It wasn’t so long ago that the majority of internet users would connect via dial-up modem. Back in those days, download managers were a necessity since there was nothing worse than spending days downloading a file, only for it to be interrupted because someone picked up the phone in another room. Nowadays, with widespread access to high-speed internet and the fact that browsers have become a lot smarter over the years in resuming unfinished downloads, download managers have all but faded into obscurity.
But the light hasn’t gone out completely for download managers and one such app, Folx, does more than simply download files. After spending a few days with it, I’ve found myself remembering why download managers were just so useful.
Your Personal Assistant for Downloads
Download managers were originally created to provide a better way of managing file downloads, since most downloads took hours rather than minutes. What’s more, due to the fickle nature of dial-up and the fact there were so many ways a connection could be unexpectedly terminated, having a central location to start and resume downloads was a huge deal.
Folx, by Eltima, brings that centralisation back in an app that does its best to manage, organise and control your downloads. Just keep adding downloads to the app and Folx will work its way through the list.
The app has a simple interface that certainly stands out, with its darkened chrome, though I’m not particularly keen on the mustard-coloured background. Ignoring this, the app is well presented and easy to navigate. There’s a toggle for completed and in-progress downloads in the title bar and you can filter downloads according to status using the status bar below.
A useful function is a separate window for bandwidth activity that provides realtime usage of how much bandwidth downloads are using.
Folx works by either pasting in a direct URL or, more conveniently, through the app’s ability to capture download links directly from any browser. Downloads are then redirected to Folx rather than using your browser, providing you with a number of options that you can change, such as adding tags and description or even scheduling when the download starts.
When using multiple browsers, it makes download management much easier as you don’t need to worry about which browser is downloading what. If I had a coin for every time I quit a browser because I thought I was finished with it, only to find it was performing a download, I’d be a very rich man.
Oddly, there are two separate and differing ways that adding downloads is accomplished. You can either enable the ability for Folx to continually watch for any downloads within your browser, or by installing a browser extension. With the option to have Folx watch for downloads enabled, the browser extensions seem to make little sense. The browser extension simply adds a contextual menu item to send links to Folx.
Folx’ monitoring is much more powerful and you can even specify exactly what files to monitor. If you’d prefer to download ZIP files within your browser, for whatever reason, you can simply tell Folx not to add downloads that contain ZIP files.
Folx’s download organisation revolves around tags, something that features prominently within the app and has an entire column dedicated to them. Tags can be set during the initial download process or automatically by a customisable set of rules, similar to Apple Mail’s rules.
This organisation is present throughout the whole app and completed downloads are, too, organised by tags. Infrequent downloaders will probably skip tagging altogether and, thankfully, the tag sidebar can be hidden. For anyone frequently downloading large amounts of data, you’ll likely find this particularly useful.
Speed Limits & Scheduling
Unless you’re able to configure Quality of Service settings on your network router, running huge downloads can impact you or others from using the internet, especially if someone is trying to make a FaceTime call.
Folx includes a speed limit option that can be either manually or automatically enabled and disabled. Many alternative download apps, such as Transmission, has been offering this for downloading files using BitTorrent, so it’s good to see it in a traditional download manager.
Folx takes this one step further with a feature it calls Smart Speed Adjustment. By specifying certain apps, such as Safari, you can have Folx automatically lower the speed limit that downloads run at when those applications are active. Again, you could add FaceTime to the list of apps and as soon as you launch it, Folx will throttle your downloads.
You can schedule downloads to start and stop at specific times so that you can take advantage of out-of-hours bandwidth. Unfortunately, you can only specify a schedule for when downloads start and stop, you can’t schedule download speed limits.
Folx supports multithreading for downloads, meaning it will establish multiple connections for the same downloads. This means that you may find downloads occur much faster than they have been within a browser. Folx supports up to 10 threads with their Pro version.
Even testing the free version of Folx, I found downloads of Ubuntu consistently faster using the app than Safari 6, sometimes by almost 1MB/sec. While this is in no way perfectly scientific, with some of the difference likely attributed to other factors beyond the browser, it was enough that downloads consistently occurred faster within Folx.
The app is available in two flavours: a free version and a Pro upgrade. By going Pro, you unlock features such as smart speed limits, scheduling and the ability to use more than two threads.
Folx was a surprising app and, to be honest, I was not expecting this level of functionality and usefulness. For light users or anyone who doesn’t require automatic speed limits or scheduling, the free version of Folx would be more than enough.
At $19.95, it isn’t the cheapest download manager though it is one of the few that offers some functionality at no charge, and certainly one that I wholeheartedly recommend.