Transmit 4

Not just the best FTP client, but the prettiest icon.

Panic has done it again — they’ve taken what was already the best FTP (et al) client on the Mac (or any other platform, seriously) and made it not only better but transcendently good. I have to agree with the review from Smoking Apples that the only FTP client that even remotely challenges Transmit is Flow (which I fell in love with instantly, and then abandoned because it’s simply too unstable), but Transmit has gone way beyond matching Flow’s features.

Three words: seamless Finder integration.

It’s hard to imagine how to add features to an FTP client to make a (non-free) upgrade release compelling, but somehow they’ve managed it. Aside from the above headline feature, my favorite new features are:

  • instant access to favorites via the global menubar
  • automatic inference of timezone differences (something I’ve wanted for a long time — but when I explained this to folks from the Dreamweaver team back in about 1998 they didn’t even understand the question: apparently administering servers in different time zones wasn’t a use-case they’d contemplated)
  • FXP (server-to-server) file transfer (Forklift‘s killer feature)

MacHeist Nanobundle 2

Well, Macheist has come and gone again, and now I have a couple of gigabytes of new software (mostly Monkey Island) on my notebook’s hard drive. The usual rule with Macheist (and similar deals) is that you only buy it if there’s a product you’d cheerfully pay the fee for in the bundle, and on that basis this bundle was a great deal for me: I’m a sucker for Monkey Island (even though I never really cared for the threequel). I’m also glad to see Telltale Games shipping Mac products (I hope they port the Sam & Max titles: I will cheerfully pay retail for any Sam & Max title until I become jaded, but I’ll probably buy the Wii version otherwise…).

I did end up installing all of the other programs, although some got uninstalled pretty darn quickly.

MacJournal is a really huge program for keeping a journal. I have a cloud-based solution for doing this called WordPress and — unlike MacJournal — it is accessible from anywhere (including my iPhone), it’s free (and open source), it lets me make some journal entries public while keeping others private, has a comment system, does version control, automatically backs up to the cloud, and doesn’t take up a metric buttload of hard disk space. (Uninstalled)

As a side note, MacJournal is a fine example of an attractive, functional, easy-to-use useless piece of software the like of which does not exist for Windows. If you found a niche product like this for Windows it would be a horrible piece of crap. MacJournal is quite lovely — it’s just not useful to me. All of the pieces of software in the Macheist bundle that I’ve installed and used have been very polished, stable products. It’s a testament to the quality of Apple’s indie software ecology, and I think it must be quite terrifying for Microsoft which cannot itself produce such polished products let alone attract third parties to do so.

Ripit is a program that does one thing (rip DVDs to hard disk) and does it very, very well. I have not quite reached the point of ripping my entire DVD library but when I do, I’ll be glad I got a license for this. (Installed but not used, yet.)

Clips is an intriguing little hack that monitors you clipboard and then automatically keeps the last N clipboards around for use at the touch of a key. I think this is a great idea and pretty well-implemented, but it just never occurs to me to use it. I’m running it though and maybe, one day, I’ll actually use it. It’s a lot like multiple-undo, I think — one day you’ll realize you (a) use it all the time and (b) get enormously annoyed by a program that doesn’t have it. (Installed, running, but not used yet.)

CoverScout is an intriguing iTunes add-on. I haven’t installed it yet but I have high hopes that it will actually help sort out my iTunes cover art situation (my wife and I ripped our entire CD collection two house moves ago, and many of the tracks have very odd cover art having been incorrectly identified by iTunes at some point. As I understand it, CoverScout’s sole purpose in life is to fix this kind of thing, so I’m hoping it’s good at it. (Not yet installed.)

Flow I’ve already discussed. I think I may be in love. At minimum, Flow makes Little Snapper irrelevant by doing what Little Snapper does for screenshots for — basically — everything. I still use Transmit without thinking, though. (Installed, used, kept.)

Rapidweaver is a program I’ve considered and rejected in the past. It’s a very similar program to Sandvox (which I also own and don’t use), perhaps a little better put together and with generally more attractive (and, as far as I can tell, flexible) themes. Unlike Sandvox, it seems to have built up a fairly solid third-party plugin ecology and might actually be a useful product for someone looking for a template-based web development tool. More attractive and flexible than Sandvox, produces much lighter weight pages than iWeb (although also much less flexible graphically). Rapidweaver has also been sitting at version 4.3.1 for a rather long time (it used to be one of those programs that would get revved every few weeks) — perhaps the developers are losing interest. (Installed, messed around with, probably will be uninstalled.)

Tweetie is one of those non-solutions to non-problems. Indeed, since it’s a desktop Twitter client it’s something of a meta-non-solution to a meta-non-problem. I installed it and played with it for a few minutes — the fact that it was not especially obvious how to make a new tweet was a very discouraging sign (I did figure it out…). But at least it’s small. (Installed, used, kept… for some reason. Oh, that’s right, it’s 2MB.)

The Macheist folks also snuck in three bonus programs for promoting them via Twitter (further alienating me from Twitter). One of the programs — Tracks (installed, used, kept) — is a very well thought out iTunes remote (in particular it offers Spotlight-like access to your iTunes library from a menubar widget) but the other two — Airburst Extreme (Uninstalled) and Burning Monkey Solitaire (Not downloaded) — are wastes of hard disk space as far as I’m concerned.

MacHeist, Flow, etc.

Flow in Action
Flow in Action

I’ve just paid for the latest MacHeist bundle. The funny thing is that the app I buy the bundle for is usually not the app I end up using. For example, the app I bought the last big bundle for was Espresso (the rival to Coda from the MacRabbit, developers of the excellent CSSEdit), but Espresso — while still promising — has proven very buggy (not to mention that it’s a royal pain in the ass to customize color settings, and the developer keeps changing the CSS tags so old color preferences become obsolete), and it still lags far behind Coda in most respects.

Aside: these days I live in Cornerstone and use a variety of text editors rather than Coda or Espresso.) In the end, my favorite app from that bundle turned out to be Acorn, which I had almost no interest in. I should add that Acorn also has problems — indeed, I think I email a new bug report or gripe to the developer every other day… Then, as I mentioned the other day, that bundle also includes The Hit List, which I’ve just started using (in fact it’s become one of the apps I “live” in), so that bundle has paid for itself several times over.

My reason for buying this bundle is really the Monkey Island game (which I probably won’t have time to play). But after downloading the bundle apps, the one that really impresses me is Flow. I remember a while back when Transmit first came out — Panic did a good job of publicity and so (noticing it had a nice icon) I decided to give it a shot, fully expecting to delete it immediately. After all, I already owned Anarchie (or whatever the frack it’s called these days) — The Best FTP Client In The World™ — right? And FTP isn’t exactly rocket science, what can this new app add? Well, turns out the answer was “not quite enough”. I played with Transmit long enough to decide it wasn’t quite up there, emailed some suggestions to their email address, and went back to “work” (those were the days!).

Of course, within minutes Cabel Sasser had responded to my emails (at what must have been a very odd hour), and within months Transmit had most of the new functionality I’d suggested along with a loyal user and evangelist (I think the big big that I wanted Transmit — and FTP clients in general — to do was transparently modify a test file on the server, get its modification timestamp, figure out what the time difference between Here and There is, and deal with file replacement accordingly. I once made this point at a Macromedia conference in Sydney which got a standing ovation from the audience and completely perplexed the (American) presenter. I don’t think anyone has actually done this yet, it’s very annoying. It was even more annoying back then as I lived in Australia and maintained websites on US-based servers, so timestamps were often very misleading.)

OK, what was I talking about? Oh, that’s right Flow.

Flow is a new(ish) FTP (SFTP, WebDAV, Amazon S3, etc.) client for the Mac. Its design goal appears to be to make remote servers behave as much like your local hard disk as possible, with additional — very thoughtful — goodies such as letting you bookmark a folder on a server and set it up to automatically copy the URLs of uploaded items to the clipboard. So far, my only problem with Flow is the way it morphs the sidebar from a set of local bookmarks to a local file hierarchy. I’m not exactly sure how to do what Flow is doing better, but it seems like a bit of a kludge.

It also makes me wish that its developer(s) would simply build a complete Finder replacement, since they clearly “get it”.

I think I’ve found my new favorite FTP client. Sorry Panic. (Well, we’ll see how easily I can reprogram my muscles to stop typing “command spacebar T R A N enter”.)