I’m sure you’re familiar with the many download managers available for Mac, such as JDownloader, Leech (which we reviewed in 2010) and others. The purpose of most of these apps is to help folks who have multiple downloads keep things neatly organized and packed into one app.
JDownloader even offers a special multi-link capability that lets you paste as many links as you wish into a box and the app will automatically start downloading them in order. This stuff is great for power users, but today I’m going to show you a new app that offers the same capability in a more simple manner, it’s called SpeedTao.
Please be aware that this app is in beta and does have a few bugs, which I will fully disclose later on in the review.
Once you download SpeedTao, you can either drag it to your Applications folder, which is recommended, or leave it in Downloads and test it from there. When first launched, SpeedTao will ask you to select what browsers you’d like to enable the downloader on. It gives you the option of Firefox, Google Chrome and/or Safari. Next, you’ll need to decide whether you’re going to use the ED2K and torrent capabilities that SpeedTao offers. If you check disable, then you can always update your choice later in SpeedTao > Preferences > P2P by turning the P2P setting on. After you’re done with this setup process, you’re ready to begin downloading!
In the features department SpeedTao is just about the same as every other download manager out there, except it tries to offer more ease-of-use than others do. It works great for power users as well as normal ones.
- Fast downloading. SpeedTao accelerates your downloads using multi-thread technology.
- Peer-to-peer support. SpeedTao supports nearly all popular P2P transfer protocols, including ED2K (also known as eMule) FTP, HTTP, and HTTPS. Sadly, the app’s current revision is lacking magnet support, but the developers are confident that it will be in a future beta and definitely in the final build.
- Simplicity. SpeedTao offers the simplest way to initiate multiple file transfers. Even though the aforementioned JDownloader also does well at this, SpeedTao seems to simplify the process quite a bit. The user interface is also much straightforward and
- Growl notification when download has finished. This is a useful feature for those of you who have other work to perform while the download is
- Speed limit. You, the user, have the ability to set a transfer limit on SpeedTao so that it doesn’t use all your network’s bandwidth and you can continue your daily activities without disruption.
Naturally, there must be some things that are lacking in a beta. I’m not going to mention the bugs in this section, but I will go over a few features that I’d like to see in future betas and hopefully the final release.
- Hover-over descriptions for menu buttons. When you’re using the app, it’s kind of hard to tell what the five menu buttons on the left pane even do without clicking them. (If you’re curious, the first lists all your transfers, the second your items that are currently in the process of downloading, the third your items that are currently in the process of uploading [P2P transfers], the fourth your finished downloads, and the fifth offers a search function for ED2K.) I’d like to see something like what Twitter’s native Mac client does with their hover-over menu buttons. The other buttons could also benefit from this feature.
- Better, more descriptive menu button icons. The aforementioned menu buttons may be lacking the hover-over descriptions, but the developer could help us some by providing a more descriptive graphic for each.
- Less choppy interface. Throughout SpeedTao I’ve noticed that there are a lot of rough edges, be it on the buttons or elsewhere.
- Download status on the dock icon. This would be extremely useful for those who are using SpeedTao daily. I’d like to see something like uTorrent’s little speed indicator as an overlay on SpeedTao’s dock icon — Chrome has this as well, but without a percent or transfer rate.
- Instant search. Instead of needing to press enter after searching for a download, why not integrate some sort of instant search like Spotlight has?
You have a right to know some of the bugs before downloading beta one. I’ve tested the beta to the best of my ability, and here are the issues that I’ve found.
- Known issues for beta1 0.8 r320: open button does not always work, redownload button does not work for torrent downloads, changing download location in preference is not possible, resume/redownload hover tips are mixed.
- Quits when a download is paused and restarted.
- Doesn’t animate when a download is preparing to start — this could also be a lacking feature, but you’ll have to take that up with the developer.
- Takes an additional ten seconds to quit after user requests it.
While there are some issues with it, SpeedTao isn’t too lacking on its user interface. The main idea is similar to that of Twitter for Mac and Sparrow — a mail client. I am partial to this design and the implementation is well done, except for one detail: the background. I really don’t like the off-white noise as a background throughout the app. For some reason it just doesn’t flow well.
In addition, when you scroll past the edges it just turns to plain white, which looks a bit strange. I’m sure this is merely a bug that will be worked out eventually. While I do love the implementation of this Twitter app-like design, one additional issue pertains to the buttons. As I mentioned above, many of them are quite choppy and don’t look very nice on my display. In addition to this, the speed limits button seems to be chopped off at the bottom, strangely.
For a beta, SpeedTao is doing well, even though I have been putting quite a bit of pressure on a few of its lacking elements. I hope to see many, many new features released in new builds along with bug fixes in a few areas. With this, I believe that the app will gain a lot of recognition for its simplicity and good feature list. If you like what you’ve read about, then head over here to grab the first beta now!