Review: FileBrowse

A first look at a promising new Finder-like application (October 10th, 2006)

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Product Manufacturer: R Green Blue

Price: $25.00 US; 30-day trial

The Good

  • Eye-candy hardware acceleration of live previews of folders and files. Universal binary. Instantaneous screen updates. Useful for browsing through large photo folders.

The Bad

  • Interface oddities take some getting used to. Does not provide Spotlight search integration. Lacks the essential drag and drop functionality.

R Green Blue is a new Mac OS X developer from The Netherlands, with an innovative product that looks promising. FileBrowse uses the concept behind the Finder in Mac OS X and gives us a new way of browsing the contents of our folders and files. Whilst some of the design features implemented in FileBrowse are reminiscent of features I've seen in Windows Vista, it clearly defines its own system of navigation, while managing, and styling the contents of your hard drive. I see a lot of potential for this application as a stand-alone program, but if it could be implemented as an interface choice instead of the normal Finder, it would be even more useful.

File Previews

First of all, FileBrowse addresses some of the annoying issues designed into Tiger (Mac OS X 10.4.x). For example, although Finder can show image previews as icons, it cannot show thumbnails of the contents of a folder. FileBrowse solves this problem by displaying live previews of the contents of a folder, whether it is PDF files, documents, HTML, movies, or pictures. Natively, it supports a wide range of formats.

Animated Finder-like Interface

What impressed me about FileBrowse is its ability to manage your file system hierarchy in an animated way. For example, when browsing the iPhoto library, you see full thumbnail views of your pictures and they are larger than what you normally see in the Finder window. However there's no slider for changing the size of these thumbnails. I expected this kind of iPhoto functionality to be built in. Picture viewing is not limited to your iPhoto folder though; you can see large thumbnails of any graphic image.

When you click on the thumbnail, the contents of the window below it slides down in an animated fashion and reveals a larger preview of that file. The preview has four file options: Open, Open With, Reveal in Finder, and Add to Favorites. In addition, placing your cursor over the enlarged preview gives you three options. You can hide the image with the Line ( | ) button, you can enlarge the preview with the plus (+) button, and decrease its size back to its original form with the minus (-) button. Animated folders help you see where you are too. The clickable area on the buttons are larger than in the normal Finder also.

Preview Video and Music

The animated live previews also apply to videos and documents. With videos whilst you cannot enlarge the preview, you are able to watch the video itself. You get simple playback functionality like Play, Rewind and Fast Forward. In addition, iTunes downloaded music files show associated album covers. You can also listen to songs inside FileBrowse without launching any application.

Funky Search Bar

The Spotlight-like search bar that sits in the top right hand side of the screen is a little bit deceptive. At first I thought it would do a Spotlight search and scan through the contents of my hard drive, however this was not the case. This search bar only searches file names of the contents of that particular folder that you're in. It's scope is limited entirely to that folder and does not look inside of documents either, which is a bit of a disappointment that renders the feature only useful when you have a large number of files that you want to quickly bring up. (Editor's Note: I love this feature, because I am always searching folders with hundreds of documents and I only search on file names. This search bar is exactly what I have been missing in my desktop interface. You must press the search button again to go from file to file though.) What would be cool is if it did a Spotlight search on the entire system and use its preview engine to show its results. Perhaps this is a pre-cursor for things to come in the next release?

To put it bluntly, FileBrowse is an application that has great potential and could replace the Finder. The preview engine has some innovative tricks that takes advantage of hardware graphics acceleration and adds a nice polish to the application. However, these are the best words that I can put down so far about FileBrowse. It is more fun to play with, than a useful tool presently. I am excited to see future developments on FileBrowse, as this is only version 1.0.2.

Edited by Ilene Hoffman, Reviews Editor

by Onwah Tsang


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