OS X’s Wimpy Finder

Normally I am pretty positive about all things related to Mac OS X. However, despite some nice features, I have to say that the OS X Finder is one of the weakest links in the operating system. In particular, it fails woefully at something very commonplace and important to many routine computer tasks: copying or moving files.

Wimpy error handling: One of its most annoying traits is its utterly wimpy error handling. Recently I was trying to copy a Time Machine backup from one drive to another. This was many gigabytes in size, and could take hours to complete. The source drive was a bit flaky, beginning to fail physically. I couldn’t wait for the copying operation to finish at home, since I had to go to work. But while I was at work, the drive went to standby mode (after the lengthy file counting process, but before any actual copying had begun, since at that strange juncture Finder asks for a username and password), and then the drive didn’t want to come back online when I returned home — at least no without some kicking and screaming. This caused the copy operation, now in progress since I just typed my username and password, to get an error, but rather than giving me a chance to try again, it just quit. Which put me back at square one, with hours of copying ahead. What Finder needs is a simple “Retry / Cancel” dialog. There is no excuse for operations to fail because of a single error; give the user the chance to remedy the error and resume. Even DOS had “Abort, Retry, Fail?” Come on, Apple! We need something robust. And this is not the only situation where that can happen — it appears any error will cause Finder to give up.

No intelligent file merging: There appears to be no Finder mechanism to handle merging files during copy, wherein newer copies will be copied, older items won’t, etc., or simply letting the user decided item by item. Instead, the user is given no choice except replace everything or cancel. This is totally pathetic.

I really need a good workaround for these problems. I am thinking of giving the shareware application Path Finder a try. I am not sure if it will help, but I hope so.

Michael Prewitt

Michael Prewitt is a creative director who has worked with digital graphic design techniques since 1992. His core skills include highly refined aesthetic taste, exceptional creativity, and highly practical problem-solving ability; he also has complementary skills in related disciplines, including writing and editing, web developing, programming, photography, retouching, and illustration.

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1 Response

  1. James says:

    I’ve had similar problems with the Finder, even when they re-wrote it for Snow Leopard. When I want to copy a large number of files, I just use the Terminal. It’s a lot faster with multiple files.
    With merging directories, that can be very annoying. Again, the Terminal helps with that, using the ditto command. I only found out about it a couple of days ago so haven’t tried it, but according to the man page, it does the trick.
    That all said, it would be nice if the Finder did things properly. Moving files with the keyboard would be nice with a Cut command. There is a Cut command (when enabled through the pref files), but it doesn’t work. Something like Path Finder, though using extra resources, is probably the best alternative.