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For average Mac users, the concept of a separate application just to manage files and folders probably sounds like overkill. After all, the Finder is free, baked right into macOS, and does just about everything one could ever want. But file manager apps are no longer just for power users, and once you’ve gone dual-pane, it’s hard to go back.
Forklift are among the most recognizable names in the Finder alternative subgenre, but the folks at Eltima Software have also been busy cultivating their own solution in recent years, and if you can deal with the less-refined Windows-style UI, has a few unique tricks up its sleeve.
Master and commander
Featuring a dual-pane user interface with support for tabbed windows,
Commander One 2.1 doesn’t look all that different from its predecessor. The first thing macOS Mojave users will notice is the app now supports system-wide Dark Mode, a welcome addition that gives the otherwise button-heavy UI a more streamlined appearance.
Dark Mode support alone doesn’t go quite far enough however, since the background of the dual file browser panes remain bright white by default. Thankfully, Commander One’s own color settings come to the rescue—switching to the Unpositive preset paints the entire user interface with the same level of eye-pleasing darkness.
The only catch is that, after a 15-day trial period, you’ll have to pony up $30 for the Pro Pack upgrade to use themes, but that purchase unlocks a long list of other features too. In addition to browsing local and network-attached volumes, the Pro version works with FTP and WebDAV servers as well as cloud services, adding Box and Backblaze to the original lineup (Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, Amazon S3).
Another new Pro feature is the ability to mount iOS or MTP devices in addition to Android, although in the case of iOS, an administrator password is required every time Commander One is launched due to Apple’s restrictions. The only way around this limitation is to disable the iOS extension altogether, which can be done from the launch prompt or Preferences > Extensions panel.
Although a welcome addition to its arsenal, Commander One’s implementation of iOS device support is no substitute for dedicated utilities like
PhoneView, both of which present mobile data in a more elegant, user-friendly way. By comparison, the extension is a down and dirty, low-level approach to accessing iOS data, but one better suited to advanced users who know what they’re doing.
Such power comes with an overall lack of polish—although Quick Look is built into Commander One, pressing the Space bar doesn’t preview a file or folder, but rather selects or deselects it instead. Worse yet, selecting multiple non-contiguous items requires holding down the Command key the entire time—that takes some getting used to, since it’s the opposite of how Finder works, where the first click needs no modifier. Unselecting all files also requires a nonstandard Command-hyphen keyboard shortcut.
On the plus side, WebDAV connections are now super-fast, and Commander One supports Finder tags and extensions, making it easier to color-code or manually add files to connected Dropbox or Google Backup & Sync accounts, for example. The built-in Terminal has also been enhanced with the ability to change text size, color, background, and cursor type, which will have power users jumping for joy.
Although lacking the refinement of competitors Transmit and Forklift, Commander One 2.1 delivers a handful of welcome new features and under-the-hood improvements that make it worth checking out, but only if you’re willing to shell out for the Pro upgrade.