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)
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”.)