Forklift 3

software review

A couple of years ago, I was a devotee of Path Finder, a Finder replacement. However, as Finder got more capable, Path Finder started to feel a bit too heavy on resources and too complex, so I stopped using it. Nevertheless, I would often miss some of its handy features. Recently, I came across Forklift 3 while browsing through Setapp’s applications, and decided to try it out.

Forklift combines many of the features that Path Finder has, but also enables integrated browsing, syncing and uploading of files to remote servers of several different types. Now that I do not use a Linode server any more, the power of Transmit is overkill. Nevertheless, I do need to quickly upload images to my Amazon S3 bucket to host them on the site, and Forklift makes that trivially easy. You can set up any number of different connections (SFTP, WebDAV, S3, Rackspace, Google Drive and so on), and save them in the sidebar for easy access. Once opened, these connections act just like local folders or drives, so you can have a dual pane setup and drag files to and from the remote connection, as well as copying the remote URL for the file with a right/Control-click (something that I frequently need). You can also set up ‘Droplets’ in the menubar, which allow you to drag and drop files on the remote for uploading. This integration feels very smooth and natural, and means that I don’t need to use a separate application anymore.

Forklift’s features are very flexible and well thought out. I don’t use them all, but there are several that I would miss enormously if I went back to using Finder again.

  1. Workspaces. This is a fantastic feature whereby you can save an arrangement of opened panes, tabs and even remote servers as a saved workspace in the sidebar, and then re-open this arrangement by selecting the workspace. I have a couple of frequently-used workspaces for different kinds of tasks (e.g. common file tasks, particular projects, processing images etc.), and it is a great time-saver.
  2. Renamers. Forklift has a built-in batch renaming facility, which is surprisingly sophisticated, allowing you to chain together different actions like replacing text, dates, and sequences. It’s capable enough that I rarely need to use an external tool, and is much more convenient being built in to the file browser. As with Workspaces, you can save frequently used renamers in the sidebar.
  3. Quick Select. This appears as a popover with a keystroke (Cmd-S), and allows you to select multiple files in the current tab/pane by matching either the name or the extension, and you can use regular expressions to match. After a selection, you can even make another selection to add to the previous one, making it easy to quickly select just the files you want from a long list for copying/moving or whatever you need to do. Path Finder had a similar feature, but I find Forklift’s version quicker and more natural in practice, and I use it all the time.
  4. Quick Open. The keyboard shortcuts are extensive in Forklift, and you can choose a set of shortcuts emulating Midnight Commander, which is handy if you are familiar with that application. However, the Quick Open popover (triggered with Cmd-/ or Esc) allows you to type and execute any menu command, favourite (i.e. stored file or folder), renamer or workspace. This means that even if you have forgotten what the shortcut is, you can very quickly fire off the command without reaching for the mouse or trackpad.

There are lots of other nice features (an Open in Terminal command, for example, which allows you to open a selected folder in either Apple Terminal or iTerm 2), but the ones above are the ones I use most frequently. I should also mention that it syncs your saved favourites, renamers, workspaces and so on via Dropbox, so once you’ve got it set up the way you like, those changes appear everywhere you use it. Forklift is very nicely designed, and plays well with Alfred, which is essential for me because I depend so heavily on Alfred. My only regret is that it doesn’t work with Default Folder X which I also use a great deal, so I’ve had to retrain myself to use Alfred to select folder locations for save and open dialogs.

I came across Forklift because I decided to try out Setapp, the app subscription service. I did so slightly reluctantly, because I am not a fan of subscriptions. However, they seemed to have a good range of applications (many of which I already used, thus automatically saving me from future upgrade fees). I hadn’t anticipated that using Setapp would also introduce me to a number of useful applications — like Forklift — that I hadn’t encountered before. It has also enabled me to download specialist applications that I might use only once or twice for particular projects before deleting them again — something that I would think twice about doing if I was having to pay a separate fee to use those applications. On balance, I think that the subscription fee is probably worth it for me, particularly if they keep adding new applications at a steady rate. However, I’m going to re-evaluate after a year and see if I am still getting good value from it.

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