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Macintosh Finder

The Finder is the default application program run by the Macintosh operating system that is responsible for the overall user-management of files, disks, network volumes and the launching of other applications. As such the Finder acts like the shell on other operating systems, but using a GUI. It was introduced with the very first Macintosh computer, and also existed as part of GS/OS on the Apple IIgs. It underwent a complete rewrite with Apple's switch to a UNIX-based OS in Mac OS X.

The Finder is the first program a user interacts with after booting a Mac, and as such it is responsible for the general look and feel of the machine. One should be careful though to distinguish this from being the actual GUI of the machine, which is really provided by particular services within the Mac OS; The Finder is just another application, albeit the default one.

The Finder maintains a view of the file system that is rendered using the desktop metaphor - that is, the files and folders are represented as appropriate icons, volumes are displayed on the desktop, and there is a trash can to which files can be dragged to mark them for deletion.

Table of contents
1 Finder 1.0 to 6.1
2 Finder 7.0 to 9.2
3 Finder 10.0 to 10.2.1
4 Finder 10.3

Finder 1.0 to 6.1

The original Finder always included a blank folder at the root level of every disk. A new blank folder would be created whenever that folder was renamed and used. Folders could not be placed inside of folders in Finder 1.0. Such functionality was not available until the Macintosh File System was replaced with Apple's Hierarchal File System in 1985, as part of Finder 4.1.

The original Finder was also the cause of much early user frustration due to slow speed of file copying, which would lead to dozens of disk-swaps on the single-drive original Macintosh. Though much of this problem could be attributed to the small amount of memory available on the 128k Macintosh, Apple attempted to address the issue with Finder 1.1 in May 1984.

There was no publicly released version of Finder 2.x or 3.x. The next version of the Finder was 4.1, which added HFS support, an "Eject" option in the File menu and several cosmetic changes to the look of the system's icons.

Early versions of the Finder would shut down whenever another program was launched, due to the single-tasking nature of the Mac OS prior to System 6. System 6 introduced the MultiFinder (Finder 6.1), which would continue to run even while other programs were running. Under System 6, the Multi-Finder was an option that could be set with a control panel whose setting took effect with the next restart.

The original Mac OS Finder featured a "universal Desktop," which showed the compilation of the contents of the invisible "Desktop Folder" on the root level of every mounted disk. This meant that files dragged from a disk to the Desktop did not always copy to the Mac's hard drive, and would often disappear when the disk in question was later ejected (which in the Finder was achieved by dragging the icon of the disk to the trash).

Finder 7.0 to 9.2

In 1991 Apple released System 7, a significant rewrite of their operating system. Like every other component of the OS, the Finder received a major overhaul. MultiFinder was no longer an option, but was instead always active. Finder windows were colorized, and the list view was expanded to include "disclosure triangles" which allowed the user to drill down further into the file system without opening more windows. The Finder's trash icon took on a more refined appearance, and the Labels feature premiered, which allowed the user to assign metadata labels to different files. Labeled files were colorized and the system's search function could locate files based on their labels.

A "Put Away" command premiered in System 7 which allowed users to drag icons from anywhere on their computer to the Desktop, use the file from the Desktop, and then scoot the file back to its original location with a single command. However, such a feature was somewhat unnecessary, since Finder 7.0 also unveiled an "alias" functionality which allowed files to be represented in multiple locations by simple pointer files. The Put Away command could also be used as an alternate means to eject mounted floppy disks and CD-ROMs.

Though the Macintosh System itself would undergo major changes in the intervening years, the Finder remained relatively unchanged until the release of Mac OS 8 in 1997. Finder 8.0 was the first version to be multithreaded. For the first time copying a file or emptying the trash did not block other uses of the Finder. Like the rest of the system, Finder 8.0 took on a metallic "Platinum" appearance. It also features several new features, including Pop Up windows, which appeared as tabs on the bottom of the Mac's screen until clicked on, at which point they displayed their contents. Spring-loaded folders were also introduced in Finder 8.0, which allowed a user to drag and drop files deep into the system's folder hierarchy with a simple drill-down mechanism.

Finder 8.1, released in early 1998, introduced support for the more efficient HFS+ file system, and was the last major update to the classic Mac OS Finder.

Finder 10.0 to 10.2.1

The Mac OS X Finder was not an update of the previous Finder, but was instead based upon the file manager from the NextStep operating system. As such, it was a major departure from the original Finder and was poorly received by many longtime Macintosh users.

Finder 10.0 lacked many features found in it's Classic predecessor. The universal Desktop was gone, replaced by a Desktop that presented only the contents of the user's own Desktop folder. Support for Labels -- and, indeed, almost any form of metadata -- was gone, as were pop up windows, desktop printers, the "Put Away" command and spring-loaded folders. In Finder 10.0 the Trash was also removed from the Desktop and was no longer part of the Finder, having instead been integrated into the system's Dock.

Finder 10.0 also eschewed the classic Finder's "spatial" orientation -- where each location on the hard drive opened in its own window, and only one window -- for a Windows 98-style browser system.

Finder 10.0 introduced a highly-customizable toolbar which could be displayed at the top of every Finder window, and the NeXT-derived Column View, which displayed the hierarchy of the file system in a series of left-to-right panes. Users were also able to determine which, if any, of the mounted disks on their system appeared on the Desktop.

Finder 10.2 reintroduced spring-loaded folders, but they did not feature all of the functions of their Finder 8.0 predecessors.

Finder 10.3

Mac OS X 10.3 introduced a significantly upgraded version of the Finder which restored several classic features while also introducing a new GUI.

Finder 10.3 took on a brushed-metal appearance similar to that of Apple's iTunes jukebox application. Users could customize both the toolbar at the top of the window, which was based off of that of Apple's Safari web browser, and an iTunes-esque panel to the left of the Finder window. Folders selected in the leftmost panel would appear as the top of the filesystem in the right hand pane of the file browser. The left hand pane also listed and allowed the ejection of mounted removable storage disks.

Finder 10.3 also integrated support for uploading and downloading to and from FTP sites from within the Finder. An optional search pane allowed for live searching of any selected folder or volume.

Labels and the ability to search by Type and Creator metadata were restored in Finder 10.3, as was an option to switch the Finder to a "spatial" mode. This spatial mode was differentiated from the standard mode by the use of an Aqua window in the place of brushed-metal and the lack of the default mode's customizable toolbars. In spatial mode, Finder 10.3 operates nearly-identically to Finder 9.2, and only opens one window per folder, and each folder in its own window.