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Creative Services for
Roughly Drafted
Daniel Eran

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The Apple Wishlist: Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard
4.3 New Workgroup Services : The SuperFinder
The mild mannered Finder needs a super hero overhaul. Apple introduced a number of features in Tiger that seem only halfheartedly integrated into the Finder. Let's do better.

Workgroup Manager ACL Editing

Workgroup Manager ACE entry
For starters, files should be able to both display and properly set their file permissions, including Tiger's new access control entries, in 'Get info' panels. Apple provides a simple interface for network admins to edit file permissions in Workgroup Manager, but provides nothing at all in Mac OS X. Windows NT has provided functional permissions property page for files for a decade.

While file ownership and permissions are key to security, most users regard permissions as an annoying hinderance. The Finder should provide an end user tool to provide a shotgun solution to permissions issues. Disk Utility's Repair Permissions only fixes problems related to system files and applications.

There should be a separate tool to reset permissions on a user's folders and files, as well as fix permissions on arbitrary files, such as those log files dumped in the root directory by sloppy installer programs.

In Windows, an administrator can take ownership of files from within the GUI. Permission editing in the Finder is spotty, and it's disingenuous to think mom can drop down to the command line to chown or chmod those files that aren't working as expected. A stuck user should be able to select files, authenticate as admin, and bust open the permissions when needed.

Workgroup Manager ACE entry The Finder should also show version control information for repository files as noted the the previous idea, and should present other file metadata at least as well as iTunes does for songs. An omnipresent way to easily tag various items with metadata labels for easy location later would make Spotlight searching far more useful.

The same simple, clear and consistent interface for adding keyword metadata to individual and group selections of items needs to be added to iPhoto, iTunes, and other applications as well, so that users only have to learn one way to tag things.

A Smart Tool icon in Finder windows could present users with customizable, prebuilt Automator workflows for common actions, such as the renaming of a series of files, or the merging of two sets of nestled directories together, rather than default action of overwriting directories and their files. A hand-holding introduction to workflows would get users accustomed to the power behind simple scripting actions.

As I noted with Spotlight, the Finder needs to assign more priority to the user's actions in the foreground. It commonly blocks the user interface while trying to look up file details, particularly when browsing network shares. The Finder should pay more attention to the foreground user and prioritize responsiveness and quick navigation.

It's painful to have the entire system stall while the Finder downloads custom icons on a large directory of files, or renders the preview of a PDF file. I'll wait an extra second or two for the preview if I can keep scrolling around.

The SuperFinder Continues (with pictures!): Faster


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