In June 2005, user interface experts at one of the world’s top design houses said Mac OS X 10.4 (“Tiger”) was the beginning of the end for the Mac Finder and that the era of organizing files in nested folders was over, reported Wired (the article is no longer online).
Experts at Silicon Valley’s frog design said new-at-the-time Tiger features, mainly the systemwide Spotlight search technology, were much better for locating information than the hierarchy of files and folders that underpins most current computing interfaces. The way Searchlight transforms the computing experience is akin to Google’s effect on the Web, they added.
“The Finder has been dying for a long time,” Cordell Ratzlaff, frog’s creative director at the time, who previously worked at Apple (where he directed human interface design for Mac OS 8 through Mac OS X) told Wired. “As hard drives have grown in size and the number of files people have on their computer has increased, the Finder has become less useful.”
“Spotlight changes the landscape fundamentally — how people manage and organize things on their computers,” added Mark Ligameri, also a frog creative director (who previously worked at Microsoft on the user interface of Windows XP and the upcoming Longhorn). “Spotlight is a good alternative to the hierarchical organization of information.”
However, Apple disagreed. Wiley Hodges, a senior product line manager for Mac OS X in 2005, told Wired: “The Finder is far from dead. It is still an extremely familiar metaphor that’s logical, putting related and relevant data into folders. Spotlight extends the Finder with queries for frequently used folders.”
And Mark Rolston, frog’s vice president of digital media, concurred. He told Wired that the problem is that “we tend to organize data by hierarchical folder. But we may want to view the data many different ways, organized by different criteria, often through ad-hoc searches … These new search tools offer multiple ways to find things according to changing context.”
Fifteen years later the Finder is still going strong and shows no signs of vanishing anytime soon.