Editor’s note: After testing five new file management utilities, we stand by our picks.
The last time we checked, most macOS users have a complex relationship with Finder.
They love it, they hate it!
I think Finder is a great file management utility. It works quite great with the macOS system and offers some features like Continuity. Nevertheless, there are times when this file explorer can let you down. When compared to other file managers, Finder is lagging quite behind.
That’s why most power users recommend using a macOS Finder replacement whenever possible.
P.S. Looking for macos Dock alternatives? We’ve also got a list of the Dock replacement apps and tips that enhance its customization.
Why look for a Finder replacement?
If you use your Mac once in a while, Finder is the satisfactory file manager. Everything would be smooth and you don’t have to pay anything. When you have multiple work projects, a few thousand files and a number of workspaces to manage, however, things start changing.
As a tech reviewer, I end up storing a lot of stuff on the Mac. And macOS Finder has been so bad at helping me keep things organize. Even with the renewed Finder in macOS Mojave, things have not been better. There have been many instances when I swore at Apple for keeping such a naïve file manager.
Now, here are a few reasons why I think everyone needs a Finder replacement.
- Apple hasn’t been regular when it comes to updating Finder with features. Compared to even some of the older versions of other file managers, Finder’s lack of features can be a deal-breaker.
- Advanced Search is one of the many features we’ve been missing in Finder. Sometimes, it’s tough to find the file/folder that you are looking for.
- There is a limit to the viewing options in Finder. It can be a real nightmare when you want to explore a few hundred photos and choose the right ones.
- Finder isn’t the best option when you want network storage management. Often, you end up wishing if you had a better solution here.
- Finder also lacks (or, performs very badly at) even some of the basic features we need, such as remote connections, Sync or Intuitive Navigation.
If you think you too have faced these problems, tag along.
What to look for in a Finder alternative?
Now, we are going to find some effective Finder replacements. We had a proper criteria in order to find the best alternative for macOS Finder.
- The file management utility should have an intuitive User Interface. We don’t want to spend hours learning about the process. In short, we love a no-learning-curve scenario.
- Customizability should be everywhere, especially when it comes to viewing options. The idea is that you should have the right way to find the right files/folders.
- We’d love to have additional features in the package. For instance, Bulk Rename, Sync Support and Network File Management etc. are some great picks.
- Dual Pane View is an essential feature if you ask us. Basically, it should be easy to compare multiple files from the single window.
- Reliability is something we want but we never talk about. You’re using the app for managing rather important files. So, the program should work without any bugs.
We started looking for the best macOS Finder alternatives with these points in mind. And, we found a few.
After rigorous testing of some of the popular Finder alternative apps, we think ForkLift deserves the top pick position. ForkLift 3 from BinaryNights is a dual-pane file manager and file transfer client for macOS that packs so many impressive features.
Because it’s a third-party app, it doesn’t completely integrate with macOS. You can keep this app on the dock and access files manually. However, to make it completely replace Finder, you’d have to perform a Terminal command.
Here are a few things that we think make ForkLift the best Finder replacement app today.
Familiar yet Improved UI
ForkLift 3 comes with an interface that feels familiar and improved at the same time. We liked all aspects of this design because it enables quick navigation and previewing options. As you can see, even when we load the dual-pane mode, ForkLift looks compact. It’s incredibly easy to transfer files and other data within the two panes.
I’m someone who loves to organize my files according to multiple criteria. The afore-mentioned simple User Interface allows me to do this quickly while having a Preview option ready at all times.
Multiple Viewing Options
One of the things that I hate the most in Finder is its limited set of viewing options. ForkLift fixes this problem by introducing multiple viewing modes that you can customize. For instance, if you select the Grid viewing mode, you can customize the size of the icons. You cannot do this on Finder, but this feature is quite useful when managing photos, videos, and documents.
Regardless of the viewing option, ForkLift shows you the directory data on top. This enables quick navigation, instead of hopelessly pressing the Back button.
Customizability is also something we loved in the ForkLift 3 package. You can practically customize the way ForkLift looks and behaves. For instance, if you need a more focused approach, you can disable Dual Pane View. There is also an option to customize the items on the menu bar and Touch Bar. Just like you do on Finder, ForkLift also lets you decide which data to appear.
The fact is, you may not always use these customization options. However, if you want to improve the way you manage your files/folders, you have plenty of options inside.
Remote Connections is one of the most notable features in ForkLift. It means you can establish a remote connection with your server, network storage, or services like Google Drive. The cool part is that you’d be able to connect to multiple servers at once. For network managers and even small-time website owners, this feature can be quite beneficial.
We loved how easy it is to set up and manage remote connections. As of now, ForkLift supports many protocols such as SFTP, FTP, WebDAV, Amazon S3, Backblaze B2, Google Drive, SMB, AFP, and NFS.
ForkLift 3 brings an improved way to manage your files, through utilities on steroids. We are talking about a bunch of options like Multi-Rename and Quick Look. Many of such features are available on Finder, but they are so under-developed. So, it’s good to have a fully-fledged utility that works smoothly with a manager app in general.
Another thing I love is that the developer keeps adding new features. I’ve had ForkLift on my Mac for more than a year now, and it has kept listening to demands.
Flaws but not Dealbreakers
There isn’t anything that we hated in ForkLift.
- One problem is that ForkLift requires a lot of screen space. For instance, you would have to turn on the full-screen mode if you want a dual-pane screen or the preview board. This can be a bit difficult on Macs with smaller displays. That having said, you can always disable the Dual Pane mode.
- Also, it would have been great if the developers included a gallery view. Gallery View has been an impressive feature in Finder since macOS Mojave. We’d have loved to see the same in ForkLift.
These are not any deal-breakers, though. On any day, ForkLift is a superior file manager than Finder is.
Availability & Pricing
ForkLift is currently available for macOS only. If you have a device running macOS 10.11.6 or later, you can run it smoothly.
While you can try ForkLift for free, the single-user license costs $29.95. There are dedicated plans for family, business, and educational purposes as well.
If you are a student, you can get a discount on that too.
By the way, ForkLift is available on Setapp, the excellent app-subscription service.
- Excellent User Interface
- Customizable Design
- Remote Connection support
- Powerful Utilities inside
- Familiar UI
- Needs a lot of Screen Real Estate
- Lacks Gallery View
We stick to our opinion: ForkLift is the best macOS Finder replacement you can find today. It packs so many features to compensate for the shortcomings of Finder. We found it easy to navigate, access, and manage files using ForkLift 3. As we said, the UI is pretty simple, and you may not like it if you are looking for something so grand.
We also noticed that ForkLift could help you make your Mac spacious. Because it comes with cool features like Multi-Rename and Remote Connection manager, you don’t need dedicated apps for such needs. This also means that we can recommend ForkLift as the ultimate Finder replacement for regular users and network administrators alike.
Path Finder 9 is another two-pane file manager for macOS. While it’s an excellent Finder replacement, the app can do more than replace Finder. It becomes a more advanced way to manage files and folders on your Mac. It also packs so many options that make it our Upgrade Pick.
Full warning, though: Path Finder has not kept things that simple. You may need some time to get started with this tool and attain the best level of productivity. For me, the extra time I put into understanding Path Finder 9 has helped me increase my file management productivity like never before.
Are you wondering what made us choose Path Finder 9 as the upgrade pick?
Advanced User Interface
Because Path Finder 9 has been made for professional users, the User Interface is advanced. It provides the best level of control over how things work inside this file manager. Even when we narrow things down to a simple section, say View, you can choose between a variety of modes. For instance, it lets you reposition the sidebar and control what appears on the sidebar.
Sure, you may need more time to get used to the UI of Path Finder 9. However, once you have set up the UI as per your needs, it’s the start of constant productivity.
Path Finder 9 brings one of the most effective modular systems to the file manager. This means you have an option to choose which features you want on your Mac. For instance, if you want to add Git support, you can bring the module into Path Finder 9. There is a wide variety of modules, including Hex, Attributes, Clear Flow, Drop Stack, Processes, etc.
I love this feature because you can make a simple file manager out of Path Finder 9 if you want to. On the other hand, if I need a feature-packed tool, it’s there too.
Made for Professionals
We choose programs as upgrade picks if they are made for professionals. In this case, Path Finder 9 truly fits that description. There are a few reasons why we think this. First, there is an endless amount of settings that you can manage. Second, all these features work towards providing a file manager that suits your needs. On top of all these, Path Finder 9 doesn’t consume many system resources, either.
We think Path Finder 9 is the perfect solution for professionals, including those who have to manage multiple destinations.
Please keep in mind that we are listing the most important aspects here. The full feature list of Path Finder 9 will be quite huge, and we can’t accommodate it here.
Flaws but not Dealbreakers
Here are a few aspects where we’d like to see some improvement.
- Probably the biggest issue with Path Finder 9 is the screen real estate requirement itself. It requires a considerable amount of screen space, even to show the primary sections. So, if you add multiple modules like Cover Flow, the UI becomes very messy in no time.
- We also think it’s an overkill for some semi-advanced users. Path Finder 9 is not a Finder replacement that you can use out of the box.
Despite these issues, we don’t have to think twice before recommending Path Finder 9 to those who need a truly upgraded Finder replacement app.
Availability and Pricing
Path Finder 9 is available for macOS, and it supports macOS Catalina as well.
Coming to the pricing, Path Finder 9 offers a free trial of 60 days.
Once the trial is over, you can purchase the tool by paying $36, which seems affordable enough. You can get it via Setapp, too, if you’d rather pay a subscription for many apps.
- Advanced User Interface
- Modular System
- Professional-friendly features
- Completely customizable
- A complex UI
- Requires more space
We understand that Path Finder 9 is not for every macOS user. Many of its features are unnecessary for everyday Mac customers. That having said, we’d recommend Path Finder if you are a professional looking for an adequate Finder replacement. And, this tool makes such a promising offer to boost your file management productivity like never before.
XtraFinder is a great choice if you don’t want to move away from the native Finder interface on macOS completely. This app brings the most wanted features into the Finder interface so that you have a nice overall experience. Compared to our top or upgrade picks, XtraFinder does not have many features. Still, it gets the job done when it comes to smoother navigation.
Probably the best feature in the XtraFinder package is dual-pane UI, which works in addition to tabs. You can also control which elements appear where to create a convenient design. Some of the features we loved are Copying Queue and Menu Commands. The entire app feels like someone took an effort to fix everything that was wrong with Finder in the first place.
The problem is that XtraFinder has a complicated installation process. It also costs you $4.99, which is okay, and there is a 60-day trial you can check out.
Commander One is another popular Finder replacement you can try on macOS. Technically speaking, this is available for free, and you can use Commander One without any concerns. By default, the app opens up in a two-pane interface. You can easily navigate between spaces, and the file management process is also better than we expected.
You are also getting some advanced features like Remote Drive support here. It offers support for Google Drive, Amazon S3, and OneDrive, among others. By the way, all these features are available in the Pro version only. If you are willing to pay, Commander One would also let you mount external devices like your Android phone and browse content.
We’d recommend Commander One if you are looking for something free. Nevertheless, you always have an option to upgrade.
If you ask us, fman is the simplest dual-pane Finder replacement you can find. Unlike the apps we covered above, fman does not have many advanced features in the package. On the bright side, it’s available for Mac, Windows, and Linux. In case you are interested, you can bring in some extra plug-ins for additional features in the file manager.
We loved the UI of fman from one perspective. The one problem while shifting from Windows to Mac is that you would double-click files to open them. Well, in fman, you can still do that and open files. However, it would be great to have some better navigation buttons in the system. Despite all these, we would suggest only minimalists go for fman.
You can try out fman for free, but regular use requires a license that costs 18 Euros. We think this is an excellent option for those who love minimalism.
FilePane is a little different from the other file managers we’ve listed here. It’s a drag-and-drop file manager that you can consider as a minimal alternative to Finder. Once you get used to the system, however, FilePane can become a productivity booster in no time. After the setup, FilePane becomes a place that helps you to handle files/folders more efficiently.
Whenever you select and drag a file/folder, FilePane shows you a drop-zone, where you can drop the file. In the next step, you can choose a variety of options like Moving, Copying, Creating a New Folder, Sending Files via AirDrop, and even creating a ZIP file. But, we should tell you again that getting used to FilePane requires some time. And, it can only be an addition to Finder, not a full-fledged replacement.
The standard license of FilePane costs $6.99, which is almost the same amount you spend on a good coffee. You can check out the free version for some time, though.
Nimble Commander Pro is another file management app that feels like Finder on steroids. However, it comes with a lot more features that developers, network administrators, and other IT professionals love. At the core of the app is a dual-pane file manager that gets the job done on any day. In addition to managing your files using multiple panes, you get FTP and web connectivity as well.
As we move inside the package, we can find options for bulk renaming and external tool support. It also has the same amount of customization that we have seen on other file management apps. You can choose the desired keyboard shortcuts and viewing options as you please. You can also make use of advanced searching options.
Nimble Commander Pro is essentially a free tool, but many of its features are available only on its Pro version. This Pro version costs $24.99, though.
The final words
We believe our top pick — ForkLift — would be the most recommended Finder replacement for macOS devices. However, if you need an upgrade to something professional and rich in features, you can consider Path Finder.
We hope this guide helps you choose the best Finder alternative for your needs. Make sure that you select a product that meets your requirements. Switching back and forth between Finder and third-party managers will only deteriorate your productivity.
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