Is this the longest-running bug in macOS?

Summer is a time of anticipation for the autumn/fall harvest of a new release of macOS. For me, it will determine whether to celebrate the birthday of what must be the longest-running bug in macOS. This year it will be five (at least).

It’s the Finder column width bug, which has affected Finder windows in column view since Mavericks, in October 2013 if not before that.

If you haven’t noticed this bug, it’s very simple to reproduce. Open a Finder window, set it to column view, and select your Documents folder in the sidebar. There, pick a folder inside your Documents folder which isn’t already listed in your favourites, and open Finder’s preferences. In the Tags item there, make that folder within Documents the default item to show in new Finder windows.

Now open a new Finder window in column view. This should start with two columns being shown, the first listing the contents of your Documents folder, and the second containing a listing of the folder within Documents. Then switch that to display the contents of your Applications folder, and select any app there. Finally, using the back button at the top left of the window, switch back to the original folder.

This Finder bug has irritated us for over a year, but Apple seems unconcerned about fixing it.

What you should then see are two columns: the first is the listing of your Documents folder just as before, but that to the right now fills the rest of the window as its width is incorrectly calculated. Select a folder within that and the window is almost useless, as the bug propagates down through the files and folders.

There are two good workarounds. The first is to select a different folder in Documents, then use the back button to return to your chosen folder, with its width correctly displayed. Even neater is to click on the back button to return to Applications (but this time don’t click on any of its contents), then click on the forward button.

This bug has been prevalent in OS X for nearly five years, if not longer, since OS X 10.9 Mavericks. The screenshot above was taken over three years ago in Yosemite, and this bug has since persisted through Yosemite, El Capitan, Sierra, and High Sierra. It is such an obvious bug, and one which interrupts your workflow. It isn’t merely cosmetic.

The big question now is whether Apple will fix it in macOS 10.14 Mojave, or whether it will linger on for another year, a wart on the face of the Finder. I fear that I may already know the answer, so I’ll stock up with candles.