TotalFinder is my attempt to make better for programmers and Mac power users. I want it better for myself!

The Story

I use Finder as my primary file manager and I have many small ideas how could I make it better. But my ultimate goal is quite ambitious. The goal is to extend Finder to support dual-panel mode like Total Commander. People around me are leaving Windows for Macs and asking for a Total Commander replacement. Need to hurry! :-)

Do you know Visor? TotalFinder is also implemented as a SIMBL plugin which extends functionality. TotalFinder works in Snow Leopard only. The reason is that has been rewritten into Cocoa in Snow Leopard which finally made this hacking possible.

TotalFinder 0.2 ALPHA

It was tested on my MacBook Pro 17” with 10.6.2 OSX running 32-bit kernel.

Before you install it, open terminal and prepare this command:

rm -rf "/Library/Application Support/SIMBL/Plugins/TotalFinder.bundle"

There is a chance that during startup TotalFinder crashes and brings down whole The problem is that there is a process continuously starting if it is not running somewhere in OSX. So it ends as an infinite loop of starts and crashes until you remove TotalFinder SIMBL.

You were warned! Stay sharp!

Note: The bug should be fixed in 0.2.1


OK, let’s see some screenshots:

As you can grasp from the images this version implements two main features:

  • Visor-like system-wide Finder window available via a hot-key
  • Prevention of littering .DS_Store files all over the place

And you can also see that I’m planning to start selling this at some point in the future when the thing gets more stable.

How does .DS_Store redirection work?

I’m pretty excited about solving the problem which has been bugging me for more than two years since the day I switched to Macintosh. Every single day!

Look, I use with enabled hidden files and I’m also pretty heavy user. The .DS_Store litter makes me cry! If you ever happened to google for a solution, you could find just some simple scripts for deleting .DS_Store files (futile!). Or maybe there is some commercial app which is capable of watching filesystem and deleting them after creation. But this is not good enough for me! I’m using folder colors in Finder ;)

Here is what I did in TotalFinder:

  • I’ve redirected low-level filesystem calls which does:
    • Anytime is asking to open /some/folder/.DS_Store file, I open it as /usr/local/.dscache/some/folder/_DS_Store
    • This way Finder thinks files are at original places but they are being physically created in prefix folder, effectively sandboxing them
    • The only exception is the prefix folder itself, when you go and see it in the Finder, no redirection is applied
  • I’ve implemented kernel extension Echelon, which monitors folder renames (and deletes) and sends them to TotalFinder
    • You see why. This is important to keep DS_Store folder structure in prefix directory mirroring actual structure on the disk

Yeah, kernel extension sounds scary. But I didn’t find a better solution in user-space. FSEvents are not precise enough (it just reports “something was changed”). BSD kqueues must be registered on per-file basis, so it is not usable in this scenario. At the end of the day that kernel extension turned out to be a really light-weight solution. I use KAUTH API to monitor kernel filesystem events. I do it only if TotalFinder is connected and only for renames and deletes. Testing is a simple C-string comparison and sending notification via socket.

I’ve been using TotalFinder with this redirection enabled for a while and it works pretty well. I’ve noticed only two drawbacks so far:

  • .DS_Store file is created on Desktop during OSX restart, Finder crash or TotalFinder reinstallation The reason is that SIMBL plugin gets injected too late and Finder manages to write this .DS_Store file
  • .DS_Store file is created when you modify Spotlight comment on a file This is caused by mdworker process and has no direct relation to process. It seems like Apple engineers scattered DS_Store functionality into more applications. I’m still investigating this. Temporary workaround is not using these Spotlight comments. Which is my case anyway.

I hope this is enough info for you to get started playing with TotalFinder. Your feedback is appreciated!

I’ve fixed tons of Visor bugs and made it possible under Snow Leopard. Now it is your turn to help me roll this out :-) Thanks!