Forklift: The Fast, Functional FTP Client

We have previously covered the range of FTP clients available for the Mac, and today we’ll be taking an in-depth look at another. Forklift is a versatile application that integrates effectively with OS X. It follows the familiar style of a traditional FTP application – with local and remote folders displayed.

The latest version brings a range of new features including file compression, folder synchronization, and folder merging. Our review will cover the functionality on offer, and decide how Forklift stacks up against the competition.

Connecting

Forklift is fully capable of connecting to anything you throw at it. FTP, SFTP, WebDAV, Amazon S3, iDisk, shared network SMB, AFP / NIS volumes, and Bluetooth devices are all supported.

Connecting to a Server

Connecting to a Server

In addition, through leveraging multiple connections, the app is capable of offering improved transfer speeds. I experimented uploading a mixed folder of files/images etc, and it took 1 minute 34 seconds with Forklift, and 2 minutes 33 seconds with Transmit. That’s certainly a significant speed benefit, and far more impressive than I expected:

Time taken to transfer folder of files

Time taken to transfer folder of files (seconds)

General Interface

The default Forklift interface feels familiar for those who have used a file transfer tool before. You are displayed with two folder lists; one for local files, and one for remote. The layout remains fairly flexible, however, and either side can be used to display any directory. It’s also possible to switch to “single pane mode” with a single click (or keyboard shortcut).

The Forklift Interface

The Forklift Interface

The current directory hierarchy is displayed across the top of each window, adjusting to display the full name of each folder as you hover. It’s a nice touch, and keeps a long list of directories fairly usable. Forklift can be completely controlled by the keyboard if you so wish.

Favorites

Favorites

The servers defined as favorites appear down the left hand side of Forklift underneath other Finder locations, making it very straight forward to connect/disconnect with one click.

One innovative feature which has been present in Forklift for several versions is “Sync Browsing”. If you have the same directory structure on the local and remote servers, toggling Sync Browsing on will automatically keep the local and remote directories in sync as you browse. This saves a great deal of time, and removes the requirement to change directories in two locations.

When clicking a particular folder or file, you’ll be offered an overview of all the information pertaining to that item at the bottom of the screen:

Viewing Item Information

Viewing Item Information

Forklift also fully supports Quick Look, so pressing space on any item will bring up a high quality preview.

Transferring Files

Transferring

Transferring

Obviously the most important consideration with a file transfer client is how it… transfers files. We’ve already established that Forklift can do so very quickly, but there are a few different methods for moving data between local and remote locations:

Drag and Drop

This is the simplest method, and works well. You can drag and drop anything from the Finder into Forklift to upload it, or move files between panes within the app. It can handle moving several items consecutively, and simply creates a queue (which disappears very quickly!)

Syncing

Forklift has a thorough system for syncing two directories:

Syncing Folders

Syncing Folders

A plethora of options are available for telling the app what to sync, and you’ll be offered a breakdown of exactly what will happen before clicking “Sync” (which items will be added, removed, updated etc). It offers peace of mind, knowing that nothing will be accidentally deleted or overwritten.

Merging Folders

Forklift is one of the first FTP apps to offer a good folder merge solution. Instead of directly overwriting a folder when another one with the same name, you’re able to merge the contents of the two folders, updating and adding files as necessary.

Droplets

One of my favorite features of Transmit is the ability to create “Droplets”, a small application which will automatically transfer any files dragged onto it to a pre-defined remote location. I was pleased to see this functionality included in Forklift, and it works well.

Transferring Large Files

Forklift is very fast, but occasionally you may still benefit from splitting up larger files or compressing a directory. Both these features are built-in, and files can easily be split and re-combined:

Splitting and Combining Files

Splitting and Combining Files

Conclusion

There isn’t a great deal I’d change about Forklift. The speed is impressive, as is the range of features included with the app. If you’re looking for a dedicated FTP application, it’s certainly worth trying out. If you’re after a solution which integrates directly with OS X, ExpanDrive may better fit the bill.

The only gripe I have with Forklift is the diminutive position of the loading spinner when browsing directories. It’s located in the lower right corner, and isn’t obvious without looking for it. I was left a few times wondering whether the application had registered my click on a new directory. I really hope that the app can remain simple in future versions, and not suffer from having features added for the sake of it.

For the currently discounted price of $9.95), Forklift is an absolute steal. Also, don’t forget about our competition to win one of ten copies which closes tomorrow.


  • http://www.macafarian.com Justin

    Hmm, Forklift is looking really good right now, but I just can’t seem to leave Transmit. I like the interface better and I think I’m a little Panic-biased.

    • Phormality

      I’m a long time Transmit user as well, but I was just thinking the other day about how long its been since they’ve updated it. Was the last update just a quick Leopard compatibility fix or something? They need to put some focus back on Transmit, others are starting to pass them by.

  • http://925html.com Eric Ferraiuolo

    “The only gripe I have with Forklift is the diminutive position of the loading spinner when browsing directories. It’s located in the lower right corner, and isn’t obvious without looking for it. I was left a few times wondering whether the application had registered my click on a new directory. I really hope that the app can remain simple in future versions, and not suffer from having features added for the sake of it.”

    The lower-right corner is where OS X puts the spinner in Finder as well. But I agree it’s not the most obvious place; maybe Forklift was trying to follow suite.

    • http://davidappleyard.net David Appleyard

      For some reason the spinner feels more obvious in the Finder – I think because the interface is far busier in Forklift, it’s more of a struggle to pick it out.

  • http://www.joaojoaquim.com Joao Joaquim

    I still prefer Transmit over this one, but it’s good to know that the competition is stepping up the pace.

  • http://pixelgraphics.us Douglas Neiner

    I would be curious how your upload tests would compare if you enabled Transmit’s “Use Queue for all transfers” … Transmit is pretty fast when you use that setting combined with a good number of max connections.

    Like the other guys here, I will still be using Transmit.

  • http://bohea.co.uk dixhuit

    Nothing out of 10? That’s a little harsh – it seemed like you really liked it.

    Does anyone know if Forklift can do tabs and drag-drop between remote locations like Transmit can?

    • http://davidappleyard.net David Appleyard

      How odd… I’ve fixed the rating! It can do drag and drop between remote locations.

  • http://danielcardoso.net Daniel

    It’s a nice app with a beautiful layout, but if you work with hidden files (.htaccess and so on) you can’t see them!

    cheers!

    • BinaryNights

      There is a simple option in the View menu to show hidden files.

      • http://danielcardoso.net Daniel

        yeap! my mistake, now i find it. tks for help (you and @Mudi)

  • Mudi

    @dixhuilt: Yes it can. It can even copy or sync files directly between different connections e.g: SFTP to Amazon S3

    @Daniel: You can enable hidden files in the view menu.

    • http://danielcardoso.net Daniel

      @Mudi: my mistake. i think i’ll buy a copy :D

  • http://www.ag Dana J

    There are very few reasons to not just use FileZilla when on a Mac. It’s free, is packed with features, and is still under constant development.

    • http://www.webmaster-source.com redwall_hp

      I used to use FileZilla on the Windows side, but I can’t stand it’s interface on the Mac side. I use the free CyberDuck instead, though Transmit seems nice.

      I don’t think FileZilla can connect to Amazon S3 either, can it? That’s definitely a reason to use Transmit.

  • yoseeep

    i agree, filezilla is the best out there with lots more features

  • Milke

    As long as Transmit is the only kid in the block with column view, I’ll stick with it.

  • http://www.geertdedeckere.be/ Geert

    I’m impressed with Forklift’s upload speed. The Batch Rename tool is handy as well. I do miss the column view from Transmit, though. Will be playing around with Forklift some more.

  • Daft Viking

    I’ve been using Forklift for a while now (got it in the MacUpdate bundle in December 2007). The FTP functionality is solid, and I use it as my primary FTP/SFTP client, but I also use it regularly for local file management. The dual-pane interface (with separate history for each pane) is very handy, but what I like the best is dealing with archive files (zip, tarballs, etc.) – it opens up archives like a regular folder without having to unpack it, which makes it great for exploring an archive, extracting just a couple files, etc. My only complaint is that Quick Look doesn’t work within the archive, but I can understand the technical challenges that would make it so.

  • http://twitter.com/sulcalibur Sulcalibur

    I bought Flow just before this went to $9.95 so I bought it as well :P I like both FTP clients, but for functionality and features I’d have to go with Forklift, it really is quite awesome and the price it is at the moment is absolutely shocking.

  • http://www.jaixm.com Juan Manuel Lemus

    I try Forklift as Finder killer but I don’t like his list files interface. I replace it as FTP client for Transmit.

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  • Adam

    I have been using Forklift for 2 months now and I can’t live without it anymore..
    One thing that bothers me though is that when you click the ‘back’ button, Forklift always takes you to the top of the list, not where you left off.

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  • Mike

    Too expensive. For this little functionality… Snow Leopard is cheaper than this.

    You can hv this functionality via MacFuse for free. I’d rather use forklift. It’s faster, cheaper, and the little benefit from saving directly to a FTP server is not worth $40.

    $15 would be a much more reasonable price.

    • Mike

      Damn, wrong window. I wanted to comment on Expandrive.

      Sorry for this one.

      Forklift is awsome :)

    • Mike

      Damn, wrong window.

      I wanted to comment on Expandrive…

      ForkLift is awsome :)

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  • http://basementjack.com Basementjack

    I’ve used Filezilla for as long as I can remember, it’s free, cross platform and works fine. Being a cross platform port, it doesn’t look very ‘mac like’ but given it’s a utility, I don’t really mind the appearance.

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