Local File Browsing and Viewing Via a Web Interface?
February 7, 2008 11:08 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a file browsing and HTML- and media-viewing interface that can be set up on a Mac OS X machine locally and accessed through a web browser. Remote access not necessary; I'm just looking for a local interface.

Basically, I have a number of files -- HTML files, ASCII files, images (mostly JPEGs), PDFs, and movies (I think mostly AVIs, although there's some MOVs, MP4s, SWFs, and RMs). These files are mostly bits and pieces of my life that have gone with me from computer to computer, and I tend to find myself referring to them fairly often.

Right now, I access and browse these files via Mac OS X's Finder (well, technically, via Cocoatech's Path Finder).

What I'd like is to be able to access and browse these files from within the Firefox browser, preferably by setting up some sort of localhost file browsing solution that also has the power to display images, movie files, and PDFs, and to detect the difference between a text file and an HTML file.

I tend to access these files while in a web situation, so the added steps of exiting the browser and navigating through directories is a tad annoying. Being able to browse through the files via a web interface -- even if not actually mounted in a publicly accessible "live" webspace but only on my machine -- would be useful to me.

Fairly idiotproof instructions would be greatly appreciated.

If there are a number of different packages out there that can do this (as I suspect), essentially the qualities I would be looking for would be slickness of interface; the power to display images, movie files, and PDFs, and to detect the difference between a text file and an HTML file; and ease of installation.
posted by WCityMike to Computers & Internet (6 answers total)
Response by poster: Also, I neglected to mention that I'm unwilling to spend money on this. I'd be looking for free and/or open-source solutions.
posted by WCityMike at 11:09 AM on February 7, 2008

these instructions may be a bit dated, but the first step would be to install or enable the Apache web server on your box. (I'd check but I'm nowhere near a mac) Then move everything you want to access into Apache's www directory. Once that's done, go to 'http://localhost/' in firefox. If there's no index.html in the root directory you should get a directory listing, which will work just like a ghetto finder.

Then, just set up firefox with all the media handlers you need. PDF, Quicktime, MPlayer, etc, etc, etc.

For the pictures, you'll probably want to skip the MySQL/PHP configuration hassle of Gallery and just export some albums from Picasa. Put the auto-generated album folders into some subdirectory of the www directory and navigate to them. Clicking on the folder they are in will bring up the gallery, since they've got an index.html
posted by kickback at 11:36 AM on February 7, 2008

Unforunately, you would either have to install some file management server and run that locally on your machine, so it can read and generate html files for you on the fly. Or find a plugin for firefox that would render the OS X metadata / previews/ for you when you used the file:// URI, which I don't think many people would have a lot of time or motivation to develop, as finder (leopard), path finder and other applications do it better.

Have you not looked at coverflow and quicklook in the finder that comes with Leopard? I have to navigate and sort through tons of files very quickly, and I find it very fast and convenient to do so, instead of waiting for firefox to load and render a page (considering the leopard quicklook is near instantaneous). With spaces, I can have my firefox session in one desktop and switch to my finder in the other via a keystroke and be done with it.

Smart folders and sorting based on filetype can help considerably here also.

I mention this because there are a lot of powerful tools at your disposal in Finder (and soon integrated into Path Finder) that may have what you are looking for.

Of course, you could also have a window in firefox open using the file://Users/yourusername/ and it will let you browse your home folder from the firefox window.
posted by mrzarquon at 11:37 AM on February 7, 2008

If you setup apache, you would have to change its default settings to share your home folder instead of the standard setup, and to deny anything but localhost connections (or else anyone at anytime can browse your files over port 80).

To be able to get image previews you would either have to pre export the images through something like iphoto or picasa, or use gallery2 to generate albums based on the contents of the folders, but then you are getting into php/mysql land.
posted by mrzarquon at 11:43 AM on February 7, 2008

Another option is to symlink your Documents folder in your web space, in Apache config files tell it to follow symlinks, only issue there is that you'll end up displaying the "ghetto Finder" autogenerated directory for some folders, but the presence of an index.html file will cause it to render that instead. Plus, the hassle of browsing many many files by name with generic icons, rather than thumbnails.

I understand your needs, but if you do have Leopard the CoverFlow view is really a lot simpler, even if it does mean switching out of FF for a second.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:44 AM on February 7, 2008

What about just pointing Firefox at your files?

You should be able to enter file:///Users/username in the address bar and bring up a directory listing of your home directory. I will render HTML properly, and images as well. Not sure how it would handle video files.
posted by ndrake at 1:30 PM on February 7, 2008

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