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Download Nifty File Lists 1.09

for Mac OS X 10.14 and later

Nifty File Lists Troubleshooting

How do I use Nifty File Lists with Microsoft Excel

There are two ways of using Nifty File Lists to export file information to Microsoft Excel:

  1. create a file list and save it to CSV or TSV format, then open the file in Excel
  2. copy & paste information straight into Excel

In the first approach, you add the columns that you want to export to Excel, e.g. “Name (with file extension)”, “Size (human-readable)”, select “Comma Separated Values (CSV & Excel)” or “Tab Separated Values (TSV & Excel)” from the “Output Format” popup menu, add the folder(s) that you want to list to “Sources / Folders” and wait until the “Save” button at the bottom right is enabled. After clicking the “Save” button, choose a destination for your file list and click on “Save” in the save dialog. Finally, open the resulting file in Excel.

You can fine tune the values and formats in Nifty File Lists by using the options in “Output Format” section.

In the second approach, you proceed as before but select “Copy to MS Excel or Apple Numbers” from the “Output Format” popup menu. Then click “Copy to Clipboard” on the bottom right to copy the information onto the clipboard. Use “Paste” in Excel to paste the rows and columns directly into an open spreadsheet.

What is Meta-Data?

Meta-data is literally means “data about data”. On your Mac this comes in a number of different forms:

  • file system meta-data: such as file creation & modification dates, labels, etc.
  • file format specific meta-data that is embedded in the file’s contents, e.g. EXIF, IPTC, GPS, ID3, etc..
  • macOS Spotlight meta-data

The macOS file system keeps track of when a file was created, when it was last modified, when it was added, etc.. You see this type of meta-data as long as you are using a Mac-formatted hard disk or storage device.

Most meta-data, however, is stored in the file itself according to a format-specific scheme.

Digital Photos usually have EXIF & GPS information in them, that store the date and time that the picture was taken, the location, the camera & lens that were used, the exposure settings, etc.

Professional photographers also use IPTC to add details about the subject of the photo, the usage rights, copyright, terms of use, etc. This standard is mostly used in the news media and for stock photography.

Music files usually embed information about the artist, the song, the album, the track number, etc.

Spotlight meta-data is a little different. In general, whether or not you can use file format specific meta-data depends on whether your program has explicit support for them. Adobe Photoshop for instance, supports IPTC, EXIF & GPS information, but it may not be able to read meta-data in say a Microsoft Word document. Apple have invented “Spotlight” to be able to search for files using their content and meta-data. The way this works is that macOS runs a file format-specific “Importer” for every file on the hard disk and stores this meta-data in its own database. It uses a combination of format specific and more generally useful “common” tags.

Tips for Music files

There are many different music file formats. MP3 is the leading standard for music file formats and its meta-data format is called ID3. Unfortunately there are many different versions of the ID3 standard and they have different fields and varying amounts of information. Worse yet, since MP3 file are usually encoded by lay persons and everybody has their own favorite tagging scheme, even basic song, artist and album information is often inconsistently encoded and often just missing. More advanced fields such as “composer”, “lyricist”, “original lyricist” are often missing altogether, so your mileage may vary.

Apple introduced AAC/MPEG Layer 2-encoded audio files in its iTunes music store. These files usually have very consistent and professional tagging and have file extensions such as “m4a”, “m4b”, “m4p” (p=protected), but they do not have ID3 compatible tags.

Nifty File Lists supports ID3, Spotlight and “Audio Visual (Common)” tags. Which one is right for you depends on the file formats you need to support and how precise your information needs to be.

ID3 tags offer the most detail, but are only available on file formats that have ID3 meta-data, e.g. MP3 and some “mp4”, “aiff” or “wav” files.

“Audio Visual (Common)” tags offer a lot less detail, but have the advantage that they work across many more sound file formats. macOS collects data from various different formats and then merges it into a “common” set of tags, such as “Artist”, “Title”, “Album”. This is a good choice if you have non-MP3 files in your collection.

“Spotlight” tags are the most generic and will work across the widest range of music and even non-music files. If your collection mixes music and non-music files (such as videos, documents, etc.) this is a good option. Do make sure that the volume (aka hard disk) that you are using is “Spotlight” indexes though. See below for more on Spotlight.

Why don’t I see any Spotlight meta-data?

Spotlight meta-data is created by macOS by running “importers” on the files on your hard disk and storing the information in its own database. By default, macOS runs Spotlight on your local hard disks only, so if you look at files on a remote network drive (e.g. Synology, SMB, etc.) or a non-native file system, such as Windows NTFS-formatted USB stick, there may not be any meta-data available.

Googling “spotlight indexing” will get you lots of information about how to force or prevent spotlight indexing. Here is a good starting point.

Why do my folders have zero size!?

Nifty File Lists only calculates sizes for files. Folders themselves are just directory entries and usually take up no space themselves. Calculating the total size of all the files in a folder hierarchy is very slow, as you can see in the Finder if you do a “Get Info” on your user folder. Moreover actually understanding what this size means is much more difficult than one would imagine. A 1 byte file actually usually takes up 4KB or more on the disk. This is because the disk is divided into “blocks” of a fixed size. This also means that if you copy the file onto another disk, it may take more or indeed less space than the original. On top of that in macOS’s current APFS file system, making a copy of a file often takes up no space at all. So with 10GB of space left, you can duplicate a 30GB file and still have 10GB of space left. If you edit the file, however, you will suddenly have a full disk and won’t be able to write the file.

All this to say: Nifty File Lists is leaving folder sizes calculations to specialized software tailored for a specific usage context.

Does Nifty File Lists support FLAC music files

Nifty File Lists uses the macOS standard frameworks for reading meta-data. At the time of writing in February 2020, Apple does not yet support FLAC/ ALAC meta-data.

You can, however, download a third party Spotlight Importer from here.

If you do that, you should be able find basic Song, Band and Album information in the appropriate Spotlight fields (e.g. Title, Authors, Album Title).

This information will only be available to you if the files are on a Spotlight-indexed volume (see Spotlight section).