Where’d all the space disappear?

by Milind Alvares

Where’d all the space disappear?

by Milind Alvares on June 30, 2009

It happens to the best of us. 5 months into using and abusing your Mac, you suddenly find your free space disappearing much like the reservoirs in Central India have started drying up at the end of summer. Fortunately, unlike the reservoirs in Central India, you can easily get back that free space. The question is, where did it all go? You could go around ‘get infoing’ every folder you come across, but that’s painfully slow for larger folders, and there are still hidden folders to worry about.

Knowing I’ll probably annoy a few souls who have heard this expression far too often, “there’s apps for that”. Unfortunately, most of these apps sport outdated interfaces and are not optimised to run on Leopard. I tried WhatSize, Omni DiskSweeper, GrandPerspective, and a few others. Only two of them passed usability

Baseline

The app looks much like Finder, with drives listed in the sidebar. Hitting ‘Scan’ on my 250GB hard drive took about 40 seconds to run through. It then displays a list of all the files and folders, including hidden files, all with their file size. I can rummage through folders, and get a good look at what exactly is gulping down my disk space, and delete whatever I want.

baseline

Baseline can do a list view, column view, as well as an interactive graph view. Hover over a block of data to reveal info. Baseline also offers to ‘baseline’ your current scan, so that future scans can be compared to it. You can tell in future for instance, that your Music folder has grown 6 gigabytes. Overall baseline is a decent app to use, very functional, and I don’t have anything to complain about. $20 for a license, with a functional trial to boot.

DaisyDisk

“Why do disk utilities have to look ugly?” asks the product page. DaisyDisk aims to bring a better experience both in terms of looks as well as functionality to disk management. The slick contemporary translucent window lets you select a disk to scan, and half a minute later you’re shown an appealing pie chart along with a list of the usual suspects in the sidebar.

daisydisk

The “sunburst” pie chart is again, an interactive chart. And the data representation is much better than any of the other apps I tested. You see that big green box? Hover over that to reflect the change in the sidebar. Click it to drive into it. You could also just click the sidebar items which are sorted with the biggest space hog first. Everything from switching views to clicking around is all nicely animated, and very intuitive. DaisyDisk even has quick look enabled, so you can spacebar your way into knowing more. One striking change in DaisyDisk, is it isolates all the smaller junk files into a single unit, so you can catch only the big space hogs. No point in looking at 2KB system files.

The flaw? It has no delete button. To do so you have to open the file or folder in Finder and then delete it. But we’ve checked with the developers, who have assured us that it’s high up in their todo list. They’re just working out a perfect implementation of deleting files directly from within the interface (think Apple waiting for copy-paste on the iPhone).

Choosing from among these tools, I feel DaisyDisk has got something right. It shows you what you need to know, while keeping the unimportant details aside. And it looks gorgeous while doing so. I do like Baseline’s feature of comparing folders across different times, but for most part I just need to know what’s eating my precious disk space. Taking into account that delete support will make its way into DaisyDisk (we’re not making any promises), the crown goes to DaisyDisk.

Would you spend $20 on a tool that merely points you in the right direction? That’s a question only you can answer.


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Aulia

There’s also GrandPerspective and WhatSize

   

Lucky

GrandPerspective has an updated interface (I helped with it), but you’re right, it’s far from being user friendly. Still, I think it’s a big step compared to the pre 1.x interface. What do you think?

I have a few more ideas and the developer is pretty open minded. It’s just a matter of time. I’m sure if anyone wants to help he’ll be willing to accept all he can get.

   

Milind Alvares

I quote myself:

I tried WhatSize, Omni DiskSweeper, GrandPerspective, and a few others.

Well I’m just prejudiced against bad user interfaces, even though some of them might be free.

   

Jarod

While DaisyDisk is the prettiest of the bunch, it lacks the most important feature – the ability to actually DELETE something from within the app. If you find something that is taking up all your space, why do you need to switch out of the app in order to do it. WhatSize, for example, allows you remove it right there and then. With this added functionality, for sure Daisy Disk wins

   

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