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Right click = new file

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One of the most common Mac OS X feature requests I get—mainly from Windows users switching to the Mac—relates to creating new files. In Windows, if you right-click in a folder, one of the options in the resulting contextual menu lets you create a new document right there in that folder. This is indeed a neat trick—when creating a new document, you often have a pretty good idea where you’re going to save it; in fact, that folder is often open in the Finder, so why shouldn’t you be able to create a new document just as you can a new folder?

Last March, I told you about Document Palette (   ), a utility that lets you create a new document in the current Finder folder by pressing a keyboard shortcut and then choosing the desired document type. You can even add templates for frequently-used documents to Document Palette, making it a great way to create new documents based on a template.

But I recently discovered NuFile 1.7 (   ; donations accepted), which is sure to please many former Windows users (as well as many longtime Mac users) by nearly replicating the aforementioned feature of Windows. When installed, NuFile gives the Finder’s contextual menus a “New File” item; simply right-click (or Control-click if you have a single-button mouse) in any Finder window—or on the Desktop—and then choose the type of file you want to create; a new file of that type magically appears.

NuFile’s contextual menu item

Like Document Palette, you can customize the possible document types provided by NuFile’s menu item. The NuFile pane of System Preferences lists the current file types, including a description of each, how its name appears in the NuFile menu, what the new file will be named (including its file extension), and the location of the “template” for that new file. You can remove file types from the menu (or just hide them so that they don’t appear), as well as add your own—for example, I’ve added a “New BBEdit Document” item. You can also change the order in which document types appear. (Unfortunately, unlike Document Palette, which consolidates your added document types/templates in a single folder inside ~/Library/Application Support, NuFile leaves them wherever they were when you added them to the NuFile menu. If you later move a document “template,” NuFile won’t be able to find it. So I recommend keeping all your custom “new document” template files in a specific folder.)

NuFile preferences

You also get the option—via the Open checkbox—to automatically open newly created documents. This is a handy feature, but I did experience one quirk with it: Because it uses the Finder’s file associations to open files, some aren’t actually opened in the listed application. For example, new “BBEdit” files—which are simply text files—are automatically opened in TextEdit instead; the Finder doesn’t automatically associate the file with the BBEdit application. So I’ve disabled the Open option for new BBEdit files.

Like Document Palette, if you tend to use a particular document as a start for new files—for example, a partially-completed invoice in Microsoft Word format—you can add that document to NuFile’s list. Choosing it from NuFile’s menu is the same as making a copy of the already-partially-completed document in the desired folder.

I do have a few complaints, though. In addition to the usage quirks I already mentioned, I’m not impressed by the developer’s download and installation process. For starters, NuFile comes with no documentation—the download includes only an installer package, without any indication of what will be installed, and where. Bad form. (If you’re curious, it installs the NuFile contextual menu plugin in /Library/Contextual Menu Items, and a preference pane in /Library/Preference Panes. Limited documentation can be found on the utility’s Web site.) Also, you’ll notice that those paths start with /Library rather than ~/Library; in other words, NuFile’s components are installed at the system level rather than the user level. The installer should give you the option to install it in just your own account (or should install it at the user level by default so you don’t affect the accounts of other users on your computer). I’ve moved both components—the contextual menu plugin and the preference pane—to the corresponding folders in my own Library folder.

Finally, installing NuFile automatically restarts the Finder without warning—and does not do so gracefully, which means you lose all your open Finder windows. Granted, after installing a new contextual menu plugin, the Finder has to restart in order for that plugin’s functionality to become available. However, the developer should use the approach taken by other developers: First, notify the user that a Finder restart is required; second, give the user the choice of either immediately quitting and restarting the Finder, or waiting until they log out and back in on their own (which accomplishes the same goal).

But for the most part, these are installation and documentation issues; Nufile itself works quite well. It isn’t yet as polished as Document Palette, but I suspect many users will prefer NuFile’s Windows-like contextual menu access to the keyboard-centric approach used by Document Palette.

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