Mac OS X Tip: Using the ‘Quit Finder’ command to save currently open Finder windows

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
August 23rd, 2004 • 10:46 pm

There are a number of software tools out there (including the freeware TinkerTool) that let you add a “Quit Finder” command at the bottom of the Finder’s application menu, which, unlike other applications, doesn’t have such a command by default.

You might wonder how this is useful. After all, in the early days of Mac computing, when memory was scarce and CPU performance was an issue, it could be useful to quit the Finder in order to optimize the performance of memory-hungry or CPU-intensive applications. But today? Most of us have hundreds, if not thousands, of megabytes of RAM, and our processors are rarely used to their full capacity. Quitting the Finder is not likely to provide any specific benefits to the vast majority of Mac OS X users.

Well, quite apart from RAM or CPU usage issue, here’s one side benefit of using the “Quit Finder” that is not so minor. There are still quite a few problems with Mac OS X’s Finder, even in its Panther incarnation. One of them is that it sometimes crashes. In most cases, when Mac OS X’s Finder crashes, it automatically restarts, so that the user doesn’t have to launch it manually.

The problem is that, as with any other application, a crash of the Finder application tends to cause some data loss. More specifically, when the Finder crashes, what tends to be lost is the exact number of currently open Finder windows and their contents. I, for one, tend to be working on a number of different projects at the same time. For each of these projects, I usually have a Finder window open with the contents of the project’s folder listed in View as List view mode.

All too often, when the Finder crashes, after it restarts it reopens the windows that were open the last time the Finder was quit properly (and not through an application crash). This might have been days or even weeks ago, because the last time the Finder was quit is typically the last time I logged out or restarted the machine.

Indeed, Mac OS X’s Finder only “saves” the list of windows that are currently open in it when you quit the application. Until then, the list of open windows and their exact contents are effectively unsaved data which will be lost in the event of a crash.

And that’s where the “Quit Finder” command becomes useful. Using this command is the same as quitting the Finder properly. It effectively saves the current state of all open windows. And when you restart the Finder, it restores all these windows in the same state: same contents, same position on the screen, etc.

So effectively the “Quit Finder” command doubles as a “Save” command in the Finder (although you have to restart the Finder by clicking on its Dock icon after you’ve quit it).

The only problem in this is that all this information about which windows are open and where will be lost just the same if you restart your machine and log in with the Shift key down, in order to prevent Mac OS X from launching your startup items. For some reason, holding the Shift key while logging in not only prevents startup items from being launched, but it also causes the Finder to launch without opening the Finder windows that were open the last time you quit the Finder. And once this has happened, there is no way to restore these windows in their previous state. The data is lost for good, and you have to reopen each and everyone manually.

Other than that, the “Quit Finder” command works well as a way to save the current state of open windows in the Finder. You could probably also write an AppleScript script to do the same thing — and that AppleScript could be used to restore the windows even after a restart with the Shift key down. But I’ll leave that to the AppleScript experts…

4 Responses to “Mac OS X Tip: Using the ‘Quit Finder’ command to save currently open Finder windows”

  1. brian w says:

    FolderControl lets you save and restore sets of Finder windows, I believe. It’s kind of pricy for a one trick pony, though — $22 US.

  2. Pierre Igot says:

    Yeah, $22US is definitely too much for such functionality. If I had the time I would probably explore a home-made AppleScript-based solution. Right now, though, I’ll be content with quitting the Finder from time to time. Can’t beat the price!

  3. Allen Watson says:

    I just discovered a set of FREE AppleScripts that claim to do this job well. In fact, they also allow saving of sets of Finder Sidebar sets.


  4. Pierre Igot says:

    Allen: Does seem to be working in Mac OS X 10.4.

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