Which Path to Take

Path FinderTwenty days into a free 21-day trial license for the latest version of Cocoatech’s PathFinder, I’m still teetering on the fence, trying to decide between uninstalling this replacement utility for the Mac OS X Finder or paying the US&#34 license fee to continue using it.

On the one hand, PathFinder is still full of bugs and unexpected performance hiccups, something which should disqualify it immediately as a replacement as a file management tool. This was my initial reaction when I first took a look at the program last year, when it ran on Jaguar. The critical bugs I saw then have been fixed, but newer or different ones have taken over in prominence.Just this morning, for instance, I’m finding that some of its extra drawers refuse to open for unknown reasons, so I no longer have easy access to all the local and network volumes I have mounted. That puts a dead stop to my working process, and it undermines the program’s reliability.

When it works, though, it’s a real boon to power users. PathFinder offers an expansive and often ingenious set of features, including many usability home runs that I’ve grown very accustomed to having at my disposal over the past three weeks.

For instance, I’ve become a huge fan of its “Drop Stack” feature, which allows aliases of documents or folders to be dropped in a temporary holding area. The manual explains it best: &#822-;Simply drag the items onto the Drop Stack, navigate to where you want to copy them, and then drag them into the file browser window to complete the operation.” It’s a simple concept, but it’s a huge time saver, and when I demonstrated it for some colleagues at the office, there was a fair amount of oohs and ahhs.

What it comes down to is that, just like last year, I very much want to like PathFinder, but it still comes up just short of true brilliance, mostly on account of its high ambitions. I’m almost willing to buy it on faith though, in the hopes that its developers will continue to polish it to a fine sheen. Then again, I’d better hold off until the news starts coming in from today’s Apple Worldwide Developer Conference, where they’ll be demonstrating the next major upgrade to Mac OS X.