The beauty in TotalFinder, in contrast to, say, something like PathFinder, is that it's a set of extensions to the Finder, and doesn't actually replace or even alter the Finder.app binary. "TotalFinder is an add-on which gets loaded into the Finder when you launch TotalFinder.app," the website explains, "It does not modify your Finder.app files on the disk, it modifies current instance of Finder running in memory."
TotalFinder delivers a set of very welcome features, prime of which is tabs. The code for this feature is taken straight from Google Chrome, meaning it looks and functions exactly like the tabs in the Mac OS X version of Chrome. As a heavy Chrome user, this is really, really good news, and it makes sure that the tab experience in your Finder is nicely consistent. You can rearrange tabs, and use them as drop targets for drag and drop operations. Of course, springloading is implemented as well, as well as tearing off tabs and combining them.
Another, less polished feature is the split view. TotalFinder simply mirrors the entire Finder window to achieve a split view, conjoining two tabs in one. This feature requires some work, as it looks rather odd. The developer appears to be struggling with the issue of integrating the tab bar with the split view.
Another extremely welcome feature is cut and paste. Yes, the Finder as-is does not ship with cut and paste - all it can do is copy and paste. This is one of those shortcomings Apple should've fixed ages ago, but for some reason, they refuse to. The cut and paste in TotalFinder works exactly as you'd except (
apple+x followed by
apple+v), and there's an experimental option available as well to add these commands to the context menu.
Two minor tweaks are folders on top and show system files. Most file managers have these options from the get-go, but again, Apple refuses to implement them. You can argue it makes sense not to include showing system files, but the option of sorting with folders on top is such an elemental feature that simply must be included with any self-respecting file manager.
A feature which will certainly please power users who do a lot of file management is the Visor. The Visor is activated via a global key combination, and amounts to a large Finder window which slides upwards when this key combination is pressed. This gives you convenient instant access to the Finder form anywhere in the operating system.
For just USD 15 (or USD 30 for a three-license pack), TotalFinder really improves the Finder with a few relatively basic and simple features. It looks good, works well, and you'll barely know it's there - well, except, of course, for the fact that the Finder just got a whole lot less insipid.