FileCutter 1.2.2

As any frequent visitor to the Macworld forums has likely noticed, we get more than a few questions from “switchers”—people who’ve switched to the Mac from Windows—looking for ways to get Windows-like features in Mac OS X. Now, a good many of those requests are a result of the fact that the “OS X way” is just different from the Windows approach; after spending a bit more time with their Mac, they may come to appreciate the OS X method. In fact, many times they may come to like the Mac way better! But sometimes they really are looking for a unique feature of Windows they miss on the Mac, such as the ability to create a new file by right-clicking.

Another good example, and the topic of today’s Gem, is the ability to cut-and-paste files to move them. The Mac OS has long had the ability, via the Finder’s contextual menus, to copy files and then paste them elsewhere. You simply right-click—control-click if you don’t have a multi-button mouse—on a file or folder in the Finder, and then choose “Copy ’ Filename ’”; when in the desired destination folder, right-click in any blank area and then choose “Paste item.” The problem with this approach is that you’ve now got two copies of the item in question—the original and the duplicate. Windows provides the obvious complement: a Cut command, which lets you cut an item and then paste it elsewhere. It works just like cut-and-paste in a text document; you’re left with a single copy of the item in the new location.

Windows switchers, as well as Mac users who’ve long wished for this feature on the Mac, should check out Greg Weston’s FileCutter 1.2.2 (   ; $5).

To install FileCutter, a contextual menu plug-in, you simply place the FileCutterCM.plugin file in ~/Library/Contextual Menu Items (for use in only your own account) or /Library/Contextual Menu Items (for use in all accounts on your Mac), and then restart the Finder (by logging out and back in, or by Control-Option-clicking on the Finder icon in the Dock and then choosing Relaunch from the menu that appears); if you con’t have a Contextual Menu Items folder in the appropriate Library folder, just create a new folder there and rename it such.

Once installed, FileCutter adds a new FileCutter submenu to the Finder’s contextual menus. When right-clicking on a file or folder (or multiple files or folders), this submenu contains Cut, Copy, Move To and Copy To items:

FileCutter menu 1

Move To and Copy To will move or copy, respectively, the selected item(s) to the location of your choosing; a standard Mac OS X file dialog appears for navigating to that location. But it’s the Cut and Copy commands that ex-Windows users will most appreciate. After using one, the next time you right-click in an open area of a Finder window, the FileCutter menu will include Paste and Paste Alias commands:

FileCutter menu 2

In other words, you can Cut and then Paste a file to move it from one location to another. Copy and then Paste works much like the Finder’s own Copy/Paste functionality, but with one important difference, noted below. Copy and then Paste Alias lets you create an alias to a file using contextual menus—and, even better, lets you quickly make aliases to multiple files in a different location than the originals.

The “important difference,” noted above, between the Finder and FileCutter is that FileCutter doesn’t actually use the Mac OS X Clipboard to do its thing. This has two benefits. First, it means that copying/cutting a file in the Finder using FileCutter won’t clear the Clipboard of any important data—text, an image, etc.—you had previously copied/cut and were still planning on using. Conversely, it means that you won’t accidentally lose files/folders by copying other data to the Clipboard while FileCutter-cut items are “in limbo.” In fact, FileCutter doesn’t actually delete “cut” items until they’ve been pasted elsewhere. (This has long been a valid argument against the Finder having a Cut command: What if you cut a file, removing it from one folder, but then, before you have a chance to paste it elsewhere, copy text in an email, deleting the previous contents of the Clipboard—in this case, your file—in the process? FileCutter avoids such a scenario entirely.)

FileCutter isn’t the first utility to let you manipulate files via the Finder’s contextual menus. Several other utilities, such as Move Items X (   ; $15) and QuickAccessCM (free) offer somewhat similar functionality—and, to be fair, quite a bit more—but in the form of file-navigation dialogs and folder-specific menu items, rather than the much simpler cut-and-paste.

If you’re looking for a Mac OS X equivalent to Windows’ file-specific Cut command, FileCutter is the closest thing I’ve seen—and adds a few other useful feature, as well. I wish there was an option to place all of FileCutter’s commands in the main contextual menu instead of all in a submenu, and FileCutter doesn’t add a Cut command to the Finder’s Edit menu for people who aren’t fans of contextual menus. But it’s still a nifty utility at a reasonable price.

FileCutter 1.2.2 requires Mac OS X 10.3 or later and is a Universal binary.

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