March 6, 2017

fman: A Worthy Keyboard Driven Finder Replacement

fman iconfman icon

Product: fman: The addictive file manager
Price: $13, and $10/year for continued updates (first year free)

The Finder in macOS is a key part of using Macs. Developers over the years have attempted to design a Finder replacement. They include, Path Finder, ForkLift 3, Nimble Commander and Commander One and Commander One Pro. On the whole, they have had mixed success. The products have attracted a core group of users but widespread success has eluded any of them. They have been marketed differently. Path Finder is positioned as the full featured Finder alternative. The rest of them have taken different approaches to the task of replacing the Finder.

Forklift is:

"The most advanced dual pane file manager and file transfer client for macOS."

Nimble Commander is:

"Dual-pane file manager with classic design."

Commander One Pro is:

"Perfect dual panel file manager for Mac that flawlessly combines an FTP client for Mac and an Amazon S3 browser and provides you with the built-in Mac Terminal emulator making it super easy for you to manage all the system processes."

fman is a new addition to this marketplace. It is marketed as,

"A modern file manager for power users.
Beautiful, fast and extensible."

fman - dual panefman - dual pane

It has the usual, in this category, design of a two-paned file manager.

It is distinguished by being:

  1. Cross-platform (macOS, Windows and Linux)
  2. Extremely keyboard centric and hence super fast.
  3. Extensible with plug-ins.


I don't care about this feature. In fact, I almost look at this as a negative. The macOS has features which are not shared by the other OS'es.

Finder ServicesFinder Services

For instance, Services, is a Mac only feature. I want my file-manager to support Services. I have a few services which are useful. Because of fman and its cross-platform focus, I don't get to access them in fman.

Cross-platform as a feature, is useful to those who work in multiple platforms and their subscription to fman means they can use the same product in every computer platform they are using. That is a product feature which is desired by some, but it looks like a lowest common denominator approach to product design to me. I miss out on the macOS goodies and have no interest in other computing platforms. This is not a selling point to me.

Extremely Keyboard Centric and Speed

fman is extremely keyboard centric. There are a few things you can do with a mouse but for the most part, you use the keyboard. I am not a fan of the mouse/trackpad. I love the ability to do everything through the keyboard. This is the one feature which made me fall in love with fman. The added feature is the ability to customize all the keyboard commands. You need to edit a json file of keybindings and that lets you customize the commands to your liking. Your inner geek is going to be in heaven.

The inherent speed of fman comes from two features: The Go To Command and the Command Palette.

The Go To Command

fman - the go to commandfman - the go to command

⌘ + P gives you the Go To command in fman. Gives you an input box and a dropdown of your recently visited places. The input box supports name completion, When you find a match, hit tab and move on to the next part of the path. Makes the process of switching between directories effortless and fast. Wicked fast.

The Command Palette—You Look Familiar

fman - Command Palettefman - Command Palette

Sublime Text users will find fman's implementation of the Command Palette familiar. ⌘ + ⇧ + P gives you access to the Command Palette and it works like the Sublime Text 3 Command Palette. You can start typing the command you are looking for, select it from the dropdown list and hit enter. The command executes instantly. The dropdown list also shows you the keyboard command associated with the command helping you learn them.

fman can be used extensively from the keyboard. Besides the Go To command and the Command Palette, you can start typing the name of a file in any directory you are in, and it takes you instantly to the matching file. You can switch between the two panes by hitting the Tab key. This is a great way of managing your files and fman makes the process intuitive, fast and efficient.

Extensible with Plug-ins

A unique feature of fman is the support for plug-ins. You can find them here. Plug-ins have the ability to extend the features/commands of fman. I am curious to see what the users of fman come up with to extend the features. One of them already has a VimNavigation plug-in for fman. Geeks are lovely people.

Plug-ins have the ability to make the program and your life better. In fman, you select a bunch of files and copy them on to another folder and the files in the original folder still remain selected. It is a pain that there is no built in deselect command. Richard Guay, who is an absolute treasure, has written a plugin called DeSelect, which lets you deselect the selected files by the keyboard command ⌘ + x, or the command deselect in the command palette. Made the process easy and painless.

This is the promise of plugins. It is going to fill in the holes in the feature set of fman and generally improve the functionality of fman.

I am certain that we will be clamoring for a plug-in manager soon. I am looking forward to that.

Observations From a macOS User

Being cross-platform means the focus is on designing a product that all platforms might find useful. That means that elements which are specific to an individual OS has the potential of being ignored. That is my concern with fman. These are some of the things I would like fman to support in macOS:

  1. Services: I have talked about this earlier.
  2. Tags: I have a whole slew of Hazel rules which are dependent on tags. Using fman I have no access to tags. If the goal is to be a Finder replacement, you have to give me access to the tags interface.
  3. Open With…: I live in text files. Sometimes I want to edit with Sublime Text 3. Sometimes I want to edit with iA Writer or Caret or Byword or CotEditor. I can achieve this in the Finder by selecting a file and right clicking through to the Open With… menu and picking the application I am interested in. In fman, you have the default text editor to open text files. fman uses the default app assigned by the OS to open files, so the only option is the default. I am sure that doesn't work out. I want to use a plethora of apps to interact with particular files, depending on what I want to do to them. Preview to look at images, Acorn to edit images, and so on. There must be some way to achieve this through plug-ins. That would add value to the user experience.
  4. Recycle Bin?: Don't make me use metaphors which make no sense to me. Recycle bin? What the hell are we recycling? My file is going to come back as what? What are we saving here? Can we call it the trash please? Microsoft saw that trash was taken and decided to name their trash bin with a cute eco-friendly phrase, Recycle Bin. Didn't make any sense then, doesn't make any sense now. Can we just call it Trash. Please?

fman - recycle thisfman - recycle this

If you underline the Y in Yes and the N in No, shouldn't I be able to press that letter to get the action? Instead I have the option of tabbing between the options and hitting enter, to choose it. The letters would make a good alternative choice.

Build a Community

One of the main features of fman is plugins. The developer needs to build a community of users who are going to provide users with the benefit of their creativity and expertise. That is what is going to make fman thrive in the marketplace of two-pane file managers. Build a forum, let users interact, let them make your product better. Give them a place to improve your product. Learn from Sublime Text 3 and Atom.


These are the things I love about fman:

  1. The Command palette.
  2. The Go to function.
  3. The keyboard centric operation.
  4. The extensibility provided by plug-ins.
  5. The speed of the program.
  6. The customization of keyboard commands.

I haven't been this excited about a file manager since I was first introduced to Path Finder many years ago. fman is a worthy addition to the macOS utility belt and I am going to keep using it. It is important enough to my workflow that it is now included in the list of three apps1 which automatically launch on my computer every day at 6 o'clock in the morning waiting for me to wake up at 6:15.

The developer is accepting registrations in time limited chunks. The price is now $13 and subsequently $10/year, for the next four days. It is scheduled to go up soon.

I heartily recommend fman. If you are interested in the category, you should move on it soon.

macosxguru at the gmail thingie

  1. 2Do, Bear, and now, fman

macOS Finder fman

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