Flow: Simple, Beautiful, File Transfer

Flow is a fantastic FTP (File Transfer Protocol) application that is set apart from the crowd by it’s beautiful interface that integrates well with the system scheme. The application feels native to the Mac OS X and is very easy to use – much like Finder.

This review will give you an in-depth look at the features that Flow offers as well as how it stacks up to various competitors. Flow was developed by the team over at extendmac and sells for the fantastic price of $25. Currently it is available for Mac OSX 10.5 and above.

Interface & Functionality

On first launch of the application, you will be pleasantly surprised at how ‘at home’ the interface is like. Flow follows all the principals of a well designed Apple program. Before you start to have a play around with it, you already know how to use most of it.

There are some hidden buttons (such as ‘New Folder’ and ‘New File) when you ‘customise’ the top bar.

The first screen you see shows your bookmarks on the left. This feature is self-explanatory, it allows you to save the FTP login details of web servers that you often upload to.

Bookmarks

Bookmarks

Once you connect to your desired server you are presented with a list of your files, much like you would see in Finder. You are also given the option to change the view from list view, to a hierarchy list view. As you would expect, you can perform most of the same actions with files in this window as you can in Finder. Moving, deleting and renaming files is a breeze and can be performed with a couple of mouse clicks.

Connected

Connected

You will also notice at the bottom of the right hand side pane is a grey information box, styled so it maintains a uniform OS look. From here you can change the name of your file as well as being given the option to change CHMOD permissions.

Info Box

Info Box

The ‘Transfers’ window is equally as impressive as the rest. It features an easy to understand interface that tells you your upload speed as well as a simple bar interface for those of us who prefer graphics over text.

To toggle between the transfers and files list window, click the ‘Transfers’ button on the bottom left. It lights up blue when you are in the transfers window and back to grey when elsewhere.

Transfer

Transfer

Connectivity

Flow has the ability to connect up to five different protocols – FTP, SFTP, MobileMe iDisk, Amazon S3 and WebDAV.

I did find a minor bug when trying to set up a MobileMe iDisk connection – it by default put in some of my other servers details and tried to go to /username/public_html/. This however does not work with it and needs to be changed to /username/.

Bookmarks

You have the ability to add in bookmarks of servers that you connect to on a regular basis. It is quite easy to do however, as stated earlier – needs a few minor bugs ironed out. Adding a new bookmark is very easy. All you have to do is click the ‘+’ button on the bottom left and then you can enter in the details of the server you are connecting to.

New Bookmark

New Bookmark

Droplets

Desktop Droplet

Desktop Droplet

A great feature about Flow is the ability to turn bookmarks into droplets. extendmac describe droplets as, “mini-applications that allow you to upload files without even opening Flow”. When an bookmark is turned into a Droplet, it becomes an application on your desktop that you can move to anywhere.

You can even put it on your dock and upload files by dragging them onto the icon. This feature is very useful for easy upload of files onto your web server.

Droplets in the Dock

Droplets in the Dock

Direct Edit

Direct edit allows you to modify your files using either Flow’s built-in editor or your own external program. The built-in editor has quite a nice feel to it and would definitely do those who do not want to spend the extra money and purchase a web coding program. The option to use your own editor is great as it allows you to pull the power from both programs.

For example, you can put a file on your server, click ‘edit’ and up pops your editor (In my case Espresso). From here you can make modifications to the page and simply hit save. The file is then automatically uploaded to the server with no hassle of navigating through file directories to upload the correct file.

Direct Edit

Direct Edit

Other Features

URL – Flow has a feature that allows you to quickly access the URL of files you have uploaded. A great idea, but it did not work for me for whatever reason. I foresee a great deal of usefulness for those that can get it working.

Quicklook Integration – As you would expect with any application as good as this – Quicklook is integrated so you don’t have to download and open files, previews are only a click away!

Tabs – You can connect to multiple servers at the same time. All the current connections become tabs which are located at the top of the window.

Alternatives

Transmit

Transmit has been a favourite for a long time. This FTP software was created by the team over at Panic. It is up to your preference which style application you believe is better however, I have certainly found the Flow experience much smoother.

Cyberduck

Cyberduck is a free open-source FTP (and other protocols) software. It is a favourite among the free variety for its open-source community and strong development.

Built-in FTP

There are some other applications out there whose focus is not mainly on FTP with web coding abilities, but much the opposite.

Coda – an application that we have previously reviewed is mainly used for its web coding functionality with color coded mark-ups, etc. However, Coda (also developed by the team at Panic) has FTP integrated.

Espresso – another application that we have also previously reviewed, works much the same however, Espresso has become a preference between the two because of its sidebar (as opposed to the top-bar of Coda) and its FTP settings.

Conclusion

Flow is a great FTP application for Mac. It has all the right features to make uploading an easy experience and has certainly raised the bar for developers in this field. My experience with the application has been very positive and has convinced me to change my default client. Flow has a few minor bugs here and there, but nothing that won’t be sorted out in future versions I’m sure.

For the price of $25 US, Flow is excellent value. Uploading files becomes much less of a chore because of the ease of use, range of features and simply beautiful interface.

Summary

Flow is a great file transfer application for Mac. It has a range of features that allow you to directly edit files, create Droplets and preview files before downloading. Flow is well worth the price of $25 as you will discover how easy uploading can be.