A while back the 7.7.6 release of A Better Finder Rename introduced the “ultra-fast, ultra-safe” renaming mode.
Renaming files on Mac OS 9/X has always been a tricky affair because of file comments. In earlier releases of Mac OS 9/X these were called “Finder comments” and starting with Mac OS X 10.4 “Spotlight comments”.
The thing about them has always been: they keep disappearing for no reason.
The reason is actually all too clear: they are not properly linked into the file system programming interfaces. Every time to you save a file under a new name, move it off a Mac HFS+ file system, send it via email, move or copy it under Unix, etc the file comment stays behind because the Finder doesn’t know about the operation.
Generations of Macintosh users have stored crucial data in those comments, only to find that when they need them, they have disappeared.
Now renaming files outside of the Finder is one of those things that make file comments disappear, precisely because the Finder doesn’t know anything about the renaming having happened.
A Better Finder Rename to my knowledge is the only file renaming utility for the Mac that actually preserve file comments. It does so by telling the Finder about each rename. Unfortunately this is hardly the fastest way of doing things. Usually this does not matter too much because renaming 500 files in under 5 seconds isn’t really all that slow.
Unfortunately, this method does not work on FileVault encrypted home folders. The reason for this is that AppleScript does not work on FileVault files. This is a problem that I (and many others) reported to Apple when 10.3 came out, but that has not been solved yet. Perhaps because it can’t be solved?
This is why A Better Finder Rename in the “Advanced Options” sections lets you choose your own renaming mechanism. A full description of the different mechanisms available is in the manual.
Which brings us back to the “ulta-fast, ultra-safe” renaming mode. For a short while Apple managed to fix their renaming programming interface in the Cocoa APIs, so that file comments did not disappear, as long as you used a brand-new system level call to do so. If memory serves this was between Mac OS X 10.4.7 and 10.4.8. In Mac OS X 10.4.9 they promptly broke this again and file comments started disappearing again..
So in between the implementation and the release of version 7.7.6 the new feature stopped working and then had to be “removed” from version 7.7.7 as a bug fix. I did report the problem to Apple again..
Now it seems that in Leopard things are fine again. The renaming mode was never actually removed, but simply renamed. It is still available as “ultra-fast move mode (potential file comment loss)” and appears to work flawlessly and very fast under Leopard. So if you are under Leopard, by all means use it!