Hidden features in Apples macOS Sierra

While running the brand new version 6.9.3 of the amazing Digital Asset Manager NeoFinder for Mac through our extensive and complex testing plan, we have discovered a couple of strange bugs and secret hidden features in Apples new operating system macOS Sierra.


But the really good news first:

NeoFinder Mac 6.9.3 runs really nice and smooth in macOS Sierra, and was successfully released on Monday, September 26, 2016!

Should you upgrade to Sierra?

After what we saw during our testing, it is far too early to upgrade any productive Mac to macOS Sierra today. Please wait at least until 10.12.3 comes out, and Apple has fixed many of these bugs.

And if you decide to upgrade, make 100% sure you have a full backup of your entire statup disk and all data on it. Really.

macOS Sierra is slow?

After we had upgraded our test machine to macOS Sierra, we found that the MacBook Pro was extremely slow, all input was lagging, and everything took ages.

A quick visit to the Activity Monitor revealed that there was some process named “secd” running amok, and eating up almost 100% CPU time. This is a process from Apple, undocumented, which seems to have something to do with their security concept.

Fortunately enough, there is a way to solve this problem. It seems to be related to some problems in Keychains, when you upgrade an existing system. To solve it, delete the folder “Keychains” in your personal Library folder (not the global /Library folder!). Then run these three lines in Terminal.app:

launchctl stop com.apple.secd
killall secd
launchctl start com.apple.secd

In our testing, that has solved the CPU hogging of Apples secd immediately and permanently.

Another issue we saw is that another strange process, called com.app.appkit.xpc.openAndSavePanelService was eating up almost 100% CPU time. This one is also not documented, and it is unclear what purpose this process has.

We were able to solve that second problem by quitting Apples Photos.app. It seems that they are somehow connected.

The huge CPU load of a “photoanalysisd” process, after importing photos into Apples Photos.app, was to be expected. They are now automatically analyzing your photos for scenes and objects, to improve the search feature of Photos.app.

Unfortunately, this take a LOT of processing time, our test Mac ran for almost 20 hours on full power after importing only 17000 pictures into Photos.app. We will see if and when this stops…


NeoFinder is able to catalog text excerpts from RTF and Microsoft Word documents, among others. macOS Sierra adds a very interesting new twist to that.

If your document contains one of the Apple standard fonts that seems to be no longer automatically installed (probably to save space and download time, who knows), macOS Sierra now offers to download and activate that font for you:


While that is an interesting and possibly nice feature for some users, this really is a problem when you catalog a disk with thousands or millions of text files in NeoFinder. In that case, cataloging will pause until you have replied to that dialog.

And if you select “Skip”, that exact same dialog will show up seconds later for that exact same font in another document. Bummer.

Most unfortunately, there is completely zero official documentation from Apple about this unexpected behaviour, and so far no way to turn off this disruptive feature during cataloging.

We have posted a bug report with Apple, and hope to get a reply from them soon.

Until then, you have two options:

  1. Turn off the option to catalog the text contents of files. That will prevent NeoFinder of cataloging all text files, though. You can have a finer grained exclusion of only .RTF text files, as described in the NeoFinder Users Guide.
  2. Download and activate the required fonts from Apple once, and be done with it.

Visual glitches

As with most new operating system versions in the past 6 years, macOS Sierra has some strange visual glitches. We saw them during testing of NeoFinder in NeoFinder itself, but also in Apples Finder and other applications. Things like the blue background of selected items in an outline view sometimes disappearing, and such.

So far, none of these have caused any real problems, and we expect Apple for fix them in 10.12.1 or 10.12.2, as they did in the previous five major OS releases.

The HFS Standard filesystem is no longer supported

This short sentence in the official technical documentation about macOS Sierra from Apple (https://developer.apple.com/library/content/releasenotes/MacOSX/WhatsNewInOSX/Articles/OSXv10.html) should start to make you nervous.

It means that Apple no longer cares about their original file system.

But that is so long ago, who cares?

You may care a great deal!

If you have a large archive of data CDs or DVDs, those created prior to 1998, you may not be able to actually read them in macOS Sierra, even if these disks are still perfectly OK.

So go and check your digital data archive. If there are files on these older disks that you may still want to use, now is really the time to copy them to a new device!

Mail.app. Beware!

One massive problem we have encountered during the upgrade from Mac OS X 10.10.5 to macOS Sierra was the complete disappearance of every single mail in Apples Mail.app!

So far it is unclear what caused this, but even though Mail was able to use all existing mail accounts, it has simply deleted every single mail in our massive mail folder.

Good thing we always try these upgrades only on our test machines with a copy of the real data, so in our case, no real data was lost.

In a second attempt, Mail was even able to read most of the mails, but kept our Inbox empty and even write protected, so we were not able to use the app at all.

So if you like to keep your mail, make sure you have a valid and current backup, if you really think about upgrading to macOS Sierra today.

We will postpone upgrading our work machines to macOS Sierra until Apple at least fixes the problems in Mail.

NeoFinder and ffmpeg

NeoFinder for Mac is able to generate video thumbnails from a variety of formats, many more than are supported by Apples ageing QuickTime technology.

It uses a very cool and powerful tool named ffmpeg. That is a command line tool that must be properly installed so that NeoFinder can find and use it.

If using the Terminal is complex for you, here is a simple step-by-step guide on how to get and install ffmpeg to be used with NeoFinder.

But first, why is ffmpeg not simply part of NeoFinder? That would be much easier, right?

Yes, it would be. But ffmpeg uses a license type called GPL, and that does not allow this software to be bundled by apps like NeoFinder. Sorry. We would love to directly include it, but we cannot legally do so.

So get your own ffmpeg!

Just visit http://www.ffmpegmac.net/

They offer a nice “Download Now!” button for you, marked in red here:


You will get a file named


or similar in your Downloads folder.

Please double click that ZIP file to uncompress it, if your browser didn’t already do it.

Now you have a folder named:


or similar, with three items in it:

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 15.02.02

You only need one of them, and that is – you have guessed it – called ffmpeg.

This file must be placed in /usr/local/bin/ for NeoFinder to find and use it.

How do we get it there?

First, launch Apples Terminal.app, to be found in your Utilities folder.

There, paste the entire following line, and hit return:

mkdir -p /usr/local/bin/

This will create the folder we need to place your ffmpeg into.

Permission denied?

If you get a message saying “Permission denied.”, you don’t have full administrator privileges. But those are needed to write to /usr/local/bin/.

You can get these special access privileges by using the su command in front of each regular Terminal command.

So the above command to create the folders would now be:

su mkdir -p /usr/local/bin/

When you enter that command, Terminal will ask you for your normal user password, and then proceed.

Copy ffmpeg

Next step is to actually copy the downloaded ffmpeg file into that location.

Again in Terminal.app, please use something similar like the following line:

cp /Users/yourname/Downloads/SnowLeopard_Lion_Mountain_Lion_Mavericks_Yosemite_El-Captain_02.05.2016/ffmpeg /usr/local/bin/

This is a bit tricky, as this cp (or “copy”) command requires you to give it the entire path of the downloaded ffmpeg file on your system, as well as the target folder path. The good news here is that there is a shortcut for this!

Just type the cp command first, followed by a blank. Then simply drag the ffmpeg file directly into your Terminal window! It will properly add the path to that file for you, no typing needed!

Then type another blank, and paste the destination path    /usr/local/bin/   there, and make sure to include the trailing / in this path.

When you hit return now in Terminal, it will bravely copy the ffmpeg file into the folder we have created.

If you again get the Permission denied message, use the su command, as outlined abive.

Test it!

To make sure that it works fine, just paste this line into Terminal now:


This should launch ffmpeg from the command line, and give you some diagnostic output about the ffmpeg version:

ffmpeg version 3.0.2 Copyright (c) 2000-2016 the FFmpeg developers
  built with llvm-gcc 4.2.1 (LLVM build 2336.11.00)

Now you can launch NeoFinder again, and it will happily find and use ffmepg, to catalog file formats like MPG, MXF (used by Sony XDCAM), M2V, M2TS, MPV, MTS, TS, and even VOB.


Crash me if you can!

We at West-Forest-Systems write the best and most stable software code in the world. Ever.

Yeah. Sure. 😉

Well, we are only humans. Humans make mistakes. And when we make a mistake during coding, bad things™ can happen. One of the worst of those is that our brave application crashes.

A crash means that the operating system does not know how to continue running that application, simply stops it, and wipes it out of its memory.

This can happen if a software tries to access a memory area that doesn’t belong to that application, or for many other technical reasons beyond the scope of this article.

The good news here is that Mac OS X has a really amazing and powerful support feature built-in for this exact case.

It is called the Crash Report. Such a report is automatically generated for each and every single crash that happens on your Macintosh computer.

This crash report contains a wealth of important and valuable information. For example, it tells precisely where and usually also why the software has crashed.

Of course, this is amazing, as it can help us, the developers, to locate and fix that particular cause for this inappropriate behaviour.

So how can you obtain this valuable crash report?

Apple has placed the organisation of all the crash logs of your system in the hands of the versatile Console.app. This mighty helper is located in the Utilities folder, and yes, you have seen that folder already when you were looking for the Terminal in another entry of this blog here.

console-appIf you open up Console.app, you will be greeted by a quite complex window with lots of incomprehensible things in it.

Fear not, we will guide you safely through this maze!

console1The interesting part is located in the left region of that window, and it is called User Diagnostic Reports:

user diagnosticsIf that section, marked red in the screen shot above, is not open, please click into the little triangle in front of its name.

Then you can see a list of all crash reports that happened in your system.

The names of these reports indicate the application that caused the crash, followed by the date and the time of the crash.

If you select one of these reports, the content of that report is being displayed.

one reportAnd yes, that is still hard to comprehend for you, and that is OK. But it is a very valuable source of information for us, the developers, as we can actually read that log, and get amazing hints as to why and where the crash happened.

So it is very important that you email us that crash report ASAP. Fortunately, there is a very cool command for this right in the context menu.

mail it!

Please send any NeoFinder crash reports to support@cdfinder.de , so we can investigate, and fix that as quickly as possible.

Thank you.

Find Space Eaters!

So you have that shiny new and ultra fast SSD (solid state disk) in your Mac, enjoying its blazing speed, and then disaster strikes:

The disk is full!

How can that happen?

The super fast SSD usually have a smaller capacity than regular and slower hard disks. But even those can quickly fill up, and you may wonder where all that space went.

Well, no more wonders.

You can buy some expensive special software to find out, or simply use your versatile NeoFinder now to find out what eats up your disk space!


Step 1: Get the Disk Inventory

First, catalog your disk with some special NeoFinder Cataloging Preferences:

catSettings1As we are only interested in the used disk space for files, we can ignore any meta data and thumbnails, so turn it all of.

The same for the Archive Files: In this case, we are not interested in their contents, so turn all of them off:catSettings2

And last, we must make sure we get all invisible files, as they are very important for our purpose, so the Ignore section should be set up like this:


If all is set up, let NeoFinder catalog the disk for you.


Step 2: Evaluate your findings and start deleting

Now let’s look at the content of that catalog, and thus the actual content of your disk. Ask NeoFinder to display the content in List View, and sort that list by Size, so that the largest items are located on top:


NeoFinder shows you exactly what needs how much space on your disk. And as opposed to Apples Finder display, NeoFinder will show you hidden and invisible files and folders, too. So this is the only way to really see what is going on with all the space of your disk!

A new important notes first:

Never delete anything inside the System folder! Really. This is where your Mac OS X lives, and thou shall not delete or change anything inside it. End of story.

Only delete files or folders that you know you don’t need anymore. In doubt, search the Internet and try to learn what a file or folder is all about, and if you can safely delete it or not.

Now let us look into the drive scan results.

In this example, the Users folder takes up more than 125 GB on space, which is a lot. Let’s see if we can do anything about that.

Click in the little triangle in front of the icon in a line to open its content in the list. Repeat until you see something you can safely delete.

mobile backupIn the example, more than 88 GB of disk space are taken up by Movies, so I will have to look through those to see what I can remove. Another large folder with 11 GB of files inside Library is called Developer, and is used by Apples Xcode for various purposes, so we will leave that alone today.

The Application Support folder has some stuff we can remove. Inside MobileSync, the folder Backup contains 6.6 GB of data that I don’t need anymore. These are backups of an iPhone or iPad, and some are rather old. Since I have all data from these devices safely stored in other places as well, I can remove them safely to regain almost 7 GB of space.

How do I do that with NeoFinder?

Simply use the contextual menu. It has a “Delete from Catalog and Volume” command, which will do precisely that:

delete from disk

Depending on the amount of files and folders you are deleting, that may take a moment.

You noticed that NeoFinder even gives you a summary of the number of files and folders in that item, in its Inspector? There are 17753 files in this particular folder, wow.

inspector sumary

Another interesting place to look for wasted space is the Caches folder. This is normally also hidden from you by Apples Finder, but NeoFinder can look right inside it.

Some Applications waste a lot of space. The really cool Web Editor RapidWeaver, for example. Every time you upload changes to a web site, it will create a large copy of your document in the SandwichArchives folder, but it will never delete that. If you use RapidWeaver a lot, there may be a very large wasted disk space to be cleaned up here:


Apples Mail has some bugs, too. It will never delete any attachments you have opened, regardless how old they are. But it creates yet another new copy of the file every time you click on it. Very inefficient. So go and find the folder Library -> Containers -> com.apple.mail -> Mail Downloads, and safely delete it. Mail has stored the actual attachments safely elsewhere in its Mail folder, these here are really only temporary files that eat up space:

mail downloads

The usually hidden private folder also contains some things we can delete.

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 10.21.38The huge sleepimage file, for example. It is usually as large as the memory size you have installed in your Mac, and that is exactly what it is used for. When your Mac goes to sleep, Mac OS X will write the entire memory into that file. Unfortunately, it will never delete that again, so you can safely do that. Of course, the very next time your Mac goes to sleep again, that file will be created anew.

Another item is the systemstats folder, which contains more than 340 MB in more than 6500 files here in this example. It contains statistics about your system and its power usage, and it can be safely deleted.

We will look into more places for unnecessary files in the next months, and post results below in the comments section. Please use that as well if you know anything that can go away.

As you can see, NeoFinder is a really powerful and amazing tool that can help you clean up your disk, and regain a lot of empty space for you!

Step 3: Even more options

And if that is not enough, use the cool advanced Find Duplicates feature in NeoFinder to see if you have any unnecessary duplicates on your disk.

NeoFinder can do that. No other tools required.

Make it forget! How to delete the Preferences in Mac OS X properly

Sometimes, the best way to solve a weird problem, is to delete the Preferences of an application.

The Preferences can contain any number of settings you have made in your apps, but also other stuff that the app may have stored while it was running.

To get a really fresh start, deleting these Preferences is possible.

In the old days, you had to locate a preferences file in a hidden folder, and delete that.

That doesn’t work anymore since Mac OS X 10.8 at least, when Apple had introduced a cache system that would speed up access to the Preferences.

The only official way to really and certainly delete the Preferences for an application in Mac OS X was and still is to run the defaults delete command in the Terminal.

What is a Terminal?

It is one of the powerful helper apps that Apple has placed in the Utilities folder of your Applications folder.

terminal appLocate it now, and open it!

You will be greeted by a simple empty text window that waits for your text input.

Yes, that is very unusual in Mac OS X, where you can usually do most anything with the mouse and some serious clicking. But here, you must type the commands.

Simple paste in the following line there, and hit Return:

defaults delete de.wfs-apps.neofinder

terminal commandThe part with the  de.wfs-apps.neofinder  is the unique identifier that NeoFinder has to use according to the Apple developer specifications. If you need to delete the Preferences for any other application, you need to contact their support to get this particular identifier.

After you hit Return, Terminal will execute your command, and as long as there are no problems, typos, or spelling errors, you will see no reponse.

But the Preferences for NeoFinder are now properly deleted, and you can try a fresh start.

And yes, it is a great idea to quit NeoFinder before doing this…

This won’t delete any of your NeoFinder catalogs, or your NeoFinder license, these are stored separately.

What is it doing? Get a Sample!

Sometimes an application in Mac OS X is showing you the dreaded spinning beachball cursor, or just spending a lot of time doing something.


Who knows what.

Well, you can know! Just take a Sample!

What on earth is a Sample? A Sample is a very detailed technical inspection at what an applications is doing.

That sounds hard? No, it isn’t.

Fortunately enough, Apple has included a really cool and helpful tool in Mac OS X, called the Activity Monitor.

You can find it in the Utilities folder of your Applications folder. That folder also containes a couple of additional powerful tools that we will inspect later.

UtilitiesFor today, locate Activity Viewer and launch it.

You will see a list of all the applications that currently run on your Mac. There is also a large number of tools and other processes that make up your system.

activity viewer outputAs you can see, there is a lot going on in Mac OS X, many things you probably have never seen before.

But we want to know what NeoFinder is currently doing, right?

Just select NeoFinder in the list, and use the little Tools menu above the list. It has a command “Sample Process” in it. That is what we need:

sample processAfter a short while, Activity Monitor will display the results:

The SampleThis is all text, so you can click into it, and select it all, copy it, and paste it into an email. Then sendi this to the NeoFinder Support Team at support@cdfinder.de

Our support team will then be able to see what is going on, and what the problem might be, if there is any.


The small one inspires the big one

Here is a story from the current development process of the next major release of NeoFinder for Mac. We thought you might find this as fascinating as we do.

There is one interesting feature from NeoFinder for iOS that people really seem to like a lot, and this is the cool Find context menu in the Inspector. You have already seen and used it, right?

ios findmenuSimply tap a field on your iPhone or iPad, and NeoFinder iOS offers you to either copy the text content of that field to the clipboard, or to Find similar items.

And find similar is really smart. If you select the name of an artist, as shown here, NeoFinder iOS will search for all other songs of that artist. If you tap on the year of a song, all other songs from that year will be found, and so on. This works for many values, try it out now if you haven’t done so.

This great feature was added to the latest version of NeoFinder for iOS, and people really loved it immediately.

So, naturally, we thought about bringing this feature back from the small iOS device to the big Macintosh. It shouldn’t be so hard, we thought.

We were wrong.

Here is why, and what we did about that. There is a lot of technical stuff deep from the bowels of software development in here that is certainly very interesting for our fellow Cocoa coders, so stay with me for a while.

NeoFinder for Mac uses the NSTextField to display both the descritive label (in bold), and the content itself. Nothing unusual here so far, everyone does that.

As many other user interface elements in Cocoa, NSTextField inherits from NSView, and that has a method called setMenu: which allows you to prepare and assign a contextual menu for it.

So we tried that, prepared a proper NSMenu, and assigned it, but nothing happened.


The NSTextField still displayed the regular contextual menu supplied by Apple, and there was no trace at all of our own Find command in it:

mac os x regular context menuWe were absolutely baffled.

After a long search, and many failed experiments, we finally got a clue. NeoFinder uses this method: [textField setSelectable:YES];

This makes a lot of sense, as that allows you to select parts of the actual text, to copy it, or do any other inexplicable things with it that you may need.

However, Cocoa plays some nasty tricks under the hood for this to work. You see, NSTextField doesn’t really actually allow the selection of text!

So as soon as you click into it, it will be silently swapped out and replaced with a special NSTextView, called the Field Editor. The NSTextView is a far more complex and powerful version of the simple NSTextField, and allows the selection of text among many other things.

So our own NSTextField is no longer there for us when the context click happens.


One possible solution was to give up on the selectability of the text. But we are not about giving up, and the selection of text was too important for us.

So we found a different way.

We have subclassed NSTextField, and in that subclass, we catch the event that will make the context menu appear. It is called rightMouseDown, and we have added some special code there:

- (void)rightMouseDown:(NSEvent*)event
    if ([self isSelectable] == NO)
        [super rightMouseDown:event];
    // display our own contextual menu
    NSMenu        *theMenu = [self menuForEvent:event];
    [NSMenu popUpContextMenu:theMenu withEvent:event forView:self];

Now all is working exactly as it should:

mac os x findmenu

So both clicks are still working for each of these fields. You can click inside it to select text, or you can right-click at the field, and get the new Find command.

Stay tuned for this really exciting cool new feature in the next major release of NeoFinder Mac!

Extensis Portfolio Importer for NeoFinder!

Incredibly good news for Extensis Portfolio users!

The brand new NeoFinder 6.9 now contains an importer for your precious Portfolio data, including thumbnails and keywords.

After Extensis has rudely abandoned its desktop users by discontinuing their quite popular Portfolio product, we have received a large number of requests to help salvage that valuable data.

In the past months, we have been very busy preparing the technology that allows us to offer you a brand new Importer for Extensis Portfolio, further increasing the already very large list of file formats that NeoFinder can import and use. No other product offers these many importers at all.

Since the actual database format of Portfolio files is private, not documented, and actually quite complex, we have decided to use their Export data as the foundation for the NeoFinder Importer.

Here is an overview of the migration process.

1) Open your Portfolio database in Extensis Portfolio

2) Select all images you wish to migrate

Portfolio Export 1
3) Use the “Export Field Values…” menu command in the File menu of Portfolio

4) Make sure to select all fields, as NeoFinder can import a lot of them, and every bit of information is valuable
Portfolio Export 2
5) Remember how you named the exported text file, and where you saved it

6) Launch NeoFinder and use the Import Catalogs menu command in the File Menu

7) Select “Portfolio Export file” as the format, and select the text file you have exported in step 5

8) NeoFinder will ask you for the folder that contains the thumbnails that Portfolio has created. By default, that folder is located in the same folder as the original database document. Its name usually ends with the suffix “_previews”. It is possible that this folder was only generated if you have selected the option “Enable Screen Previews” when you have created the database in Portfolio.

Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 16.57.30If you cannot find such a thumbnails folder, import the data to NeoFinder anyway, and let NeoFinder later update these catalogs to generate its own thumbnails for you from the original files.

9) Watch and enjoy how NeoFinder imports your valuable catalog, including all IPTC, EXIF data, and all the keywords you may have assigned to your images.

Is a Tag a Keyword?

NeoFinder 6.8 has added the ability to add Tags to files and folders. These Tags will not only be written into the NeoFinder database, but also added to the actual file or folder on your disk.

So is a Tag a Keyword? Or what?

Well, keywords are widely used to add helpful information to photos, or movies, and songs. There are many different ways of adding them, and the manual labor of adding these keywords always pays off when the time comes and you search for something.

With Mac OS X 10.8, Apple has added Tags to its file system, and gave you the ability to edit them directly from the Get Info window for a file:

Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 15.40.10

That is pretty cool, and it does not change the actual file data at all. And it even works for folders! Of course, Apple lets you search for these Tags, too, and that makes a lot of sense.

Introducing NeoFinder.

NeoFinder was able to catalog these Tags since version 6.0 (for the older OpenMeta Tags, which were similar), and NeoFinder 6.4 for the freshly introduced Finder Tags from Apple.

And now, with NeoFinder 6.8, you can actually edit and add these Tags to any file and folder directly from inside the Inspector of NeoFinder itself, if the original file is available:

Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 15.44.20

Isn’t that cool?

But wait, is that now a Keyword or a Tag?

Well, it is a Tag, as these are added to the file or folder an an “extended attribute” in the file system, and the original content of the file is not changed at all.

In fact, changing or adding the Tags of a file doesn’t even change its modification date, something to keep in mind when running a backup.

So a Tag ist not yet a real Keyword. A real Keyword is written into the original file, using a tool like Adobe Bridge, Photoshop, or GraphicConverter, and a format like IPTC or XMP. NeoFinder can catalog these, of course, but not edit them.


Just wait and see. 🙂