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PathFinder 3.0.1

CocoaTech (Steve Gehrman)

This program is getting a lot of PR of late, and not all of it is good (unless you talk to the experts, who claim all PR is good PR).

There's a bit of a brouhaha about CocoaTech's use of GPL code, and there are cries at MacSlash that they should now have the right to use all the source.

For those of you who haven't yet seen Path Finder, aka SNAX as it was called in a former life, it's a Finder with hundreds of doodads tacked on. Mac geeks love this kind of stuff. Makes them feel like real wizard people when they're not. Something like having an equaliser where you can watch all the LCDs jump about and yank switches and stuff.

Steve Gehrman, the author of Path Finder, is no dummy. He's been at it with this program for several years now. And he's got everything in it.

Especially lugubrious this time around are the 'reports' - humungoid text files which Steve puts into his own built-in text editor for your perusal.

Can you use this stuff? Steve had some interest in it, to be sure. It could have been inspired by Rixstep's Xtool information tabs - who knows. And some of these reports extend to 450 pages. And it's mostly invoking standard methods such as -description and -dictionaryRepresentation. And it's rather cool.

But that bit about the text editor: Steve already has a text editor in his system (TextEdit) and the text editor he bakes into Path Finder does not exist, or at least is not advertised as such, as a stand-alone program.

In programming parlance, this is known as reinventing the wheel. And if you don't get it, this sort of thing is just not done - even if David Hyatt looks through his fingers at exactly the same thing.

Not to say this application won't be a big hit with pseudo-gurus. They should yuck it up. Textured windows throughout - but you can turn them off; initial view hides lots of files like the Finder - but you can turn them on; exclusive use of outline view in hierarchical format - you can't turn that off.

Path Finder will never approach the speed of Xfile, but maybe you want to fool around and test a lot of stuff, yank switches, push buttons, go after obtuse settings, and so forth.

But it's a huge download - 5MB - and today is 12.7MB on disk, which is a lot - over twice as big as the Finder, and the Finder is already way too big.

Then there's the price tag. Steve Gehrman thinks $34 for Path Finder 3.0.1 is OK. Maybe you do too. Then again maybe you don't. It all comes down to how useful the program is, how much you want to use it. By all means, if it floats your boat, buy it.

But meditate for a moment on the words of Doug McIlroy, head of Bell Labs' CSRC where ken and dmr created Unix. Doug was not only the boss, he was the guru: he set the programming standards which sculpted the world we live in today. His words ring as true as ever.

'Make each program do one thing well. To do a new job, build afresh rather than complicate old programs by adding new features.'

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