Finally discovered why people don't like column view

I loved column view from the dawn of OS X. But I wasn’t doing anything that generated large numbers of files with long filenames.

Now I have an astrophotography camera which gives photos long filenames containing all the metadata for each shot. Of course the long filenames get truncated and only show the part that’s the same for each filename. You can “right size” a column to show the longest filename but as soon as you switch to another folder the column width goes back to the useless default. I’m guessing Apple have known that this is an issue for a very long time, and rather than fix it they gave us the option to open folders in tabs in the finder. I still like to open another window so I can see the source and destination for copy and move operations.

Does anyone know of a solution to just making any column open right sized for the filenames every time?


This has bothered me forever, but it’s still not enough to deter me from using the Only Correct View :wink:


Interesting. I prefer list view and that may be a remnant of my Windows days. I like being able to sort easily by file type and by date.

Why do you prefer column view?


So annoying. Whomever works on Finder doesn’t use column view or they would have fixed this by now.


I prefer column view for navigating folder trees, it’s quicker than scrolling up and down. YMMV, this depends on how many subfolders you have in each folder.

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It doesn’t really bite until you have long filenames like

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You also get the QuickView feature when you highlight an entry if you are in Column View…


I prefer it because for some reason it gives me a better sense of where I am in a directory hierarchy, even when I’m looking at the contents of a directory. Also, moving things around within that hierarchy seems to be easier. (I was kidding about the One Correct View, of course. But only barely :grin:)


I use column view everywhere except in Downloads and Desktop, because I prefer to navigate horizontally through hierarchies – especially deep multi-level situations. In Downloads and Desktop, I use List view and sort by Date Modified so that the most recently modified document is at top.

I only use Icon view in folders with photos or graphics. I suppose Gallery view has its place, but I never use it.


Why even care about filenames if you could use metadata (EXIF+IPTC) and search the whole image database through it?

I use Lightroom to wrestle my photo collection and stopped worrying about filenames long ago. And if I ever want to get a filename structure (date_location_camera_aperture_etc.jpg), I can easily rename from the metadata.

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Short version - It’s an astrophotography thing :-).
You take tens or hundreds of shots of the same target. Then you take tens or hundreds more shots with lens cap on at different exposure times, plus more with a white t-shirt over the lens pointed at a bright sky or iPad - these are the calibration frames. They all get combined to make one photo. This is a very short description of the process.
Also the files may be .FITS files rather than raw, depending on the camera used. There’s a Mac app called Observatory that does Lightroom’s job and more for FITS files.
Being able to see the type of frame (Light, Dark, Bias, Flat), the target, the filter you used, right there in the file name is important. Also the temperature of the cooled camera is important because calibration frames have to be taken at the same temperature, and cooling can fail for different reasons including but not limited to actual bugs (insects) crawling into the camera through the vent and interfering with the fan.

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Column view is always my go-to view for everything. But I agree about the sizing issue. The annoyance is worse for me when using Devonthink. Does anyone know if there is a setting or preference in DT that allows it to do this better?

Yep. I add a suffix for each data operation I’ve performed on a file. The files starts with subject number, group and condition. That allows me to restart the process at any point without redoing the whole processing pipeline, which can be very time consuming (e.g. ~17 hours for AMICA).


Wow, i’ve learned a lot. That’s super fascinating that you keep building the file name for your states. I don’t have to apply many operations like that to my files. The only time I’ll add filenames is different versions and I’ll append something like:




This allows them to be sorted alphabetically


You might find an abbreviated preasr and kine and substitute that in the file names to shorten them and use camelcase instead of dashes to delineate the words

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Thanks. There’s some thought behind the snake_case.
Words separated by underscores are a lot easier for me to read, and to parse in code if I need to pick out some information about the file from its name.


VF_NF_REGEXP    = '(p[\d]+)_([\w]{2})_[nv]f_[nv]f.+([nv]f)_go\.set';
files = dir([EEG_PATH FILEMASK]);
for file_ndx = 1 : length(files)
    elseif contains(files(file_ndx).name, '_vf_')
        matches = regexp(files(file_ndx).name, VF_NF_REGEXP, 'tokens');
        if size(matches) == 1
            subject = matches{1}{1};
            group = matches{1}{2};
            condition = matches{1}{3};

This is somewhat inspired by some neuroimaging software that’s been around a long time, and that prefixed filenames with a single letter to indicate the processing that had been performed on the file (s-smoothed, w=warped, etc.). I didn’t like that, as I wanted my files sorted by subject, rather than the processing performed on them, so I started off appending a letter. It then dawned on me that this is not 1975 and I can use words that mean something in the filenames.

And if anyone is still reading… the .set files contain metadata for the .fdt files. The metadata has a comment field, so many of my routines call my provenance function that adds text to the comments that contains the name of the operation, and the parameters used. This to have a record of what I did, and also in the spirit of reproducible research.


    EEG = provenance(EEG, 'asr_eeg_kine_files', ['(' num2str(arg_flatline) ', ' ...
        num2str(arg_highpass) ', ' num2str(arg_channel) ', ' num2str(arg_linenoise) ', ' ...
        num2str(arg_burst) ', ' num2str(arg_window) ')']);

I built a fix for this into my Alfred Finder workflow:

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I discovered some workarounds:

  • option double click on the II symbol at the bottom of the column separator = right size all columns just this once, goes back to normal if you select a different folder, so not much better than the right click “right size” options
  • option drag on II = drag out the size of all the columns permanently, this survives folder changes - solves the problem at the cost of an enormous waste of space in the columns that don’t need it. Mitigated if using 21:9 display.
  • XtraFinder apparently resolves this as well as providing other Finder improvements. Unfortunately it requires disabling SIP. Does anyone here use it?

Column view works best with a large wide monitor to navigate folders AND have context. Its allows at a glance more of an overview/context than any other view for reading file and folder names.

I’ve worked on hacking my way around this with scripts and Keyboard Maestro and have let it go as nothing I’ve found works.

If lots of folks made a noise then this would change. As it seems to be for now, there isn’t enough interest. Your case is a great case for there being NOT enough interest. How many Mac users are in your use case? I’d check the option to auto-right-size columns as fast as I possible could if the option were available so I am in YOUR small camp.

While helpful and super generous to be offering all these workarounds, for me, there’s a bit of a rub from the feeling that there is a concerted effort that occurs like what is being said is something to the effect 'You don’t really need or want what you say you need or want, no, what you really want is what I’m selling, see look at this, isn’t what I think better than what you think you want?"

I hear and see this big time with Apple staff and I assume is how they are trained to respond. Kinda raises my hackles. There needs to be honor and respect for what people say they want even when you’ve had lots of experience with folks you’ve managed to redirect and then have them thank you for clearing something up. While that sometimes works it’s both dicey to make a rule of it and feels kinda slippery and not in a good way.