Ages ago, in prehistoric computer times, before Apple fully realized its uber-technological prowess and took over the world with touchy glass devices, I was enamored with a oneCommodore Amiga. To this day I lament that Amiga isn’t giving Apple competition, as it was wayahead of its time with multitasking and distributing tasks to multiple processors, as well as just feeling like a creative machine. I mean, c’mon, it had “B52/ROCK LOBSTER” stamped on the circuit board! One thing I used a lot, and could never figure out why OS X had no equivalent, was a dual-pane file manager. It took ten years, but there are finally some very solid options out there.
Since the early announcement of ForkLift, I have kept a close eye on the development, and have helped with various stages of beta testing. Along with TextMate, ForkLift has been in my daily workflow for years now. It’s incredibly fast, reliable, and does just about everything I need from local and remote file management. I couldn’t imagine working without it at this point. Yesterday they released the first public beta of ForkLift 2, a huge upgrade to the already-capable 1.7.
The list of new features in Forklift 2 is impressive:
- Complete rewrite of the codebase, most importantly their transfer engine. I never felt FL1.7 was slow, but the speed difference in navigating SFTP connections is incredible. This thing blazes.
- Stacks. Similar to Path Finder’s Drop Stack, but you can have multiple stacks and name them what you like. Think of them as virtual folders for working with many disparate files.
- Workspaces. Save a snapshot of your setup of panes and connections to jump right back where you were working.
- Docked Activity Viewer. No more losing that annoying little activity window in the second monitor behind some other app.
- Unarchiver is now built in. This is great, I’ve used Unarchiver for ages, incredibly powerful tool.
- Revamped Batch Rename. Now saves your previous settings when you open it again.
- Improved filter/select tools with regex support.
- Sync overhaul. Now supports filtering by folder and “synclets” which are push-button sync aliases you can drop anywhere in your file system.
- Transfer queue with conflict/error management.
- New icon, undo support, revamped sidebar, better keyboard support, column and coverflow view, and many more little tweaks.
Last week, Panic released Transmit 4, which is a gorgeous and capable superpowered FTP application, and also now allows you to have both panes showing local drives. I have a registered copy of Transmit 3 and used it before ForkLift came along, and still use it now and then for certain FTP servers that gave the old FL engine trouble.
I spent a few days playing around with the new Transmit, and strangely the first impression I get is ForkLift Lite. However it is, in true Panic form, a very beautiful and well-thought-out product with some interesting UI decisions.
I couldn’t help comparing it to the beta of FL2:
- Transmit uses “paired pane tabs” which I prefer — switching tabs changes both panes, so you can have a few different “sessions” going with paired local/remote directories. ForkLift allows you to have multiple tabs per pane, which many folks requested. I honestly can’t ever see how that would be useful for a workflow, but it’s not a huge deal.
- I really like Transmit’s use of the bottom of the window as a progress meter/activity status, as well as the [^] button at bottom left to show the full activity list. Very slick and nice use of space. ForkLift 2 introduces a copy/move activity queue, but it’s not as well integrated or transparent in use to the user. This may change in the beta stage.
- Transmit’s Connect/Favorites UI is candy for the eyeballs. They obviously put a lot of work into this area. I like their use of grayed-out suggested values, especially for fields such as “Root URL”. I like that the Connect/Favorite UI is not a floating palette, but nicely integrated into the pane you are going to use for that connection. ForkLift uses a floating pane, which works fine but isn’t quite as slick.
- Transmit 4 introduces a “mount any favorite as a MacFuse disk” which interesting, but I don’t particularly get the point. If I can Remote Edit and do any type of file operations from Transmit (or FL2), why would I want the drive to be mounted in Finder? I can almost see it being useful for diff operations, one of the primary things I’ve wanted in FL since the very early days, but it’d still be a clumsy workflow. (Turns out BinaryNights is adding this “Mount Favorite” feature to FL2 in the second beta.)
- Transmit 4 changed all their toolbar icons to Leopard-ish monotone buttons. I’m honestly not sure which I like better. ForkLift hired folks to make big, custom, colored icons, which are nice, but I really feel like this is an older element of OS X that might be heading the way of pinstripes, brushed steel, and overglossy reflections.
Overall, Transmit 4 is a very nice upgrade, but to me it really feels like a very pretty FTP app with limited functionality. In comparison, ForkLift feels much more powerful and useful, less expensive, and has all the features I’d ever use in Transmit.
I don’t discount the appeal of nice aesthetics and a few tasteful visual flourishes. Folks spend a LOT of time in these type of apps, and having a bit of fun and whimsy goes a long way. I think FL2 could use just a few more brushstrokes to pretty it up, but I’m already using it for production use and love it to death. I’m sure they’ll refine it quite a bit, it’s only in the first public beta after all.
I’d be remiss to not mention Path Finder, especially since they somewhat-recently added the ability to operate with dual panes. For me, however, Path Finder has always felt like the epitomy of bloatware, trying to cram every feature imaginable into one app. Because of that, you get giant lists of tiny-font actions and options, floating panes shooting off every edge of the window, and more opportunity for instability. Some folks swear by it, but it’s never wooed me like ForkLift did from the start.
If I had to recommend one to someone less technical for just uploading files to their website, I’d have a hard time deciding. Transmit errors on the side of pretty and simple, primarily sticking to the paradigm of “local files on left, remote site files on right.” ForkLift 2 leans more towards a power user setup, and expects one to be able to handle the flexibility and extra features with less hand-holding. For me, the latter wins out by a long shot, and if you’re more geek than weak, I’d suggest giving ForkLift a spin.
I was lucky enough to convince my friend John to pay for a relaunch of his website (still in the works) with an iPad. The idea was that he could play with it for a few weeks while I worked on the site, then hand it over when the site was done. This sort of worked, but only if you ignore the “still in the works” parenthetical above.
In short: it’s an amazing albeit not-quite-magical device. Along with many other folks, I mostly look forward to seeing what apps come out, as well as the refinements in OS updates from Apple.
The sentiment that the iPad becomes whatever app is running is a very astute observation. It’s a blank slate of touch-sensitive glass with no OS chrome which transforms into all sorts of different devices driven by the best mobile software to date.
How do you hold this thing?
I twatted about how ridiculous it sounded to hear complaints of fatigue from holding a 1.5lb device for any length of time. Of course, I must now eat my words. It’s just heavy enough to make it uncomfortable after about 20 minutes.
Easily the most awkward thing about the iPad is figuring out how to hold it — while typing, watching a movie, browsing the web, playing Scrabble, etc — as well as where to set it down when you’re done. I have the Apple case on order ($46 after taxes and shipping: ouch!), so perhaps that will mostly solve these issues. I’ve never had a case for my iPhone and never felt the need.
The unstoppable demon Qwerty lives on
I’m in awe we’re still relying on Qwerty in 2010, a keyboard layout thrown together in 1868 in alargely random arrangement to avoid jamming of mechanical key levers. A century and a half later, it’s still our primary input method on the sexiest computing device man has created? Really?
Beyond my disappointment of the lack of a magical or revolutionary input method, I’m impressed with the keyboard. If I manage to get it to lay at a slight angle, propped up on my wallet on a table for instance, I can touch type at almost full speed. It reminds me of the laminated keyboard sheets we used in gradeschool typing class before they let us loose on the Apple IIe beasts.
However, when you’re holding it up with both hands, in any orientation, it’s really difficult to thumb-type. I would love the option for a split keyboard. Not only would it give more screen real-estate, it would be immensely easier to type with.
One baffling decision is the action button on the keyboard (Search, Send, Go, etc) is no longer blue, like it is on iPhone. Why the change? It’s an extra moment of hesitation trying to find the button, especially as the button is now moved up from the bottom-right location on the iPhone. Perhaps this will return with future OS updates. After all, the keyboard could sure use a bit more love aesthetically; the 1 pixel border and thin letter line weights are pretty ugly by Apple’s standards.
It worked for AM radio
The speaker does sound good for a mobile device, and I thought I wouldn’t care about stereo sound, but it’s large enough of a device that it makes a difference. When in landscape mode, it seems very odd for sound to be coming out of only one side.
I’d like to watch movies on the iPad without headphones. I’ve spent many hours watching tv and movies on my trusty old TiBook, which still has the best speakers I’ve heard in a laptop. How much more can it cost to put in a decent set of speakers, especially when they got it right eight years ago?
I’m a big fan of Apple’s gorgeous and often ruthlessly simple industrial designs, but not when it makes it perform as well as my cheapo (now useless) netbook.
What can you do with your iPad that you couldn’t do before?
This is a common question I hear, usually dripping with barely veiled disgust. I really don’t get this. Do people ask this when you get a new computer? Or a new phone? Or a new car? The iPad is a highly-portable computer. You browse the web, you do email, share photos, play games, make music, watch movies, listen to music, read books.
The exciting aspect is that, much like the iPhone, we don’t really have any idea of how the device will transform as more and more innovative software emerges. People shunned the iPhone as an overpriced, underperforming mobile phone, and look where it is today.