Hands on: Default Folder X for macOS transforms how you use and retrieve documents

Posted:
in Mac Software edited July 2017
AppleInsider didn't think Open and Save dialogs needed fixing, but it turns out that they could be improved -- and this app does it so well you might get addicted.




You open and save documents on your Mac all day long. Default Folder X is the latest version of a long-running app, and still makes it faster to find what you're after and to choose where to keep them. In its latest version, Default Folder X 5.1.5 handles those minimized Save dialogs that Apple is so fond of.




In practice, all Default Folder X does for those is add a button that expands them out into the regular, full-size Save dialogs. You really don't need that because you can click on Apple's own button to the side of the file name. Yet, anecdotally, we've seen countless people either not notice Apple's button or just not understand it.

It's a shame because those people are unlikely to become Default Folder X users even though it would help them. You need to understand and better yet have felt weary at how much clicking you do every day.




That's perhaps Default Folder X in microcosm: you don't truly need it yet if you are even a little experienced on your Mac, you quickly see how much faster and handier it is when you've got it. It's so much faster and handier that it's difficult to go back and it's very easy to wish there was a version for the Finder.

Its chief purpose since version 1 has been to help out when you're opening or saving documents over and over again. If you always save your Pages documents in a folder called Novel then the next time you click Open or Save/Save As, Default Folder X can make sure that's where you are. You can still navigate anywhere else you like, but the default in Pages could be Novel. So hit Save, write a title, hit Return and you know that you've saved the document in the right place.

Similarly, if you work with Excel documents that are always on a server somewhere across your office's network, Default Folder X saves you have to schlep through finding it. It's just there when you choose Open in Excel.

If that were all it did, it'd be convenient but you would forget that it was there and it'd be unlikely to have needed to reach version 5.1.5. The major version 5 update made Default Folder X do its stuff with the latest macOS and added a new look plus assorted improvements.




The look is important because as well as routing you to specific folders you've chosen, the app presents many other options. It presents them in a faintly ghostly wraparound of the regular macOS Open and Save dialogs. Previous versions of the app had this in black where now it's a white and somehow seems vastly more intrusive.

You see the same dialog you always did but surrounding it are new functions. To the right there are icons for setting up, for instance, that the Novel folder is your favorite when you're using Pages. There's also a Recent Files, Recent Folders and more.

Recent Files does replicate the Open Recent feature from most apps and it is the same simple list. However, having Recent Folders is already better because you're so often choosing a file from the same place you were last in. Then as well as a list of recent folders, each entry has a pop-out menu that means you can drill down into subfolders.

Utterly gorgeously, you can also do this. While you have the regular Open or Save dialog box on the screen, you can click anywhere else on your desktop. Click on a corner of a Finder window you've got open and the Open/Save dialog will jump to that same folder.

In the screenshot above, notice how a Finder window is greyed out behind the pop-out menu. That's Default Folder X showing that you can click on the window to make that where you're Opening or Saving.

When you're opening documents, Default Folder X also gives you a large preview. Apple does that when you change to a column view and click through to what you want but even then it's just a thumbnail. Default Folder X shows you the document large and clear right underneath the Open box.

If you're drilling down through many levels of recent folders and pause on a document, it will quickly show you a reasonable-sized thumbnail. If you don't immediately move off, it turns that into a much larger preview.

It all just means you now rarely open the wrong thing.




If you keep opening the same document, then you can drag it to the left side of the Open box and create a little shelf of regular favourite documents. It works and it's handy but Default Folder X displays them as small visual buttons rather than text. If you have a few of them then it's hard to immediately see which is which.

Then if you drag the Open or Save dialog box anywhere, it can take a distracting beat for Default Folder X's wraparound controls to catch up.

The only place Default Folder X truly falls down, though, is how things have changed since it originally launched.

If you're writing in Ulysses, for one example, you never open or save anything. If you're working in Apple apps like Pages then you might not be saving because it does that for you. You might write something and then share it over email rather than save it.

Apps have changed. They don't always have Open and Save. Consequently, you might have seen more of Default Folder X's work in the past -- but it's still superb at what it does now.

Default Folder X costs $34.95 and is available directly from the maker.

One more thing -- we switched off Default Folder X in order to get a screenshot of Apple's minimized dialog and so instantly missed having it on that we rushed back.
jeffharris

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 16
    jeffharrisjeffharris Posts: 526member
    This has been around since System 7, I think.
    A the time, Now Utilities Super Boomerang was MUCH better, but it broke under OS X, so now we have Default Folder.

    It's Great utility! I recommend it to everyone I know (that's smart enough to be a Mac User)!
    neo-tech
  • Reply 2 of 16
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,492member
    I'll have to give the 30 day trail a go before determining whether it's worth $35, but I'm certainly intrigued. As AI stated, it's something Mac users access frequently but I also never thought about it being improved or looking for a 3rd-party utility to add more features.
  • Reply 3 of 16
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,903member
    This has been around since System 7, I think.
    A the time, Now Utilities Super Boomerang was MUCH better, but it broke under OS X, so now we have Default Folder.

    It's Great utility! I recommend it to everyone I know (that's smart enough to be a Mac User)!
    Oh I loved Boomerang.  Made me 10 x more productive.  The exact same concept would be awesome again but now I'd add in the ability to load a special folder with the exact same tabs, i.e. multiple folders, all saved with the tabs in place with a name of your choosing.  
    edited July 2017
  • Reply 4 of 16
    zeus423zeus423 Posts: 38member
    Been using it forever. Love it. It's a must-have utility for me.
    stclairsoftstukeneo-tech
  • Reply 5 of 16
    I've been using DF since OS9. It's a sanity saver especially when you're trying to work quickly. 
    neo-tech
  • Reply 6 of 16
    LoneStar88LoneStar88 Posts: 278member
    Default Folder is a truly great app, and Jon Gotow, the developer, has been quite responsive. I can't imagine living without it.
    neo-tech
  • Reply 7 of 16
    zoetmbzoetmb Posts: 2,391member
    This is one area where Apple is weak and has made virtually no improvements over the years and where I prefer Windows.   When you open the mini finder in Windows, you can delete unneeded files and perform other operations.   Windows also has better options when copying large numbers of files as to what to do when a file with the same name already exists, etc.  Apple's Zen approach is actually quite lame, IMO.

    There was another utility that worked back in the System 7 days that the developer abandoned once OS X was released, but it was quite good, as I remember it.  It added all kinds of functionality to the finder.   But I can't remember the name of it.


  • Reply 8 of 16
    Regarding Default Folder X's UI, where the article says: "Previous versions of the app had this in black where now it's a white and somehow seems vastly more intrusive."

    There's a setting in Default Folder X's prefs, in the "Open & Save" tab, to set the style of the bezel. You can choose from Light Bezel, Dark Bezel, and Minimal Toolbar to suit your tastes. Dark Bezel is the old black appearance, and Minimal Toolbar makes the whole UI as unintrusive as possible.

     - Jon
    neo-tech
  • Reply 9 of 16
    Default Folder X has one feature that I use all the time and sorely miss when using other people's computers, especially Windows machines. That's the ability to hover over any open Finder window and click to select it as the Save location while in any Application Save dialog window. It saves so much time and effort over having to drill back down to the desired folder. How many times have you had a Finder window open, then clicked Save As in a given Application that opens a new dialog window right over the top of the Finder window you want to Save in? With DFX, you just hover over it and click, and Tada!, the Save dialog chooses that window. No more searching for the right folder/directory. It's so indispensable that I can't believe it's not a part of macOS. I find myself trying to do it on other computers and completely baffled that I now have to go find the Folder that I already have open right there on the screen. For me, it's the absolute killer feature of DFX. I like the others, but that one by itself makes it worth the price for me.
    neo-tech
  • Reply 10 of 16
    2stepbay2stepbay Posts: 110member
    Highly recommend. Been using for years. A great time saver. Helps me be much more efficient with my work.
    neo-tech
  • Reply 11 of 16
    stukestuke Posts: 80member
    Me too...been using it for years and the click on any finder window that "pops into focus on hover" is so addicting (and useful!) that I miss it when on other machines.
    neo-tech
  • Reply 12 of 16
    I always expand the save dialog. 

    Seemed simple enough whrn when I first switched to Mac years ago. 

    Default folder x seems ok. But those clunky looking icons on the right would annoy me to no end. 
  • Reply 13 of 16
    hagarhagar Posts: 107member
    Default Folder X has one feature that I use all the time and sorely miss when using other people's computers, especially Windows machines. That's the ability to hover over any open Finder window and click to select it as the Save location while in any Application Save dialog window. It saves so much time and effort over having to drill back down to the desired folder. How many times have you had a Finder window open, then clicked Save As in a given Application that opens a new dialog window right over the top of the Finder window you want to Save in? With DFX, you just hover over it and click, and Tada!, the Save dialog chooses that window. No more searching for the right folder/directory. It's so indispensable that I can't believe it's not a part of macOS. I find myself trying to do it on other computers and completely baffled that I now have to go find the Folder that I already have open right there on the screen. For me, it's the absolute killer feature of DFX. I like the others, but that one by itself makes it worth the price for me.
    MacOS does offer the possibility to drag a folder from Finder to an Open/Save dialog box and that box will then immediately jump to that location. It's quite a hidden feature but I use it all the time. So I have never felt the need to install DF, but might give it a try someday. 
    edited July 2017
  • Reply 14 of 16
    Sounds like a good idea but that UI is just terrible. It is literally slapped onto the existing UI.
  • Reply 15 of 16
    hagar said:
    Default Folder X has one feature that I use all the time and sorely miss when using other people's computers, especially Windows machines. That's the ability to hover over any open Finder window and click to select it as the Save location while in any Application Save dialog window. It saves so much time and effort over having to drill back down to the desired folder. How many times have you had a Finder window open, then clicked Save As in a given Application that opens a new dialog window right over the top of the Finder window you want to Save in? With DFX, you just hover over it and click, and Tada!, the Save dialog chooses that window. No more searching for the right folder/directory. It's so indispensable that I can't believe it's not a part of macOS. I find myself trying to do it on other computers and completely baffled that I now have to go find the Folder that I already have open right there on the screen. For me, it's the absolute killer feature of DFX. I like the others, but that one by itself makes it worth the price for me.
    MacOS does offer the possibility to drag a folder from Finder to an Open/Save dialog box and that box will then immediately jump to that location. It's quite a hidden feature but I use it all the time. So I have never felt the need to install DF, but might give it a try someday. 
    txsbaker75 is absolutely correct. This feature alone would make DFX worth it's nominal price. I've been using this app (and its predecessor) both professionally and personally for over 13 years. It is a significant helper and improvement to the Finder in expediting work and routine tasks. The favorites portion is extremely helpful and the hover function is priceless. Do yourself a favor and download the trial... "an open mind may yield unexpected benefits" (got that from a fortune cookie). Enjoy!
    edited July 2017 txsbaker75
  • Reply 16 of 16
    hagar said:
    Default Folder X has one feature that I use all the time and sorely miss when using other people's computers, especially Windows machines. That's the ability to hover over any open Finder window and click to select it as the Save location while in any Application Save dialog window. It saves so much time and effort over having to drill back down to the desired folder. How many times have you had a Finder window open, then clicked Save As in a given Application that opens a new dialog window right over the top of the Finder window you want to Save in? With DFX, you just hover over it and click, and Tada!, the Save dialog chooses that window. No more searching for the right folder/directory. It's so indispensable that I can't believe it's not a part of macOS. I find myself trying to do it on other computers and completely baffled that I now have to go find the Folder that I already have open right there on the screen. For me, it's the absolute killer feature of DFX. I like the others, but that one by itself makes it worth the price for me.
    MacOS does offer the possibility to drag a folder from Finder to an Open/Save dialog box and that box will then immediately jump to that location. It's quite a hidden feature but I use it all the time. So I have never felt the need to install DF, but might give it a try someday. 
    Agreed on that feature – it's good. Even easier the way Default Folder has implemented it I guess, but still. Also like the ability to drag and drop documents onto running apps in the app switcher (cmd tab and then keep holding cmd) to open them in that particular app.
    edited August 2017
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