Default Folder X

· software · geek ·

Before I upgraded to Lion, I had a bit of a digital clear out. I uninstalled various bits of software that I had idly installed at various points to try out and then abandoned. I tidied up my directory structure and carefully considered whether or not I needed all the applications I have installed. To some extent, I had already gone through the same process when I got my MacBook Air. I started with a blank slate with that machine and only installed things that I couldn’t work comfortably without, in order to avoid filling up the comparatively small SSD. For example, I stopped using the excellent Path Finder on all my machines for consistency, just to see if I could manage with the Finder without getting frustrated beyond endurance. Although I miss many things about Path Finder (tabbed windows and the Drop Zone for collecting together files in particular), I have managed to get along without it by using LaunchBar (which I certainly can’t do without) to take over many of those useful jobs.

I had also uninstalled Default Folder X for the same reasons, despite having used it for many years. For those of you who have not come across it before, Default Folder X improves the Open and Save dialogs of all applications by adding various features and shortcuts. You can save your favourite folders to a quick access menu or access recently visited folders. It has hierarchical menus so you can navigate where you want to get to quickly and easily. You can even change the current folder in the dialog to match your open Finder window with a single click. There are lots of keyboard shortcuts and you can add your own custom shortcuts to favourite folders and so on.

It also allows you to easily view and edit the metadata of files. A panel below the dialog allows you to edit the Spotlight comments, add or edit OpenMeta tags, add a Finder label or preview the contents of the file. It’s really handy to be able to do that while you are opening or saving a file rather than having to switch to the Finder. Best of all, you can set a preference to rebound to the last opened folder, and/or to default to the folder of the currently open document. Those two preferences alone save an enormous amount of time when you want to save a copy of the current file in the same directory, particularly if you are in some deeply nested folder. Oh, and you can set a default folder for an application, too: I set Keynote to default to ~/Documents/Talks since I almost always want to save a presentation somewhere in that directory.

I tried living without Default Folder X for several months, but every time I had to open or save a file, I got irritated by the amount of time I wasted manually navigating around folders in the dialog. Again, I tried using LaunchBar to find a directory and paste the path into the dialog, but it was a bit long-winded and clunky compared to Default Folder X’s elegance. In the end, I cracked and reinstalled it, and I’m a happy dialog navigator again. It’s one of those utilities which becomes such an integrated part of your computing experience that you barely notice it, but living without it quickly reveals how much you rely on it.