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On Windows I'm addicted to Altap Salamander. I've tried a couple of OS X alternatives, e.g. Midnight Commander. Yes, they are better than plain command line or Finder, but can't compare with Altap Salamander. Besides the normal commands known to Midnight Commander, I also miss directory bookmarks or directory history.

An acceptable tool does not have to look like a good Mac application — I'm searching for something powerful for keyboard-centric file management.

Can you please share your experiences with other NC clones for OS-X?

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Like you, I was hopelessly addicted to Altap Salamander. Unfortunately I've not found anything on Linux or OS X that matches Salamander's speed and ease of use, especially for keyboard navigation.

However, there are a couple that come sorta close:

Disk Order is my favorite, and by far the closest to Altap in functionality that I've found.

XFolders is a close second, though I'd say it's more like NC than Altap (i.e. not quite as modern and full featured)

Path Finder seems to be popular, but I didn't like it at all; I found it no better than Finder for most routine file management tasks, although admittedly it is great for some things.

MuCommander is pretty nice, but Java-based, so you don't get that native speed

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Although not (yet) providing all the functionality you seek, and not primarily a Norton Commander clone, TotalFinder is an interesting concept that extends the existing Finder with additional functionality. Most useful is the system-wide keyboard shortcut to pull up a finder window. It also seems it will provide better keyboard shortcuts in the future.

http://totalfinder.binaryage.com/

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I also use and love Altap Salamander on my Windows machines/VMs. And I also spent a lot of time on my switch to OS X finding a dual pane file manager.

I found Path Finder to be far too "heavy", in terms of start-up time and overall sluggishness when I demo'ed it originally. I also re-tried it a couple of months ago as the latest incarnation allows dual panes and found it better, but still not the sleek fast "Salamander for OS X" I want.

I used mucommander for a while (great software for free and cross-platform), but then I found the perfect "Salamander for OS X" -- Forklift

Forklift interface

In fact, I find that Forklift (especially the V2beta) is better than Salamander in a number of ways. Most noticably the FTP/SFTP module is a large magnitude faster than Salamander on the same machine (11mb/s vs. 1.5mb/s on our local network), and I love the stacks feature, better history control and OS integration (Salamander is clunky on Windows 7, unicode support is lacking etc). Keyboard control is not perfect but the developers are very responsive and quick at implementing keyboard navigation features. I now use Forklift for most of the file management tasks I used to use Salamander for, and when I use Salamander start to miss forklift :)

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I've taken a look at V2beta and I have to say that it just offers a small part of the features I'm used to from Altap Salamander. For example, the SFTP is not able to connect to our server, because it does not ask me for the private key file and does not allow to configure it. –  Mike L. Jul 30 '10 at 10:34
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Yup, no private key support I'm afraid (you can add a support request with Binary Nights to add it), though I have no need for that. muCommander does support private key login if you haven't tried that yet. –  The Tentacle Jul 30 '10 at 14:08
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Beside the normal commands known to Midnight Commander, at most I miss directory bookmarks or directory history.

Although the Finder certainly has its shortcomings, these are two things it can do.

The two arrow buttons on the toolbar go backwards and forwards through your directory browsing history in that Finder Window.

The sidebar can be used to easily drag folders or smart folders to save as "bookmarks" for quick access.

If you're looking for something a little more "beefy" than the Finder, take a look at Path Finder. It has browser-style bookmarks, a very handy "drop stack" which helps for gathering files to move/copy to another location, dual pane file browsing, built-in command line, and more.

Another handy addition in Path Finder which may be what you're looking for as far as "directory history" goes, is that when you option-click the back/forward history arrows, you get a dropdown menu which shows the paths that you have been browsing.

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