Microsoft/Mac Monday

Everyday many of us have to open various files on our computers whether they are documents, music, or photo files. It’s something we do out of habit without even thinking, so you probably haven’t really stopped to think about the process of browsing for files. Today we are going to take a look at what it is like to browse for files on both Mac OS X and Vista, to see how easy it is to find the files that you need.

Windows Explorer/Finder

We’ll start-out by simply pointing out the differences in names. When you want to browse for files on Mac, you use “Finder.” When you want to browse for files using Windows, you use the “Windows Explorer.” Both are essentially the same thing and allow you to navigate through folders to find files, they just have different names.

Displaying Files

Everybody seems to like to have choices no matter what the situation, and both Finder and Windows Explorer allow you to choose how you want your files displayed. This may seems like a small detail, but it’s an important one.

Mac OS X

There are four different viewing options in the Finder available to you, and the buttons for changing the view are found at the top. From left to right, you can choose from viewing items as icons, in a list, in 3 columns, or with Cover Flow. By default you view items in 3 columns, but we tend to prefer the list view most of the time, over the others. Shown below is a screenshot with the items displayed as icons.



Microsoft gives you a few more viewing options in Windows Explorer than Apple gives you with Finder. Once you’re in an area of Windows Explorer where there are files and folders to view, you’ll see the “View” drop-down list up at the top of the Window. Once you click on it, you’ll see the following options:

  • Tiles
  • Details
  • List
  • Small Icons
  • Medium Icons
  • Large Icons
  • Extra Large Icons

By default, you’ll view your files as small icons, however you may find if you play around with the options that you’ll like another better. I seem to prefer either Details or List, depending on what I’m doing in Windows Explorer.

Microsoft Windows Vista windows explorer.png

Extras we like with Finder

Apple made creating new folders extra simple. It’s not that it is difficult to create a new folder using Windows, it just requires an extra step. In Finder, you just right click and select “New Folder”, it’s the first option, whereas with Windows you right click, go down to “new” then mouse over and select “New Folder.” There’s also a shortcut for creating folders on a Mac which is nice as well, especially if you regularly create new folders. The shortcut is shift+command+N.

Another nice feature is the option to preview what a file looks like with “Quick Look.” You can either look for the “eye” icon up at the top of Finder and click on it to view a quick preview, or if you have clicked on a file, you can press the spacebar. This works for all kinds of files including documents and photos. The image below shows the icon you’re looking for if you want to get a quick look of something, and then it shows the window that appears with your preview.

quick look in finder.png

Extras we like with Windows Explorer

One thing we really like with Windows Explorer is the Groups, Stacks, and Filter features. It’s a new approach for organizing all of your files and once you get into it, you’ll likely find it extremely helpful. In a nutshell, here’s how you’d explain these features:

  • Grouping – like a file cabinet that keeps everything nicely organized into folders and then placed in the drawer either in alphabetical order or some other form of organization
  • Stacks – allows you to view a “stack” of files

Another really nice feature in Windows Explorer is the breadcrumb navigation system where you can track the movements from folder to folder and file to file. Windows Explorer shows your breadcrumbs along the top in the address toolbar and there are arrows that you can click on to return to a certain point.

windows explorer breadcrumb trail.png
Finder offers the option to add a Path Bar at the bottom of the Finder Window, but Windows Explorer’s version is definitely better.
Also worth mentioning is the Windows Explorer Preview Pane. It’s like Quick Look in Finder in that it provides you with a preview of what a file looks like, however in the past we had some problems with it being able to display a preview for common file types. Finder’s Quick Look is better in that regard.

Wrapping it up…

Is Finder better than Windows Explorer or Windows Explorer better than Finder? In our opinion, not really. Both offer an easy way to navigate through all of the content on your computer so that you can find what you need, which ultimately is what people want to do.