Tree Maps of Disk Space

    May 9, 2006

GrandPerspective and Disk Inventory X are two free Mac OS X apps that give graphical views of where your disk space is being used.

Both of these are based on work developed at the University of Maryland called Tree Maps. There are references at that link to many other implementations and similar projects on Windows and Linux.

When you want to see disk usage, a graphical view is intuitive and easy to understand. For example, here’s how GrandPerspective sees my home folder:

GrandPerspective is very simple: the larger the rectangle, the larger the file it is representing. You click on the rectangle to see the path and name of the file. The only options available are to change the colors to have them selected by depth, directory, name or extension. That’s it: this is a simple and very direct application.

Disk Inventory X is more ambitious. Like GrandPerspective, it displays rectangles based on the sizes of files. But it also shows much more information:

(Click to see image)

All of the gold rectangles in that image are Parallels Workstation documents (the same files are the large blue boxes in the GrandPerspective view). Notice to the right that documents of that type consume a total of 14.2GB of my hard drive. I can also see that I have 20.5MB of PDF files and so on. That’s helpful information.

I can’t really say that one of these is better than the other: it depends on what I’m looking for. The simplicity of GrandPerspective is attractive for a quick overview, but Disk Inventory X includes information GrandPerspective doesn’t have. I’ll keep them both.

*Originally published at

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A.P. Lawrence provides SCO Unix and Linux consulting services