DaisyDisk 3 Beta is Here, with a Revamped Interface and New Tools

It’s always an unpleasant surprise to find out that you’ve run out of space on your Mac’s hard drive. Just like our homes, things can get cluttered despite our best intentions to stay organized. Unlike our homes, however, the items on our computers that are guilty of taking up space aren’t always readily apparent. Old, bulky files can be hidden away in the dark recesses of your drive, and manually searching for the culprits can be a tedious process.

A few years ago, Software Ambience released the wildly popular DaisyDisk app to help us visualize what’s hogging the precious space on our drives. Now, the developers are set to release the much-anticipated 3.0 update to Daisy Disk, loaded with new features and improvements. What does the 3.0 version bring to the table?

What is DaisyDisk?

For the uninitiated, (and for users who haven’t fired up the app in a while), it’s worth reviewing what the current 2.x version offers. After opening the app, you’ll see a simple visualization of usage on each of your connected drives. You can then scan a drive, and DaisyDisk will analyze what is taking up space. This information is presented in a circular chart that allows users to hover over certain areas to get more information.

DaisyDisk's graphical display helps users understand what's hogging hard drive space.

DaisyDisk’s graphical display helps users understand what’s hogging hard drive space.

Color-coded categories help organize the data, and clicking on a category refines the report. A file path helps you jump back to higher levels in the file system. Once you’ve identified files that can be safely deleted, you can drag them to the bottom of the window and quickly delete them.

Visual Improvements

The first change that most users will notice are the design tweaks. Following the growing trend of using darker colors throughout app interfaces, DaisyDisk 3 now has a almost-entirely black window.

The updated version (top) has a dark window and button.

The updated version (top) has a dark window and button.

There are several other design changes that help make the app feel more polished. For example, the icon that indicates that files have been moved into the trash can has been changed from the slightly confusing radiation symbol (traditional designating files ready to be burned to an optical disk in OS X) to a spinning, glowing wheel.

The developers have touched up several details, including the icons.

The developers have touched up several details, including the icons.

The 3.0 release also includes full Retina support, so MacBook Pro with Retina Display owners will now be able to see DaisyDisk’s beautiful visualizations in sharper detail.

New Features

The developers focused much of their effort on performance enhancements and upgraded the app to 64-bit. This modernization speeds things up, but also means that 3.0 will require OS X Lion or higher. They have also included support for Thunderbolt drives, to keep up with the next generation of high-speed peripherals.

Speed improvements are subtle but noticeable.

Speed improvements are subtle but noticeable.

In my testing on a MacBook Pro running Mountain Lion, the 3.0 version took 33 seconds to scan the 200 GBs of data on my OCZ solid-state drive. That clocked in at a modest eight seconds faster than the current version. While the difference seems small, the improvement becomes much more apparent when scanning larger drives. Beyond scanning, the app does feel snappier and it seems to open more quickly.

Notification support is a great new addition.

Notification support is a great new addition.

DaisyDisk includes Notification Center support, which alerts you when a scan is complete. I found this to be a useful new feature, as scanning larger external USB drives took a few minutes, and I navigated away from the app while I waited.

I’m generally cautious when it comes to deleting a files that I can’t identify, but with previous versions of DaisyDisk, as well as other drive utilities like CleanMyMac, I have gotten overzealous with the delete key. Now, DaisyDisk gives you a warning when you are about to delete a system file or anything whose sudden disappearance could potentially harm your computer.

You can also rescan individual folders, which allows you to save time by not having to rescan the entire drive if you’re only interested in a particular area.

Room for Improvement

All of the changes to DaisyDisk’s 3.0 beta are welcome ones. However, there are a few areas that either were unadvisedly left unchanged or that were addressed but need more work. Oddly, color palette used in the data reports has gone unchanged. I never had a problem with the old colors, but a few of them (including the dull yellow) could use a revision.

You can launch Disk Utility from DaisyDisk, but as there isn’t a shortcut, you might as well stick with your preferred app launcher.

Having menu access to Disk Utility makes sense, but as there is no shortcut, it doesn't really save that much time.

Having menu access to Disk Utility makes sense, but as there is no shortcut, it doesn’t really save that much time.

The app preferences pane for the current version is as meager as they come, with only a toggle for a congratulatory message when you clear out at least 5 GB. The 3.0 release still has that option, and adds automatic updates option, but nothing else. A utility like DaisyDisk doesn’t necessarily need an abundance of customization options, but an update like this seems like a fantastic opportunity to introduce user-controlled shortcuts, color preferences, CleanMyMac-style automatic scans at preset intervals, etc.

I'd love to see some more customization options in the preferences pane.

I’d love to see some more customization options in the preferences pane.

Conclusion

I think everything that the developers have done with the 3.0 version of DaisyDisk is a marked improvement from it’s current offering. However, none of the new features are revolutionary, and enhancements such as Retina-support are expected of all apps these days. The under-the-hood speed bump is noticeable, but casual users who open DaisyDisk infrequently might not care about a few seconds getting shaved off the scan time.

Most of the changes are simply a matter of bringing the app up to date with current hardware and software capabilities. Consequently, the update will be free to all existing users. As I tested the beta version, there is a good chance that the developers address some of the issues I brought up, and might even introduce a new feature or two. Keep an eye out for the update in the near future.


Summary

The update to the popular disk-space management utility adds new features and a cleaned up interface.

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