Mac OS X’s Finder: Needs a Preview pane in list view

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
November 17th, 2005 • 12:03 pm

This is an idea for Mac OS X 10.5, maybe—if there is any truth to the rumours that 10.5 will include a totally revamped Finder, that is.

I like the Finder’s column view in Mac OS X. I use it all the time. I particularly like the preview column that shows you a preview of the actual contents of the file that is currently selected in the previous column. If the selected file is a picture file, you effectively get a thumbnail version of the picture, along with some essential information about the picture, i.e. the file type (GIF, JPEG, etc.), the width and height in pixels, etc. If the selected file is a music file, you get a playable preview of the file, along with some information about the file (although in that case some crucial pieces of information are not included in the preview column when they should be). Etc.

The problem with the column view is that there is only one available sort order for the files listed in the columns, and that is the alphabetical order. You cannot sort the files listed in a column by date modified, for example. If you want to do that, you have to switch from column view to list view.

But then if you switch to list view, you no longer get the file preview in the Preview column.

I frequently find myself wanting both, i.e. the ability to sort files by something other than alphabetical order and the ability to view a preview of the files. In the current Finder, this means having to switch between list view and column view all the time.

There are two possible solutions here. Apple could either add the ability to sort files by something other than alphabetical order in column view, or add a Preview column in list view.

I am not sure which would be the more practical, but I tend to think that a Preview column in list view might be easier to implement. It would just be a matter of adding an extra column on the right-hand side of the Finder window. It could even be a “sidebar” similar to the one used on the left-hand side for mounted volumes and favorite locations. You would still have the list view with the multiple columns of file information in the middle pane, whose overall width would depend on the width of the Finder window, and then you would have the sidebar on the left-hand side with its (adjustable) fixed width, and a Preview pane on the right-hand side, with an adjustable fixed width too.

Of course, this would make Finder windows even bigger. But Apple could give us the option to hide/show this Preview pane, with a button in the Finder toolbar. (An alternative would be to show the file preview in a window drawer on the right-hand side, similar to the drawer in… Mac OS X’s Preview application.)

Well, one can always dream.

3 Responses to “Mac OS X’s Finder: Needs a Preview pane in list view”

  1. Mike Lauder says:

    Path Finder has this feature – it implements it in a drawer – and it is very useful. I’d rather see it in a pain on the right hand side though.

    Do you know that in the Finder you can open an inspector window (option-command-i) that shows you the info on the currently selected item, rather than the usual (command-i) behaviour of showing the info of a specific item.

  2. Pierre Igot says:

    I suspected that someone who soon write to tell me that Path Finder—or another Finder replacement—had such a feature :). The problem is that I just cannot face the idea of having to use a Finder replacement.

    And yes, I am aware of the inspector window, which does show the preview of the currently selected item and more useful information. The problem is that this window has its own location, independent from the location of the Finder window in question. I need something that’s attached to or part of the Finder window. And the inspector window disappears as soon as the Finder is in the background. I need to be able to see the preview and the information from within other applications.

  3. Mike Lauder says:

    Not too keen on using Path Finder myself.

    I’d agree that this is a feature that should be built into the next version of Finder although I think (or is that hoping?) we’re going to see something radically different: something built on the Spotlight technology.

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