updated 12:00 pm EST, Fri December 12, 2008
First Look: WhatSize
No matter which Mac you have, you can never have enough hard drive space. Unlike PCs however, iMacs and Mac minis tend not to lend themselves to quick hardware upgrades -- when you buy a Mac, you're usually stuck with the hard disk that comes with it. The moment you start running out of room, you'll be forced to start deleting files. Finding which files to delete can be troublesome unless you use a tool like the shareware app WhatSize.
The program operates by simply showing you, in different ways, which files and folders are gobbling up the most disk space. Once you have this information, you can be more effective in deleting the files and folders you don't need.
WhatSize's user interface resembles an ordinary Finder window, which makes it easy to learn and use. Just click on a drive to examine and you'll see a list of folders, starting with the one that consumes the most space.
Besides listing the folders in order of size, the program also color-codes each file and folder so you can see at a glance that anything in red represents a particularly fat folder or file. Anything in purple is moderately-sized, and anything in light gray can probably be ignored, since its footprint is minimal.
The program offers three views for displaying content: Outline, Browser, and Piechart. The Browser view displays material in columns, in a manner similar to the Columns option in Finder's View menu. The Outline view displays folders that you can expand or shrink, much as with the List option from Finder.
The Piechart view is distinct but self-explanatory, presenting a chart with the relative size of each folder. Double-clicking on part of a chart drills down into a folder, while double-clicking on empty white space brings you back up a level.
The Piechart view actually takes some time to get used to, but is ultimately just one more way to search for unneeded files. No matter what view you use, you can delete a file or folder from inside the app; unfortunately, you can't use Quick Look to check contents, at least not directly. A workaround is to right-click on an item and select Reveal in Finder, which opens a matching Finder window where Quick Look becomes an option.
If you're constantly running out of disk space and need to purge your files occasionally, WhatSize is a handy tool that gets the job done simply and easily. Its three views for examining your hard disk, along with color-coding, let you zero in on the fattest files and judge whether you need them or not. After a few uses you may be surprised as to how much garbage your drive really contains, and how much wasted space you can free up. For only $12.99, WhatSize is a handy utility for managing space.