fman, the side-by-side file manager for Mac OS

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This post is about fman, a side-by-side file manager that is for your Mac what Windows Commander was for Windows.

If you’re 25+ there’s a good chance you’ve grown up using MS-DOS, Microsoft’s CLI interface to operate your computer. One of the tools that freed a lot of people from remembering directory names and typing a lot of mkdir, copy, and rmdir commands was an awesome file manager called Norton Commander.
Because of the popularity of file management in a side-by-side interface, a similar tool came to the Windows platform in the nineties and zeros, called Windows Commander (now known as Total Commander).

On Mac OS I use a window management utility, called BetterSnapTool, for quite some time now. It helps me to quickly arrange windows on my dual monitor setup. I often find myself mimicking the side-by-side file manager interface because I use BetterSnapTool to arrange two Finder windows alongside each other, both taking 50% of the screen width.

But now I have a worthy tool that gives me the same power and speed improvement on my Mac as Windows Commander! It goes by the name fman, a file manager by Michael Herrmann. It already deserved a prominent place on my Dock.

Important: I am in no way affiliated with fman or the developer behind it, Michael Herrmann

Read more about my experiences with fman and why it has a place on my Dock after the break.

Game of Docks

For a tool to reign my MBP’s Dock and have a spot on it, there are a couple of checks it has to pass:

  1. Does the tool fit into my primary workflows?
    • the conceptual definition of mobile solutions (architecture, estimations, user story definition, etc.)
    • prototyping and defining a mobile solution (wireframing, mocking, screen designing)
    • developing mobile applications (development IDE’s, source control tools, terminal apps, snippet managers)
    • supporting utilities (file managing, document editing, screengrabbing, note taking, etc.)
  2. Does it save me time, or make me more efficiënt?
  3. Can I defend its price tag for continued usage / does it gain me enough (see point 2)
  4. Did I use it regularly over the past month?

As a supporting utility, fman does answer my secret desire to gain a neat side-by-side file manager. I’ve been using it since begin April 2017 and fman has proven to make file handling a lot faster.

I use it for stuff like:

  • cleaning up my downloads and documents folders
  • media file management (moving default icons, brand related stuff and images around)
  • moving directory structures around (like project structures, etc)

For $14 bucks you can buy a license that bears one year of updates. Paying $12 for each following year will keep you updated for future releases. That is not a big price to pay, especially when you consider fman is still being developed and expanding its feature set with every version.

The file manager core

In its core, fman is a straightforward side-by-side file manager that lets you quickly select files on the left or right side using the Shift ⇧ key (in combination with up and down to selecting a range of files) and/or Spacebar (expand the selection with the currently focussed file).

No information overload

What I like about fman is that there is no information overload or useless content on your screen when it is fired up. It shows a left side and a right side file listing. That’s it. No space is being wasted on showing a Function key overview, file info or anything you often see with other file managers. I consider this really valuable since I often work with project structures that have lots of subdirectories or files and I hate scrolling around to get a good overview.

fman

For beginners and experts

You might think: “wait, wuh? No information? How do I know what keys to use, then?”. Let me tell you, therein lies the beauty of fman. If you’ve ever worked with front-end development IDE’s like Sublime Text or Visual Studio Code you’ve probably used the command palette: that easy search box that lets you scroll through commands and/or type to filter all commands so you can quickly find the action that you’re trying to execute.

Summoning the command palette

I’m happy to see fman implemented the command palette as well. Use the key combo Command ⌘ + Shift ⇧ + P to summon the command overview and find everything you want, even when you’re using fman for the first time.

fman command paletteWhen you get more experienced with the tool you’ll gradually use the (customizable) shortcut key combinations and become even more productive.

Expanding its horizon

Recently, fman got hooked up with a plugin mechanism and which lets you add little bits of nifty functionality.
Using the command palette you can use the “install plugin” action and select from a wide range of small plugins. ie: there are plugins that help you to handle ZIP files, enable arrow key directory navigation, show more file information, and the list goes on and on.

Go and check it out and find out what plugins expand fman with the desired functionality and customize it to your needs.

To conclude

I’ve been using fman since the begin of April 2017 now, and I still have to discover functionality that it bears and plugins that I can add. I like the fact that it has a clean interface without any cluttering that some of the alternatives have.

Another great aspect is that it uses the command palette which feels natural (I use Visual Studio Code a lot) and is a very quick and easy way to find the desired actions. This is what actually makes me prefer fman over any competition. Especially since I know everything will be in there. New functionality that updates will bring? In the command palette. Plugin commands? In there too. Lovely!

Ow, did I mention that you can download a version for Windows or Unix too?
Check out information and updates on fman on Michael Herrmann’s Twitter account or the official website at https://fman.io.

So there you have it, download fman and try it for yourself. I promise that you’ll enjoy the ride 🙂

While you’re at it, retweet the following Tweet for a chance to win a registered version of fman: