Why the Mac Finder took so long to get the new Tabs in OS X Mavericks

Posted:
in macOS edited January 2014
More than half a decade after adding tabs to Safari 3.0 in 2007, Apple has incorporated the same feature into the OS X Mavericks Finder to organize multiple views into a single window, building on years of technology advancements to support the seemingly simple and obvious feature.

OS X Mavericks Finder


"Finder Tabs help you declutter your desktop by consolidating multiple Finder windows into one," Apple states on its feature preview site. "You could keep a tab for Documents, one for AirDrop, and one for Back to My Mac, all in a single Finder window."

Just like Safari's browser tabs, "you can switch between tabs, customize views, and reorder them however you like."

A Full Screen Finder

Users might wonder what took Apple so long to bring such an obvious feature from its web browser to its desktop experience. After all, Cocotech's Path Finder and BinaryAge TotalFinder introduced tabbed Finder alternatives years ago, and Apple certainly understands the value of tabs given its years of supporting them in Safari.

Rather than being a simple feature addition, the new Tabs are designed to be particularly useful in the new Finder because they support drag and drop of documents between tabs, including a tab of the AirDrop window for wireless sharing.

This also makes the new Finder fully-functional in Full Screen mode, where users can actually work with multiple window views. Currently, the Finder is among the few apps bundled in OS X that doesn't support Full Screen use.

Multiple Displays

Making the Full Screen Finder even more useful is Apple's parallel overhaul of Multiple Displays. For the first time on the Macintosh, there's no longer any notion of a "primary display" hosting the menu bar and Dock.

OS X Mavericks Finder


In OS X Mavericks, every connected display presents a fully functional menu bar and a Dock (above), including any wireless AirPlay screens hosted by an Apple TV connected HDTV display (below).

OS X Mavericks Finder


Each display can also now support its own Full Screen app, and a "supercharged" new version of Mission Control now allows users to drag and drop an entire Space (including a Full Screen app) to another display (below).

OS X Mavericks Finder


While seemingly simple, the development of Multiple Displays and support for a Full Screen Finder required a lot of background changes to how OS X works.

Standing on the shoulders of giant leaps forward

The evolution of the revamped desktop and its Finder is visible in previous releases of the operating system, including 10.3's Expos? for managing windows and apps, 10.4's Dashboard as a parallel desktop environment of widgets, 10.5's Spaces implementation of virtual desktops and 10.6's rewritten Cocoa Finder.

In OS 10.7 Lion, Apple introduced Full Screen apps and the new Mission Control feature to unify Expos?, Dashboard and Spaces along with a new Screen Sharing architecture supporting multiple concurrent users through support for virtual displays. Apple also enhanced the Finder with expanded new integrated Spotlight search and item arrangement views.

In OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, Apple added support for drag and drop enhancements to Remote Desktop virtual displays, for Full Screen apps on any attached display and for AirPlay Mirroring to Apple TV.

These features set the stage for OS X Mavericks' expansion of multiple desktops, virtual displays and wireless AirPlay, along with a Full Screen Finder that binds multiple views into a single tabbed window rather than just tacking on tabs as a standalone feature.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 67
    The article says that adding tabs to the Finder "required a lot of background changes to how OS X works", but never mentions what those changes are. Reading it, I felt there was a page two which explains the details, but it doesn't seem to exist.
  • Reply 2 of 67
    dgnr8dgnr8 Posts: 196member


    Don't care how long it took (in the past nothing can be done about that now) just freaking geeked to be getting it.


     


    Spaces and Tab Finder have been the top 2 items on my wish list since the early versions of OS X.


     


    Third on my list was independent displays (No Primary Monitor).


     


    I think I can be very happy with 10.8 for a long while.


     


    I hope Mr. Jobs got a chance to see 10.8 because his NeXT OS rocks.


     


     


    This is the way Linux should have always been, Yeah I Talking To You REDHAT!

  • Reply 3 of 67
    scotty321scotty321 Posts: 313member
    Okay, but this article doesn't explain what the title of the article promises: WHY did it take so long? Why don't I give you the answer why: Because Steve Jobs didn't want a tabbed Finder. Now that he is sadly no longer with us, the engineers at Apple are able to start doing a lot of the advanced stuff which Jobs nixed in the past.
  • Reply 4 of 67
    I quit using multiple displays because it was so wonky, so I'm stoked for the new display handling. Finder tabs is nice, but it doesn't help me a whole lot. It does seem that it took 13 years to get here, though. I'm guessing that Steve Jobs didn't like the idea, so now that he's gone, we finally get the feature. But that's just a guess.
  • Reply 5 of 67
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,949member
    That's interesting, but it would be interesting to know the answer to the headline to greater depth than "it took years of hard work", because that's pretty much a tautology, as in, "It took a long time because it took a long time."
  • Reply 6 of 67
    poochpooch Posts: 768member
    More than half a decade after adding tabs to Safari 3.0 in 2007, [...]

    too hard to just say "More than five years"? it's not just "More than half a decade". why stop there? it's also more than 5% of a century. More than 5% of a century. oh, the humanity. or maybe More than a lustrum would have gotten you more clicks?
  • Reply 7 of 67
    correctionscorrections Posts: 1,409member
    The why is the underlying technology required to support not just the appearance of tabs, but also their functionality Full Screen and across screens.

    As long as the Finder was tied to the desktop, menu bar and Dock (which are actually separate processes on OS X) on the main display, there were conflicts related to taking it full screen on any screen, which is where tabs serve the purpose of working in a full screen, iPad-like experience on one screen while other displays are active with full screen apps of their own.
  • Reply 8 of 67
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,949member
    The why is the underlying technology required to support not just the appearance of tabs, but also their functionality Full Screen and across screens.

    As long as the Finder was tied to the desktop, menu bar and Dock (which are actually separate processes on OS X) on the main display, there were conflicts related to taking it full screen on any screen, which is where tabs serve the purpose of working in a full screen, iPad-like experience on one screen while other displays are active with full screen apps of their own.

    What underlying technology, specifically? Also, full screen isn't required to make tabs useful, it wasn't even until Mountain Lion that apps were universally given full screen ability. Across screens seems like a pointless claim of limitation. Macs don't seem to care what screen a window is on. That the menu bar is on all screens now doesn't strike me as a problem that previously prevented tabs from being implemented.

    Anyways, this line of reasoning sounds like an example of the perfect being the enemy of the good.

    The Finder has been a bit of a sore spot, long-neglected. And I don't think it's because improving it was necessarily too hard to fix problems that it had. More realistically, I think it just wasn't a program sexy enough to make it worth improving.
  • Reply 9 of 67
    All I want is auto-right-size-columns in column view. It's so freaking stupid that this hasn't happened yet!
  • Reply 10 of 67
    sipsip Posts: 210member


    I loved some of Finder features in OS9 which disappeared in OSX.


     


    Option+double click on a folder closed one window and opened a new one -- you can do this in OSX but the new listing opens in the same window, and retains the size of the parent window.


     


    With multiple windows open in OS9, Option-clicking on the now green traffic light resized every window according to number of files within each -- doesn't quite work in OSX. In fact, resizing windows in OSX limits the size (length) of each window and forces scrolling -- methinks this was designed around the 13" laptop screen but is cumbersome on a larger display.


     


    Can anyone remember being able to park Finder windows at the bottom of the screen in OS9?


     


    Sometimes it is best not to mess with some of the more useful and distinguishing features of an OS, which is why I avoided WinPCs all my computing life.

  • Reply 11 of 67
    I also imagine that rewriting the Finder was one of those projects that they kept promising to do "someday" while they added features and squashed bugs for each OS X release. Eventually they got around to doing it. I don't think that there is a lot of "why" to this. It was this or that Jobs nixed it. Probably.
  • Reply 12 of 67

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by sip View Post


    I loved some of Finder features in OS9 which disappeared in OSX.


     


    Option+double click on a folder closed one window and opened a new one -- you can do this in OSX but the new listing opens in the same window, and retains the size of the parent window.


     


    With multiple windows open in OS9, Option-clicking on the now green traffic light resized every window according to number of files within each -- doesn't quite work in OSX. In fact, resizing windows in OSX limits the size (length) of each window and forces scrolling -- methinks this was designed around the 13" laptop screen but is cumbersome on a larger display.


     


    Can anyone remember being able to park Finder windows at the bottom of the screen in OS9?


     


    Sometimes it is best not to mess with some of the more useful and distinguishing features of an OS, which is why I avoided WinPCs all my computing life.



    The option-double click trick should just honor the "open folders in new window" preference and it would work correctly. I wonder why it doesn't? 

  • Reply 13 of 67
    john.bjohn.b Posts: 2,722member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Pooch View Post




    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post



    More than half a decade after adding tabs to Safari 3.0 in 2007, [...]




    too hard to just say "More than five years"? it's not just "More than half a decade". why stop there? it's also more than 5% of a century. More than 5% of a century. oh, the humanity. or maybe More than a lustrum would have gotten you more clicks?


     


    I would've gone with a quarter score, but that's just me.

  • Reply 14 of 67
    rraburrabu Posts: 239member


    I'm still wonder why they didn't just add tabbing windows together to the window manager instead. Would be nice if all apps could use it for "free" or opt-in to using it like full screen mode.


     


    Since lots of apps use the whole sidebar feature (like iTunes, Finder and now Safari), it would be interesting if you could tab together windows from different apps. The sidebar and menubar would simple change to match the tab that is selected...

  • Reply 15 of 67
    cyniccynic Posts: 124member


    Hm, with all due respect, this article is garbage.


     


    It does not actually answer what it promises to answer in the headline. We still don't know why it took so long to get tabs in the finder. This whole article is based on assumptions and conclusions based on an author apparently unqualified to make such judgements.


     


    However, one thing is clear. Neither did implementing tabs for the Finder require any or "a lot" of background changes to OS X, nor did the fact that you may drag and drop between tabs have much to do with implementation complexity.


     


    Probably the reasons are more along the lines of "because they never bothered to". The fact that we got a tabbed finder together with better multi screen support is merely coincidential.


     


     


    Quote:


    While seemingly simple, the development of Multiple Displays and support for a Full Screen Finder required a lot of background changes to how OS X works.



     


    I'm also really baffled at how statements such as the above actually manage to get published and pass the editor. There is absolutely no reasoning justifying this statement, nor is there a source. And frankly, this is a bunch of bullshit and phrases such as "a lot of background changes to how OS X works" just highlight the fact that the author does not seem to have any idea of what he is talking about.

  • Reply 16 of 67
    eluardeluard Posts: 319member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by scotty321 View Post



    Okay, but this article doesn't explain what the title of the article promises: WHY did it take so long? Why don't I give you the answer why: Because Steve Jobs didn't want a tabbed Finder. Now that he is sadly no longer with us, the engineers at Apple are able to start doing a lot of the advanced stuff which Jobs nixed in the past.


     


    Do you have even a shred of evidence that that is so? I thought not.


     


     


    If tabs were 'years' in the making then that suggests that they were working on this when S.J. was alive. And remember how long it took to even get the Finder rewritten to Cocoa. In the end we have no real idea what has been going on with Finder and what the delays were.

  • Reply 17 of 67
    I don't know about Finder tabs (time will tell), but in Safari, tabs have proven to be quite useful.

    However, only recently did I discover the tabbed window in XCode 4.x

    Not only has this feature in XCode vastly improved my productivity, but it also seems a lot faster. And nothing keeps you from opening an occasional throw-away window that you can move independently. Soooo nice.
  • Reply 18 of 67
    initiatorinitiator Posts: 104member


    Can we please, please, please, all just agree among ourselves to refer to the new OS as simply 10.9? OS X Mavericks is completely ridiculous. Worst name ever. Every time I see OS X Mavericks, I do a mental substitution for 10.9.

  • Reply 19 of 67
    What is the answer to the question "what took so long"?

    I didn't really see it in the article.

  • Reply 20 of 67
    negafoxnegafox Posts: 480member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by cynic View Post


    Hm, with all due respect, this article is garbage.


     


    It does not actually answer what it promises to answer in the headline. We still don't know why it took so long to get tabs in the finder. This whole article is based on assumptions and conclusions based on an author apparently unqualified to make such judgements.



    I wholeheartedly agree.


     


    This article does not remotely answer the question it poses in the title and it feels like amateur detective work at best.

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