When it comes to FTP clients, there are too many of them to count. You could go with FileZilla, since it’s free, but it’s really not the greatest solution out there since it lacks quite a few features that advanced users seek. Cyberduck, on the other hand, is another great client – and it’s open source, though you really should donate to help out the developers.
Up until now, I used Cyberduck for all my connections, assuming that it was the best free solution available. Well, if you’re willing to pay $9.99, then there’s something much better out there. It’s called Flow and it’s developed by Five Details. In my experience, this has been the best FTP client that I’ve ever used on the Mac. Read on to find out why.
Let’s start with the basic FTP/SFTP connection and then I’ll get into the more advanced features of Flow a little later on. You can connect to virtually any server out there (excluding Amazon S3 or WebDAV, which I don’t see as a big problem since most servers use the FTP or SFTP protocol anyway), so just input all your credentials into the corresponding fields and click “Connect”.
If you’ve already used the same username in another FTP client, then all you have to do is put in the address and username and your keychain should come up asking if you’ll allow Flow to access the saved passwords.
If you happen to have bookmarks on another FTP client, then all you have to do is click “Bookmarks” in the menu of Flow and then click “Import Bookmarks…”. Depending on the client, you should see them in the pop-up and can easily import them either by clicking “Import” beside each one or “Import All” in the bottom right corner.
If you don’t have any set up, then it’s pretty easy to get started. All you have to do is click the little “+” button in the bottom left of the screen and then click “New Bookmark”. Once you’ve done this, the connection screen will slide to the right and reveal a bookmark creation form. All you have to do differently this time is put in a name that you’d like to appear in the sidebar when opening Flow; this helps to keep things organized and you should name it something like “work server”.
Additionally, if you’re a true enterprise user and would like to add a folder for your bookmarks, then you can simply click the “+” button again and this time click “New Bookmark Folder”, finishing by naming the folder in the sidebar. Truly advanced users will find this feature very useful if they have many connections to maintain.
Have you ever wanted to just use an FTP client instead of switching between it and a code editor? Then you’re going to love Flow. Not only is its editor very useful and in-app, it also gives you a preview of the page you’re modifying. And on top of that, there’s a great little shortcut to OS X’s color palette for a quick way to change something without the need of a tool like ColorSnapper.
While Flow’s editor isn’t the most powerful one I’ve used, it’s definitely a convenient feature and is my favorite element of the app.
Yet another amazing feature of Flow is Droplets. Instead of having to open the app and then navigate to the directory where you’d like to upload a file, you can create a bookmark at a certain directory in one of your servers and then create a Droplet from it telling the mini-app where to upload the file.
To create a Droplet, select the bookmark that you’d like to use and then right click it and select “Save Bookmark as Droplet…”. Now navigate to the folder you’d like to store the Droplet (somewhere like Applications or Desktop). All you have to do to upload a file is drag it and drop it on the Droplet you’ve created — pretty simple, right? One other thing Droplets will do is automatically copy a link to the file so you can email it or share it on a social network.
The Droplets feature has proved to be extremely useful for users that need to upload things quickly or even want to use their own server as an alternative to CloudApp or Droplr.
I’ve already discussed the major features of Flow, but I’d also like to take a look at some of the more covert ones like URL copying, the options available for its built-in editor, and more. I won’t go into too much depth here, but instead just give you a basic idea of what’s available.
- File URL copying: You can quickly copy a link to your remote file simply by right clicking it and selecting “
- QuickLook: You know that great feature in OS X that allows you to preview nearly any file with a simple tap of the spacebar? Well, Flow has that too. Just click the item and hit the spacebar to take a peek at what’s inside. Do keep in mind that this isn’t an editor though.
- Built-in editor options: If you feel like the built-in editor is a limited, then you’re not quite correct because you can perform a bit of customization in the Editing tab of Flow’s Preferences menu. For instance, you can change the preview pane orientation, make it full width or half width, change the font, and more.
One thing this app isn’t the best in is user interface. I’m not saying that it’s terrible, but it’s far from original in design. I really love the layout of everything, but the actual graphics are just not as great as they could be. I just like to see a few more custom elements inside apps, that’s all.
As for the transitions, I really like them. When you sign in to a server, the screen slides to the left smoothly and reveals your server’s public_html folder. These transitions are very nice to see and even work well on my older Mac.
Things I’d Like to See in the Future
There are a few things that are missing in this app that I’d like to see in future updates. Most of them aren’t too urgent or anything, but they’d certainly help. Here’s a tidy list:
- Fullscreen mode: I’m rather surprised that the developer didn’t include this in Flow because most apps for Lion tend to have it. It’s not that Flow needs fullscreen mode badly, but just that it would help to unify the way users are accustomed to using their apps. And since Flow has a built-in browser in the sidebar, it would work perfect in fullscreen as well. Also, a fullscreen editor would be very nice.
- Up a level in navigation: When in list view instead of column view, it would be very nice to have a button that take you up a level instead of having to click the folder you want to go back to. I’ve always found this to be useful for navigating in Cyberduck.
Flow is the best and most stable FTP client that I’ve encountered. I really love the features and work that the developer has put into it and see a great future for it. And as for those transfer speeds that it claims are “the fastest”, they are. I noticed a significant difference between Flow and alternatives like Cyberduck and FileZilla. Droplets and the built-in editor make this app unique and it fends off competition easily — especially for the price of $9.99, so go check it out today!