Low End Mac Reviews

Default Folder X: An Old Friend Rediscovered

- 2009.07.08 - Tip Jar

Rating: 4 out of 4

That Was Then

Back in my days as a book designer at Baker Publishing Group (starting in the Mac IIci and System 7.1 era), I discovered the power of four very useful utilities: MenuChoice, PopChar Lite, QuicKeys, and Default Folder. I still have all four in my Classic environment, which I use daily.

MenuChoice was a shareware replacement for Apple Menu Options developed by Kerry Clendinning, and it was a superior product. MenuChoice added Desktop and Recent items to the Apple menu, making it easy to navigate your drive without using the Finder and to access recently used files, folders, and Control Panels.

PopChar Lite by Günther Blaschek was a freeware replacement for Apple's Key Caps, and it made it much easier for Mac users to find characters not on the keyboard, such as accented letters. You could pick a "hot spot" in one corner of the menu bar and have PopChar display the Mac character set in whatever font you were currently using in whatever point size you preset.

QuicKeys replaced Apple's Macro Recorder with something a lot more powerful. It let us assign keystrokes and macros to keys, such as Print when you press the F13 key. By deploying QuicKeys companywide with a standard set of functions, everyone's Macs worked the same.

Default Folder makes it very easy to access recently used and often used folders when you open or save files within an application. I have mine set to remember the last 30 folders and drives I accessed in Classic Mode, as I jump between the folders of this website all the time. I consider this to be Default Folder's most important feature.

Default Folder's Recent menu
Default Folder's Recent menu.

There are folders that I access frequently enough that I'd like to have them listed all the time. I can "pin" these folders in the Favorites menu, such as ppc (my folder for Power Mac profiles), pb2 (PowerPC PowerBooks and G3 iBooks), 09inews (2009 iNews Review), etc.

Default Folder's Favorites menu Default Folder's Drives menu
Default Folder's Favorites and Drives menus.

Another useful feature is the Drives menu, which lists all currently available drives, including networked ones, and the amount of available space. My "Work" partition, where I store almost all of my work, has plenty of space, so I rarely use this menu.

This Is Now

MenuChoice reached version 2.1 in April 1994, development was discontinued, and it continues to work right up through Mac OS 9.2.2. There is no OS X version, nor have I felt the need for one.

Günther Blaschek killed off the free version of PopChar and released the first OS X version in May 2001. It has since been updated to support Unicode, Intel Macs, and Cocoa, so it's a fully modern OS X app today. PopChar X is trialware - you can download it and try it out, but some features are not available until you pay the €30 shareware fee. As much as I still depend on PopChar Lite in Classic Mode, I've had no reason (yet) to use such a program with OS X.

QuicKeys made the move to Mac OS X in February 2002, and it's been improving ever since (QuicKeys X is now at version 4.x, which is $60 trialware), but I've had no reason to even try the OS X version.

Default Folder, currently Default Folder X 4.2.1, also made the transition to Mac OS X, but with the improved navigation features of the new OS, I didn't see any reason to use it. Looking back, I now realize that I was wrong.

An Old Friend Rediscovered

Earlier this year, I reconnected with a friend from college. We'd been great friends during the 1976-77 and 1977-78 school years, but after my parents moved and I switched to a college in another state, things slowly faded away. She married, she attended my first wedding, and I met her first child, but for almost 25 years there was no contact.

Then I found Char on Facebook earlier this year. We exchanged a few messages, and my wife and I met with her and her husband in May. Even though it had been over 30 years since Char and I had regular contact, it seemed like yesterday. We talked about our lives, our experiences, our families, our college days. We even spent a morning touring Trinity Christian College, which has changed a lot over those three decades. Truly a best friend rediscovered.

Last December, MacUpdate offered a $50 software bundle that included Drive Genius 2, RapidWeaver, Default Folder X, VirusBarrier X5, MacGourmet Deluxe, Little Snitch, iVolume, KeyCue, MacPilot, WhatSize, and iDive. Drive Genius has earned rave reviews and retails at $99. With my version of DiskWarrior outdated and incompatible with Mac OS X 10.5 "Leopard", I figured the bundle was worth buying for Drive Genius alone.

Frankly, none of the other programs jumped out at me. I'd used iVolume, and it was nice to have the current version, but for the most part it was "so what" for the rest of the apps.

Default Folder X
Default Folder X is on a tab next to the Save/Open dialogue box.

Then I decided to give Default Folder X a try. It's a System Preference, and it looked quite a bit different from the old version, but I soon found myself adjusting to the new interface (above) and rediscovered the functionality and improved productivity I had in Classic Mode.

The new look seemed very strange at first, because the "classic" Default Folder had placed its icons in the Save/Open dialogue box. That option isn't available in OS X, so Default Folder X uses a tab to the right of the Save/Open dialogue. It took some getting used to.

The icons are even in the same order, just vertical rather than horizontal: Default Folder settings, Drives, Favorites, and Recent.

The Recent menu in Default Folder X
The Recent menu in Default Folder X.

The Recent menu shows folders, drives, and locations accessed in OS X and in Classic mode, which is great since I usually create and edit articles for Low End Mac in Claris Home Page 3.0, a classic app, and then tweak them in KompoZer 0.7.10 (there's also a 0.8 alpha, which has some improvements and some drawbacks), and finally clean things up and convert from semi-compliant HTML to XHTML in TextWrangler using Tidy Service, a version of HTML Tidy that resides in the Services menu.

KompoZer and TextWrangler are OS X apps, and it's very helpful that Default Folder X tracks the folders where I worked on these pages in Claris Home Page. (Until we switch to a content management system, I'm going to continue working this way. Home Page is great for writing and applying basic styles, KompoZer lets my apply Cascading Style Sheets, and the combination of TextWrangler and HTML Tidy makes for an efficient, powerful HTML editing environment.)

The Favorites menu in Default Folder X
The Favorites menu in Default Folder X.

I don't do all of my editing in Home Page, just most of it. When I edit things like our price trackers, I open the files in KompoZer and edit them there before cleaning things up with TextWrangler and HTML Tidy. I use KompoZer to edit and the Camino browser (my default browser most of the time - and recent versions are available in optimized builds for G3, G4, and Intel Macs) to follow links and check prices.

KompoZer has its quirks, which I've learned to work with or around over the years, and having folders I use regularly in my Favorites list is a real plus here.

The Drives menu in Default Folder X
The Drives menu in Default Folder X.

As with the classic version, Default Folder X can show you available volumes and how much space each has available using the Drives menu.

In the final analysis, discovering Default Folder X was like finding an old friend. Some things have changed over the years, but what originally brought us together is still there. Best of all, I've improved my productivity, which is the whole point of a program like this.

I have no hesitation rating this 4 out of 4.

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