ForkLift 3: a great manager for local and remote files

Forklift is an FTP client but not a simplistic one. I pitted its functionality against that of Transmit, one of the other well-known FTP clients for Macs. It turns out ForkLift 3 is a lot closer to Path Finder – a Finder replacement app – than it is to Transmit. You could say ForkLift is a slimmed down Path Finder combined with a speedier Transmit.

First of all, ForkLift 3 has a gorgeous interface with access capability via a menu applet. Its file management features include disklet capabilities (when you install the free MacFuse), source control functionality (with Xcode’s FileMerge or one of the supported apps which includes Kaleidoscope but unfortunately not DeltaWalker), Git support, a batch file renaming module, an app deleter (it removes preferences and associated files) and droplet/synclet capabilities.

As FTP client, ForkLift shines with support for FXP (copying between two remote FTP servers without having to download/upload the file to/from your local workstation), remote editing using your favourite local text editor. It supports AFP, VNC, SMB and NFS network protocols, RackSpace Cloud files, Google Drive, Backblaze B2, Amazon S3, and WebDAV and WebDAV HTTPS, FTP SSL and TLS, SFTP and ordinary FTP.

Of course, there’s a synchronisation feature on board too.

ForkLift 3.2.6 is very fast. I compared it with Transmit, which I find no slouch, either. For my upload, edit and delete tests I used two folders holding 387.7MB. For downloading, I used only one of the two with 153.4MB of files inside. The local machine was my new iMac 5K Retina 3.4GHz with 40GB of RAM and the network had a maximum of 100Mbps download speed and 15Mbps upload speed.

Uploading with ForkLift took 9min45sec. With Transmit, it took 10min54sec. Editing remotely with ForkLift automatically launched BBEdit (set in Preferences) and that took 1sec. Transmit opened the file in a rudimentary text editing module that didn’t offer the functionality BBEdit has and that took 1sec as well.

Deleting one folder remotely took 0min58sec with ForkLift; with Transmit, it took 1min19sec. Finally, downloading the 153.4MB folder took 3min45sec with ForkLift. Transmit beat ForkLift in this test and took only 3min24sec before the folder was downloaded.

ForkLift’s developers ran their own tests and you can read their conclusions here: https://binarynights.com/blog/best-ftp-clients-compared-speed-test/

ForkLift was clearly the fastest in most tests, but its support for protocols and servers is brilliant, too. It has preset configurations for RackSpace, Backblaze, Google Drive and Amazon S3. However, Transmit has the edge by supporting Dropbox without the need for installing the Dropbox app to make everything work and by supporting eight (8!) more services, including Box and Microsoft’s services.

As I said, though, ForkLift is more than a remote server client and, although you can do some basic local file management things with Transmit too, ForkLift really is very feature-complete when it comes to local file management. For example, ForkLift’s App Delete module is quite accurate and therefore useful. I tried deleting several different apps and it accurately listed the associated files without also listing those that could break your system. You can deselect files as well, which is very nice for if you think you might re-install an app later on.

The batch renaming feature is on par with Path Finder’s. The macOS Finder also allows you to batch rename files, but it’s not flexible. ForkLift’s is and even offers you to rename files using Grep Expressions. Also much more like Path Finder than the Finder, ForkLift lets you create symlinks as well as aliases, and unlike either, ForkLift will let you take a peek inside zip archives!

The Compare feature will only work when you install FileMerge, Kaleidoscope, Beyond Compare, or Araxis Merge. I personally would have been happy if ForkLift would have supported DeltaWalker too, but I can see why they wouldn’t bother.

Conclusion

ForkLift does all this and a lot more. Except for its somewhat less strong Dropbox support, I found ForkLift 3.2.6 to be superior to Transmit, which has been my personal favourite for a very long time. ForkLift is a bit less powerful than Path Finder when it comes to file management in general, but it’s faster to launch and has a slightly nicer interface.

In fact, the one thing that I will always turn to Path Finder for is its very powerful non-Spotlight search feature. That is not available in ForkLift.

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