When I decided to take a look at Commander One, I did so with the expectation that I was going to be looking at something that was equal to or better than apps I was already familiar with and/or used on a regular basis—such as XtraFinder, Path Finder, Transmit, etc.. After looking at the feature list of Commander One, I immediately wondered if it could possibly deliver on the promises it made.
Commander One is what you would call a Finder Enhancement app. It simply recreates Finder windows and adds a multitude of tweaks and features to them. This is nothing new; XtraFinder does this to some extent, and and Path Finder have done these things for years. But Commander One promises to offer Path Finder-level features, plus a built-in FTP manager, at an affordable price through the Mac App Store—where you have the luxury of installing it on five Macs at a time.
The biggest feature of Commander One is the built-in FTP file manager. The need for an FTP Manager today is rather limited. In fact, other than web developers, I suspect there are few people who need FTP anymore, or even know what it is. But if you do need it, the concept of having FTP built-in to Finder windows is certainly enticing.
Along with it’s marquee FTP feature, Commander One offers the ability to theme it’s file manager window, access a Processes window (similar to Apple’s own Activity Monitor), a built-in Terminal, various file sorting capabilities, integration with Dropbox and more.
I won’t go into all the features, you can read about them on the website. I gave Commander One a test run for the last two weeks and compiled my thoughts below.
Unfortunately, none of the features found in Commander One work as well as they do in other apps. In my opinion, the entire app feels cobbled together and lacking in polish. For instance, simply hitting the Space bar in Commander One doesn’t invoke Quick Look like it does in the Finder. You actually have to click a button in the toolbar. An app that exists to replace the Finder needs to improve the Finder, not remove great features.
For simple tasks like dual-pane Finder windows, adding global hotkeys, adding legacy-style Finder labels, theming Finder windows, adding a button to view invisible files, auto-resize windows to specific sizes (or just enough to fit file names on the fly) and adding a host of other tweaks and enhancements to the Mac’s standard Finder, I use the excellent XtraFinder app, which has the benefit of being free; though it does require disabling Apple’s SIP (System Integrity Protection) to do so; a problem that brought about headaches for many software developers with the arrival of El Capitan, and ultimately killed the popular Total Finder, a Commander One competitor.
Commander One’s hero feature, an integrated FTP manager, sounds like the one feature that would make Commander One worth paying for. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the FTP management feature to work with my FTP sites at all. Eltima offered to troubleshoot the problem for me, but I didn’t go through with it because FTP is such a basic thing that I shouldn’t have to—it’s an ftp address, a username and a password. I have two other FTP apps installed, and both work flawlessly with my FTP sites.
Mac Finder integration is key
And that’s really the problem here. Commander One is a separate app that doesn’t integrate with the Finder, or replace it. So launching an app like CyberDuck or Transmit to use FTP services is no different than using Commander One exclusively, really. Almost all of Commander One’s features suffer from this same problem.
If you’re looking to completely replace the Finder, I think Path Finder does a much better job. Unlike Commander One, Path Finder offers a way to completely ‘replace’ the Finder in almost every meaningful way. If you don’t mind using a separate app for adding useful features to a Finder-like environment, ForkLift looks much better, and offers virtually the same feature set., including FTP file management.
If you just want to add some cool and useful features to the existing Finder, I think you’ll find XtraFinder to be an excellent choice.
The basic features of Commander One are free, with the pro features costing $30. Unfortunately, some of the pro features are available with fee apps like XtraFinder, some are already built-in to the Finder, and others are only useful to those with specific use cases.
Ultimately, though, I’m not sure any app can ‘replace’ the Mac’s Finder completely. Running a completely separate Finder-replacement app on top of the Finder seems pointless to me to begin with. As a huge fan of some of Eltima’s other software like Airy, I was disappointed with Commander One. But Commander One does an admirable job for what it is, and I know that there are those that will find the features Commander One offers to be useful. It’s just not for me.