated to be a bit more current for 2020. With that said, several of these are no longer available. However, the ones that remain have mostly been updated to include new features etc.

Did I miss your favourite file manager in this list? By all means please feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll update this list (come on – the windows commenters have suggested a lot!)

NameCost (USD)Demo version availableUniversal BinaryStars (out of 5)Detailed review
Path Finder$34.95yes (21 days)yes***½here
Disk Order$22.57yes (30 days)yes***here
FileBrowse$25.00yes (30 days)yes****here
FileRun$??.??nounknownn/ahere
3DOSXfreen/ano**here
RAGE Macintosh Explorer$15.95yesnot yet, but works w/ Rosetta**½here
Xfoldersfreen/ayes****here
muCommanderfreen/ano****here
Liquifile$9.90yes (30 days)yes**½here
Xfile$79.00nono*here

Path Finder

Homepage: https://cocoatech.com/
Features in a nutshell:

  • Undo support added
  • Superuser mode: You can now temporarily become superuser when performing a move, copy, delete, rename, label, and many other actions
  • Multiple Shelves
  • Labels Editor: Change label colors and names
  • Added Reload button to force a file listing refresh
  • Added ability to change default compression format: You can now choose between zip, sitx, bz2, and gz
  • Added Stuffit Verify feature
  • Added Slideshow to contextual menu item
  • Added set locked, hide extension, group, owner, change modification date, and set to invisible to File > Attributes
  • Added Apply to enclosed folders button to permissions setting in Get Info window
  • Added f5 as a reload directory shortcut
  • Added the Sparkle framework for automatic update checking and downloading
  • Improved the Size Browser’s interface (now a regular window with toolbar)
  • Added ability to disable the Finder’s desktop (see the General preferences)
  • Improved Japanese, French, Danish and German localizations
  • Improved Applescript support
  • Optimized application launch time
  • full list of features here
  • Thoughts:

    Path Finder is by far the most “popular” alternative to Finder for OS X. It has many, many features that you won’t find in Finder (top of the list would be tabs, desktop icon changes and the ‘drop stack’). The Path Finder menu item/button is also a helpful feature (see image below).

    It uses more system resources than most of the other File Managers outlined in this article, and isn’t above the occasional crash. It does share the same “3 view” option as Finder (list, columns, icons), but the addition of tabs helps make for a far less cluttered desktop.

    Being the 2nd most expensive File Manager reviewed, it’s a good thing that there’s a 21 day fully-functional demo available.

    Screenshots:


    lots of commands

    column view with tabs
      

    Path Finder menu icon

    new desktop ‘right-click’ menu
      

    Path Finder prefs

    more Path finder prefs
      

    changed desktop icons
     

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    Disk Order

    Requirements: OSX 10.3 and higher, there is an older version for 10.2 that won’t be updated and has fewer features
    Download URL: NO LONGER AVAILABLE
    Features in a nutshell:

  • Tabbed interface
  • Copy/Move/Delete/Link operations
  • Built-in Viewer (viewing html, rtf, mov, mp3, jpg, gif, tiff etc.)
  • Built-in Editor
  • Built-in FTP-client (create, upload, download, CHMOD, transfer mode, encodings, viewing files and so on…)
  • Multi-Rename Tool
  • Archives support (tar, gz, tgz, bz, bz2, tbz, zip)
  • Sophisticated Drag’n-Drop
  • Color Marking support
  • System Index Utilizing Search
  • Command Line
  • Plug-in architecture (Terminal window, Burn CDs, Zip, Unzip, Untar etc.)
  • Very usable interface (Eject buttons by volume names and FTP sessions, customizable toolbar, Drives panel)
  • Customizable main menu shortcuts
  • Two file selection modes (Mac native and Norton-Commander-like)
  • Compare Directories, wildcard selection
  • Thoughts:

    Disk Order is pretty nice. The built in FTP client is helpful, the built-in preview works well and mix of Mac native and Norton-Commander styles blend really well. Its biggest drawback is that Xfolders is very similar, but free.

    Screenshots:


    Disk Order default view

    Disk Order with FTP
      

    Disk Order prefs

    Disk Order nag screen
      

    Disk Order Extras

    Disk Order Commands
      

    Disk Order (running a command)
     

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    FileBrowse

    Requirements: Mac OS X 10.4.0 and later
    Download URL: NO LONGER AVAILABLE
    Features in a nutshell:

  • 3D Icons/Thumbnails
  • Large In-Context Previews
  • Powerful Grouping and Sorting
  • Thoughts:

    FileBrowse strikes me as a ‘love it or hate it’ File Manager. It’s quite different than the others in this list, as it has far fewer features. But… what it lacks in features, it makes up for by perfecting the the existing ones. Plus, at the (early) version of 1.0.2, who knows what the future may have in store.

    Arguably the best ‘feature’ of FileBrowse is its unique, minimalist but elegant interface. FileBrowse can show thumbnails for many file types, not only for images. And folder icons even show the items inside, so you don’t have to open a folder to see its contents. Keyboard navigation within FileBrowse takes some getting used to. Previewing images at different sizes is a snap, and previewing multimedia (music, movies) is just as easy. Give it a try, but don’t blame me if you don’t like it.

    Screenshots:


    FileBrowse is pretty

    FileBrowse is pretty 2
      

    view the contents of folders

    huge preview
      

    play, preview or open media
     

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    FileRun

    Features in a nutshell: NO LONGER AVAILABLE

  • Powerful user interface
  • Advanced volume management
  • Reinvented trash handling
  • All activities in one place
  • Thoughts:

    I really only included this one because I’ve been watching this website for updates since Jan of 2006. It was supposed to be available for download in Feb of 2006, and still isn’t. It’s a shame, because it looks like it could be really great.

    Screenshots:


    FileRun – doesn’t exist, but looks pretty

    FileRun
      

    FileRun again

    FileRun LastOne

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    3DOSX

    Requirements: Mac OS X 10.1 or higher, and an OpenGL hardware accelerated video card (supporting OpenGL 1.2 or higher)
    Download URL: NO LONGER AVAILABLE
    Features in a nutshell:

  • utilizes three dimensions to view directory hierarchies
  • supports a full range of file system actions, such as copying, labeling, creating new folders, and ejecting disks
  • developed using Cocoa and Carbon routines to gain access to the file system, and OpenGL for display
  • designed for the average user, and cutting-edge computer enthusiasts
  • cool eye candy
  • Thoughts:

    Barely worked for me. A neat concept that was either very poorly executed, or not at all intended for a MacBook Pro and/or Tiger.

    Screenshots:


    3DOSX is a neat concept

    Too bad it doesn’t really work (for me)
      

    3DOSX prefs

    3DOSX apps view

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    RAGE Macintosh Explorer

    Requirements: OS X, OS 9
    Download URL: https://www.ragesw.com/products/explorer/download/
    NOTE: this app is no longer supported, although it does still exist.
    Features in a nutshell:

  • Tabbed File Browsing reduces window clutter and allows instant switching between folders
  • Thumbnail view lets you see previews of all picture files instead of just generic icons
  • Hierarchical overview of all files and folders
  • Filter file list makes locating specific files fast and easy in clutter folders
  • Folder banks provide the ability to group specific documents together
  • Spring loading folders and advanced drag and drop features
  • Preview files as you browse
  • Store links to commonly used items
  • Get and set extended finder info
  • Batch file info changer
  • Back up important documents
  • Find unused and unwanted files
  • Cut, copy and paste files like text in a text editor
  • Permanently delete files and folders
  • Open multiple browser windows
  • Thoughts:

    As the name suggests, Macintosh Explorer is what might happen if Finder and Windows Explorer had an ugly child. OK not ugly, but not very exciting either. At least it has tabs. It responded quite slowly compared to the other File Managers.

    The Filter drawer was the best feature I found. It allows you to create and save filters so with one click you can find the files you’re looking for in a given folder.

    Screenshots:


    Default Macintosh Explorer with preview

    Default Macintosh Explorer
      

    Macintosh Explorer prefs

    Macintosh Explorer File list
      

    Macintosh Explorer Filter drawer

    Macintosh Explorer File Info

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    Xfolders (now Commander One)

    Download URL: https://mac.eltima.com/file-manager.html
    Features in a nutshell:

  • Completely for Tiger re-written cocoa application.
  • Uses the new technology of Mac OS X Tiger.
  • Full integration of the Finder, thus support of all file operations from and to the Finder.
  • Drag & Drop between both file-lists and the Finder.
  • Support for all important file operations.
  • Info dialogue for simply changing the file and folder attributes.
  • Intelligent path navigators for both file lists.
  • Bookmarks & manager for folders.
  • Direct access to imported system utilities.
  • Navigation with the keyboard ala Norton Commander.
  • Integrated, detailed Spotlight search.
  • Versatile search and compare possibilities.
  • Zip archive support.
  • Flat or 3D Unified look.
  • Supports the following languages: English, German, Italian, French, Spanish
  • Optimized for the PowerPC G5 processor, but remains compatible to G3 and G4 processors!
  • Universal binary: Compatible with Intel based Macs!
  • Xfolders is (no longer) freeware!
  • Thoughts:

    Xfolders is one of the three reviewed File Managers that I haven’t yet removed from my Mac. It’s very easy to navigate using just the Keyboard, and all mouse actions are exactly as you’d expect. If you’re a fan of the Norton Commander style of File Manager, you’ll appreciate the Xfolders layout (though maybe not as much as muCommander).

    Compared to all of the other File Managers, Xfolders uses a very small amount of system resources (not as Commander One, it uses more). The ability to completely customize the Toolbar is a nice bonus.

    Screenshots:


    Default Xfolders view

    Xfolders Spotlight add-on
      

    customize Xfolders toolbar

    Xfolders new folder
      

    Xfolders prefs
     

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    muCommander

    Requirements: Mac OS X 10.1 and up
    Download URL: https://www.mucommander.com/#download
    Features in a nutshell:

  • Virtual filesystem with FTP, SFTP, SMB and HTTP/HTTPS support
  • Quickly copy, move, rename files, create directories, email files…
  • Browse, create and uncompress ZIP, TAR and GZip archives
  • Universal bookmarks
  • Multiple windows support
  • Customize the look and feel to your taste
  • Never leave that keyboard again, shortcuts are provided for almost everything
  • Available in 11 languages : English, French, German, Spanish, Czech, Simplified & Traditional Chinese, Polish, Hungarian, Russian and Slovenian
  • Thoughts:

    muCommander is a Norton Commander-lovers dream come true for OS X. Also, being cross-platform, you can use this File Manager on multiple OS’s (if you’re that kind of person). Supporting FTP, SFTP and HTTP is great (HTTP is a very neat feature). Smallest system resource footprint of all the tested File Managers.

    Screenshots:


    Default muCommander view

    Use muCommander to download files via http
      

    muCommander prefs

    run a command
      

    muCommander FTP/SFTP etc setup
     

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    Liquifile

    Requirements: OS 10.4 or higher
    Download URL: http://www.liquefile.com/ (then click the download link)
    Thoughts:

    It’s neat. I guess. I won’t be using it any time soon, but I suppose there are folks out there who might adore this File Manager. Give it a try, it’s unique at least.

    Screenshots:


    use the far right slider to adjust size

    some file options
      

    bubble size and location matters

    folder view
      

    Liquifile prefs
     

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    Xfile

    Requirements: OS X, I think.
    Download URL: https://rixstep.com/4/0/buy/index.shtml
    Features in a nutshell:

  • Runs on the Unix API (super-fast)
  • Nothing is hidden – absolutely nothing
  • Nothing is off-limits unless privileges do not allow
  • Open a Terminal.app console window anywhere, at any path, with a single click
  • Full ‘stat’ information available for all objects: icon, path, device, inode, mode, links, owner, group, device type, size, blocks, optimal block size, user defined flags, file generation #, last accessed, last modified, status changed
  • Owner, group, mode, set uid, set gid, sticky bit, and user defined flags directly editable
  • Resource fork alerts
  • Creation of hard and symbolic links
  • Open any document at any location with any application or launch any application anywhere
  • Executable under 40 KB [sic] – ‘one bounce launches’
  • Does not drop ‘.DS_Store’ or similar ‘config files’ everywhere on your disk
  • Rugged, extensively tested fully compliant Cocoa document-based application for OS X
  • Thoughts:

    Seriously, $95 for a single license and there’s no demo/trial? We’re supposed to decide if we want to buy this software based on just three screenshots? Get real. I’m not sure that it deserves even one star, but I like the idea of a 40 KB executable.

    Screenshots:


    Xfile looks pretty nice

    uh ok
      

    delete stuff
     

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    Home » Mac » 10 OS X Finder alternatives compared and reviewed

    10 thoughts on “10 OS X Finder alternatives compared and reviewed”

    1. Xfolders has good unified look but perhaps carried too far. As for functionality it’s totally lame.

    2. Is there anyway to get a hold of the demo to Xfile? Want a small replacement. This seems perfect! Even a very old version would be great!

    3. Backdrop folders is definitely a step in the right direction. But i want something like icon view on the desktop. Backdrop folders is like contextual menus on steroids, but what i want is a “finder” that is indistinguishable from the desktop. Thanks for the tip though!

    4. 1. I have been using Pathfinder for the last 6+ months and find it [now] indispensable.

      2. In the beginning of my trial of Pathfinder, I found that I just did not “get it”. It took me at least a month to really appreciate it.

      3. I found that the 21-day demo clock behaves strangely. For me, it was about a 45-day demo and I still had time left.

    5. Running any of those will just take up more ram on your system. Anyway, the best File browser is built write into OS X… No it’s not the Finder. Its the Terminal.

    6. Your comment on Xfile is a bit unfair:

      Seriously, $79 for a single license and there’s no demo/trial?

      For those 79 damn dollars you get a lot more than Xfile alone. Xfile is part of a much larger package. Some of it is great stuff.

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