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KiwiFinder Extender 1.02

Since we also have KiwiFinder Extender, this seemed like a good place to talk about it. Like Super Boomerang and ShortCut, KiwiFinder enhances the SFDialog box. Unlike them, it also comes with an application and with numerous methods of customizing the organization of your files. However, I cannot recommend KiwiFinder currently because of the letter we just received from Kiwi Software. Apparently the demand for KiwiFinder has been quite weak and Kiwi has decided to cease development on future versions. Although I’m disappointed to hear this because KiwiFinder had a great deal of potential for certain users (and Kiwi claims that KiwiFinder runs fine under System 7, though we’ve had some problems, especially when another SFDialog utility is running), I thoroughly applaud Kiwi for the way they are handling the situation. First, they sent out a nice letter explaining the situation very clearly, and second, they are offering their new utility, Kiwi Power Windows to all registered users of KiwiFinder for free. We’ll be sure to write about Kiwi Power Windows once we’ve had a chance to look at it. Meanwhile, my condolences to Kiwi for KiwiFinder’s lack of success and wishes for better luck in the future. We need more companies that will go that far out of their way to keep customers happy.

If you are the sort who can remember that you created a file last November and that it had the word Turkey in the title (but you can’t remember anything else, not even what word processor you used) then you are the sort who might save a lot of time by installing KiwiFinder. On the other hand, if you are one of those compulsively organized types, KiwiFinder will allow you to be even more organized than you ever dreamed. For example, KiwiFinder lets you organize your files by project, attach keywords to files for future use, and attach notes to files (this one’s due by the 31st, and be sure that Sue sees it before sending out the final draft, etc.). So, whether you are extremely organized or extremely unorganized KiwiFinder has something to offer you.

KiwiFinder has two parts. The first part, KiwiFinder Manager, allows you to accomplish some hard disk maintenance and KiwiFinder setup tasks. Those that use KiwiFinder often will be more likely to spend time in this program, tweaking the organization of their hard disk. The second part, KiwiFinder INIT, shows its face in the SFDialog boxes. I’m not going to attempt to explain how every single interface details works and where it is located. Suffice to say that I found the interface reasonably intuitive for navigating through basic tasks, and a quick read through the short and clearly written manual uncovered the details.

KiwiFinder Manager and KiwiFinder INIT look very similar, showing you a list of folders and files in a scrolling list on the left. To the right are pop-up menus that control which drive you’re looking at, what files are filtered out, and the order in which they’re sorted. Below those menus is another scrolling window that can either show you the location of the selected file from the main list or the notes that you’ve attached to that file. Below these items are buttons to Find a specific file, search for a group of files that meet a certain criteria, and Open the selected file. Both the INIT and the application give some basic file information, such as created and modified dates, creator and type, etc.

Unlike ShortCut and Super Boomerang, which work on primarily on the fly, recording only the most recent files and folders you’ve visited, KiwiFinder has to prepare the disk first by indexing the files on it in. This process can take a while and the wait cursor even looks like a cup of coffee. Get one while you do this – it can take anywhere from a minute or two on a small, fast hard disk to many minutes on a large hard disk hooked to a slow Mac. The files that KiwiFinder creates aren’t small either – the folder of KiwiFinder’s files on my 20 MB files partition (450 files) takes up almost 260K. Although KiwiFinder is aimed directly at those with large hard disks and lots of files, you had better have a bit of free space as well. I intentionally avoided cataloguing my System partition because I’m running a little low on fee space in that partition.

Once KiwiFinder has catalogued a disk, you can begin using the program. The primary feature of KiwiFinder is that you can change the way you view your files from the standard folder-based hierarchical view. KiwiFinder offers seven alternative views: Name, Type, Creator, Created Date, Modified Date, Folder (which is no different than the normal view), and Keywords. The idea is that by looking at your files in a different way, you’ll be able to work with them more efficiently. For instance, in Name view, you see a folder corresponding to each first letter used in a file name. This means that you’ll get a folder for files that start with a bullet, for instance. Name view reveals that I have no files on my disk starting with Q and most of the files start with C or T (not surprising, since the files I write the TidBITS copy in all start with "Copy" and most other TidBITS files start with "TidBITS"). Name view obviously won’t help me much since I already know that most files start with C or T. Type and Creator views don’t help much either, since I know most of the files are created by Nisus and HyperCard and are thus TEXT and STAK. KiwiFinder does handle this well by mapping understandable names onto some of the four-letter type and creator codes and allowing you to customize that mapping further. Modified and Create Date don’t help much either, since I create a lot of files in a month. For both of the Date views, you get a list of year folders, each of which has appropriate month folders inside. Inside those are the files, again listed in the order that you have selected in the Sort pop-up menu. Incidently, you can sort files on Name, Modified or Create Date, or Size. Folder view isn’t terribly helpful since it’s no different than the normal view of files. Perhaps the most useful of all the views is Keyword view, since that will filter files based on keywords you’ve assigned. My problem with this is that if you are installing KiwiFinder on a full hard disk, it’s a lot of work to assign keywords to old files, even with the clever input devices KiwiFinder provides. Assigning keywords to new files would be much easier, since KiwiFinder installs a Keywords button and a Notes button into the Save As… dialog box. Creating and adding keywords and notes from there is a good idea and far easier than adding them in bulk.

You can also either Find files on the currently selected disk (it would be nice to be able to change the disk from within the Find and Search dialog boxes) or Search for a files matching up to three flexible AND/OR criteria formed from the various ways KiwiFinder can view files. The search runs extremely quickly since KiwiFinder indexes the drive and maintains that index. KiwiFinder places the results in a dialog box that looks a good deal like Apple’s old Find File utility, and double-clicking on a file from that dialog will open the file.

In some ways, I feel bad about KiwiFinder. One the one hand, it has an excellent manual and a generally good interface that doesn’t use massive hierarchical menus. On the other hand, I don’t use it because it doesn’t help me with the way I want to organize my disk. I’ve also had a number of problems that might be related to using System 7 or conflicts with other extensions. KiwiFinder is very good about allowing you to limit it if you are using an application that doesn’t like what KiwiFinder does, and if I were to use KiwiFinder a lot, that feature would be extremely nice. As it stands, KiwiFinder is a nice idea for power users with tons of poorly organized files, but I can’t recommend it for the average user who just wants the Mac to be easier to use.

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