Snow Leopard Update

Right, Snow Leopard has officially been released, so we can start talking about it..

Like many  in the Macintosh community, I thought that “sometime in September” would mean.. sometime in September, so I felt that it was safe to go on holiday until the second of September and that would leave me plenty of time for a nice orderly rollout of Mac OS X 10.6… silly old me, of course it meant the 28th of August!? I’m not really sure what Apple stands to gain from this kind of exercise, but it sure doesn’t make it easy for third party developers.

The good news is that I have tested all current products including A Better Finder RenameA Better Finder Attributes, “The Big Mean Folder Machine” and MacBreakZ with the latest beta release, which rumor has it is the gold master of what appears on the shelves today and it’s all running just fine.

A Better Finder Attributes displays some odd behaviors on certain file date changes which I’m fairly certain are  due to actual bugs in Snow Leopard. I’ll report them to Apple when I get back to the office next week. The workaround is simple: click on the “OK” button twice and everything is fine.

Snow Leopard also appears to no longer allow the creator part of the creator & type legacy codes to be set!? This isn’t a great loss since creator & type codes have been on their way out ever since 10.1 came out and the creator part is arguably of less relevance than the type part. I’ll investigate.

A Better Finder Rename runs just fine with no problems at all, so assuming that the beta I had was indeed the Gold Master, it should be smooth rollout.

The Big Mean Folder Machine” and MacBreakZ have displayed no problems at all.

Of course, once you put a new operating system into the hands of a couple of million actual users, inevitably quirks are discovered, so please let me know immediately if you find something. I can only fix problems that I know about..

One more thing..

How to get the Finder context menu on Snow Leopard

Snow Leopard finally does away with contextual menu item plug-ins, which is definitely a good thing. This ancient technology is replaced with “Services”.. you know that weird menu that appears in every application’s menu bar and you have no idea of what it does.

The gotcha here is that you need to activate the A Better Finder Rename and A Better Finder Attributes services to actually see them in the Finder context menu or the new streamlined Services menu.

  1. A Better Finder Rename and A Better Finder Attributes now definitely need to reside in your Applications because that is where Snow Leopard looks for “Service Providers”.. so if you have them installed somewhere else you need to drag them into the proper folder now.
  2. go to the Finder, open the “Finder” menu and select “Services Preferences…” from the “Services” menu
  3. in the Services Preferences tick the A Better Finder Rename 8 and A Better Finder Attributes 4 items


If the items don’t appear in the Services Preferences, you might need to

  1. launch A Better Finder Rename 8 once
  2. and if that doesn’t work, log out and back into your account/ reboot

The reason for this complication is that the Finder only finds new services when it starts up. A Better Finder Rename 8 nicely asks the Finder to update its services list when it starts up , but it’s only a request..

I wish you all a good transition..


Snow Leopard Compatibility

One question that is certain to be on everybody’s mind at the moment is “Will it work on Snow Leopard?”.

I couldn’t possibly comment.. as I’m under NDA.. but surely it’s okay to just say: “Yes.”

There’ll be more info posted here on the 28th of August, the official Mac OS X 10.6 release date.

I’m on holiday right now and normal service will be resumed on the 2nd of September, so expect a few minor updates to iron out some minor issues that are sure to occur when tens of thousands of users simultaneously get their hands on a new operation system.

Looking for Web Design Partner

Our website is due a re-fresh and there’s lots of design work to be done on the product side as well.

We are looking for a talented and motivated designer or small design outfit for a long term partnership.

Now most of the users of our software happen to be designers and I’d love to welcome somebody on board who already has a genuine interest in the Mac community and would love to see his/her work featured on a leading Indie Software site.

If you are interested, drop me a line at

New Support Forums added

I have long been sitting on the fence when it comes to providing a discussion forum for supporting customers.

I like the direct personal contact of the one-on-one email exchanges and I hate the organized chaos of most discussion forums.

When you open one of those things, you suddenly become a moderator for community rather than just the guy sitting at home behind his monitor helping people sort out problems his software and trying to figure out what needs improving.

Sounds good, but what about the spammers, the trolls, the flaming wars and all of that? Oh, yes and what if you call “forum” and no one comes? Oh well, we’ll see..

I’ll be running the forums on a “wait and see what happens” basis until further notice.

Please feel free to use and abuse it and don’t hesitate to talk amongst yourselves. I’ll be trying to check in as often as possible and keep it as spam free as at all possible.

Hope you enjoy it!


Big Mean File Processing

What a couple of weeks it has been since the launch of Leopard..

I’m not sure whether I’m the only one to find this, but it does look like one of the buggiest Apple releases in recent history..

By in large, a new operating system release should have zero impact on existing programs. This time over, however, it looks like lots and lots of programs have been broken all over the place..

Of course, as a developer I spend most of my time in Apple’s development tools, namely XCode and the brand-new “Instruments”. I’m sad to say it, but the current XCode 3.0 is a no more than an alpha release. The editor hangs, the snapshot feature doesn’t work (force quit), half the time after running a program in debug mode, you need to quit XCode to “reset” it.. it will be great when it’s finished, but it has been released at least a year too early 🙁

Time Machine is great, but lacks configurability and feedback. Every hour it will pretty much freeze the machine and backup 360Gb of data (build directories do not seem to be excluded from backups), the only indication that you have that it’s busy is that the external hard disk starts making a racket, there’s no easy way of delaying a backup, etc, etc.

My own applications have also been hit by Leopard problems despite having tested them on various beta builds of the new operating system.

For A Better Finder Rename, the migration problems were largely due to changes (and apparently new bugs) in the Finder and in AppleScript. For MacBreakZ there are some oddities to do with Spaces (which does behave in some fairly strange ways).

At the moment, however, it seems that it’s the Big Mean Folder Machine that has been the hardest hit. This is largely due to some very nice progress on Mac OS X’s built-in Core Data database engine. It’s much faster, but it also seems to leak memory fairly badly where it didn’t before. As a consequence, “The Big Mean Folder Machine” appears to be both a lot faster (great!) and lot memory hungrier (no!) on Leopard than it was on Tiger..

Unfortunately the vastly increased memory usage on Leopard makes the whole application crash when it runs out of memory. Luckily this doesn’t happen during your garden variety 6000 file re-organization, but can quickly become a problem when you’re dealing with tens or hundreds of thousands of files. Well using Core Data was supposed to provide “The Big Mean Folder Machine” with fantastic scalability rather than make memory a problem!

I have therefore spent much of the last week optimizing “The Big Mean Folder Machine” for Leopard by manually testing each bit of code for its memory usage.. this is very tedious work, but at least it seems to be working:

My current test version now deals gracefully with half a million files and has a very small memory foot print even when it’s working flat out..

I hope to have a new version of “The Big Mean Folder Machine” that will gracefully deal with over a million files out very soon, so expect “The Big Mean Folder Machine” 1.3 very soon.

This is also good news for the upcoming version 8 of A Better Finder Rename, which will inherit much of The Big Mean Folder Machine’s processing pipeline.

If anybody is stuck with the current version of “The Big Mean Folder Machine”, please just email me and I can send you a development copy via email.

Best regards,


Getting ready for Leopard

After yesterday’s release of “The Big Mean Folder Machine” 1.0, my attention is now shifting towards the imminent release of Mac OS X Leopard.

The rumor mill has it that it will be released the last weekend of October and as always we’ll be ready.. there are only minor visual glitches to take care of.

I’m not sure what your thoughts on the new and much darker “space” theme are, but I think it will take some getting used to. I’m still not convinced that the new “darker” Apple site looks anything as good as the old “aqua” one.. it’s the first time that I’m wondering whether Apple is actually taking a step backwards rather forwards at least in visual style..

As soon as Leopard is officially released, work on A Better Finder Rename v8 will start in earnest.. no rest for the wicked.

Changes ahead for the A Better Finder series in 2006

2005 was a year of transition for the A Better Finder series of tools. Most of the year was spent migrating the 60,000+ lines of code of A Better Finder Rename 6 to the brave new world of Objective-C and Cocoa.

I took the opportunity to add many long-requested features, such a detachable preview window, multiple rename steps, etc.. One of the most important changes was to introduce drag & drop installation. The kind people at MindVision have provided me with their InstallerVise installer maker for ten years, but the product was beginning to show its age and its Mac OS 9 legacy.

Enter the 2005 drag & drop style installer. Today all you need to do to install A Better Finder Rename 7 is to take its icon from the disk volume and drop it where you want it. Double-click to start and you're finished. For multi-user installations, simply place the program in the Applications folder and let every user decide which optional features they want to install. This new drag & drop installation is now making its way across the entire product line:

already work on the same principle.

This leaves A Better Finder Select and A Better Finder Creators & Types. Once upon a time, both of these products covered a niche left open by the Mac OS 9 Finder. Today both of them have somewhat lost their raison d'être.

"A Better Finder Creators & Types" allows die-hard Mac OS 9 fans to continue using creator and type codes to associate documents to applications, but this approach, while still supported under Mac OS X, is no longer the recommended way of doing things and does not work with newer applications.

A Better Finder Select allows you to filter out certain files before passing them to other A Better Finder products or it allows you to select them in the Finder; it's functionality is partially covered in the Finder and is at its most useful as a front-end to the other products in the A Better Finder Series.

Is it still really useful to keep them as separate applications? I don't think so. That's why in 2006:

  • A Better Finder Creator & Types' features will be integrated into the new A Better Finder Attributes 4
  • A Better Finder Select's filtering features will be integrated into the preview window of both Attributes 4 and Rename 7
  • A Better Finder Select's ability to pre-select files in the Finder will be integrated into Attributes 4

If you disagree with these arrangements, please post a comment or contact me via email. It is not too late yet 🙂

The advantages I see for you, the user, is that you will have less application clutter, less installation, a smaller download and last but not least will be able to filter out files in the preview window.

Obviously, with the end-of-line of Select and Creators & Types, I'll be offering free cross-grades to the owners of these "late" products.

Version 2: Even fewer features..

A Better Finder Launcher 2
It is not every day that a software developer removes features to make a better product, surely “more = better”. Yet, that is exactly what I have done with A Better Finder Launcher 2. Sometimes, I think, “less = better”.

Unlike all my other Mac software, my little launcher utility was written entirely for myself and it was never intended as a commercial product. It was born out of a desire to have a simple and clean little utility that would launch my frequently used programs and documents with just a few keystrokes.

Sure there were lots of great launchers out there already. Things such as LaunchBar (the blue print for Apple’s “revolutionary” SpotLight) and Quicksilver, but both those applications did such a lot more than what I wanted.

I didn’t want a program that manages my bookmarks, does a full-index search of my PDF files, is also a pasteboard and a coffee maker. Don’t get me wrong. They are great apps, they may be just what you are looking for, but they aren’t for me..

After tinkering around with my fun little utility for a while, I decided to share my little launcher with the growing community of A Better Finder users and it was released on an (unsuspecting) public as “A Better Finder Launcher”. It became a de-facto free addition to the A Better Finder Series package deal and has gone through ten point releases in its short life.

Version 2 brings the utility in line with A Better Finder Rename 7 and A Better Finder Attributes 4 in making the program both more of a stand-alone application and an easy drag & drop installation.

The adaptive ranking algorithm, however, is hands down my favorite new feature. It learns what your favorite applications and documents are and ranks them higher than less-frequently used items. This algorithm uses a combination of heuristics (e.g. “applications are more important than documents”), recency (e.g. “this program was last launched 5 minutes ago and is thus a better choice than that other program that was launched 3 weeks ago) and frequency (e.g. “Safari was launcher 3000 times, Firefox was only launcher 3 times. I think I’ll put my money on Safari”) to make guesses about which item is the best match. The greatest thing about it is that it works uncannily well!

I have enjoyed using version 2 for the past 2 months. I hope you’ll like it as much as me 🙂