Meet ForkLift: a complete FTP client for your Mac

5 min read

A good FTP client is as essential for a Mac user as a hammer is for a homeowner. Using the built-in FTP function in macOS is a little like trying to hammer a nail into the wall with your shoe—it might work, but it's not a great experience. Luckily, Setapp now includes ForkLift, a complete FTP client that's got enough chops to be your everyday file manager, like the Finder only better.

ForkLift has every feature anyone could possibly want, but it's still easy to use. Together, the app's clear dual-pane layout and the clever ForkLift Mini applet in the menu bar make most tasks as simple as drag and drop. And with Mac-native features like file previews and easy renaming, you might prefer this to Finder for all your file-management tasks.

Connecting to servers

Think for a minute about how many files on your Mac came from somewhere else. ForkLift can connect to multiple remote networks and let you transfer files to and from your machine, or even copy between the remote servers by dragging and dropping. It connects to SFTP, FTP, WebDAV, Amazon S3, Rackspace CloudFiles, AFP, SMB, and NFS remote volumes, and more.

ForkLift supports Dropbox, lets you connect to other computers over VNC, manages your NAS drive, you name it. You can save any device or server as favorite, and organize them into groups in the sidebar, which can help visually separate networks you connect to for work, for example, from your personal WordPress site or Amazon S3 backup.

With the two-pane view, transferring files is as easy as dragging them from one side to the other: your local files on one side, for example, to a connected server on the other, or even between two connected servers. ForkLift can also mount remote servers on your Desktop where they appear as normal disks, and you can drag items from anywhere on your Mac.

ForkLift Mini

To make things even more convenient, ForkLift Mini keeps your favorite remote connections just a click away in the menu bar. 

  • Click the ForkLift Mini icon, and you'll see a list of your favorite connections.
  • Then click one of those for a couple of options: You can quickly view that volume in ForkLift, of course. But you can also mount it on your Desktop as a disk, or open a Droplet, which both let you drag and drop in files from the Finder.

ForkLift Mini also displays your Synclets, which are sync sessions you saved as favorites to run again and again. For example, you could set up a Synclet to upload files for your WordPress site to a Web server, and another to keep important folders backed up to your network-attached storage. When you save them as favorites, those Synclets appear in ForkLift Mini, where you can run them from the menu bar even if the main ForkLift app isn't open.

Forklift mini

Replacing the Finder

ForkLift is full of little touches that will not only remind you of the Finder, but might prove so familiar and comfortable that you find yourself saying, "Finder who?" and sticking with ForkLift full-time.

For example, ForkLift has a Preview pane that shows a preview of image files, PDFs, and text files, so you can see what's inside. With text files, you can even make edits right in the Preview window, whether the file is stored locally or on a remote server. Just select some text with your cursor and start typing, and Cancel and Save buttons pop up ready to commit your changes.

ForkLift can rename batches of files with flexible options, and you can save Multi Rename presets as favorites. Those show up in your favorites sidebar, and then you can just drop groups of files onto them to rename them all in a snap. This works equally well on local files and remote servers.

fForklift multirename

Most people will probably use a combination of ForkLift and the Finder, but if you're super into ForkLift, there's a Terminal command that can turn it into your default file viewer.

Paste this command into Terminal:

defaults write -g NSFileViewer -string com.binarynights.forklift-setapp

Hit Enter, then log out and back in, or reboot.

That means applications on your Mac (except the Desktop and Dock) will open ForkLift and not the Finder when you choose a command like Reveal in Finder, Show in Finder, and Open in Finder. Of course, you're still free to use the Finder whenever you want, but having applications treat ForkLift as the go-to can really speed up your workflow.

To change default file viewer back to Finder, use this command:

defaults delete -g NSFileViewer

Extra oomph for power users

While anyone can benefit from a good FTP client, developers and other power users will love ForkLift's advanced features.

Syncing files and folders is an FTP client's bread and butter, and ForkLift's sync options are powerful and flexible. ForkLift can compare a local folder with a remote one using Xcode's File Merge, Kaleidoscope, Beyond Compare, or Araxis Merge, and be able to tell which files inside are new, modified, or deleted. You can then sync one-way (from your Mac to the server, or vice versa) or both ways. This is especially great for web developers who won't waste bandwidth syncing files that haven't changed. Remember to save your sync settings as favorite Synclets, and they'll appear in ForkLift Mini in the menu bar, just a click away.

Forklift sync

Developers will also love ForkLift's git support. You can see recently changed files' git status in a SCM Status column, available in the View Options menu (⌘-J). You just have to have the git command line developer tools installed, and then you can commit, add, push, and pull.

When it's time to get some work done, ForkLift makes it easy to set default apps to launch each file type, but the real power is in the Quick Open window. Select a file or files in ForkLift, and choose Go > Quick Open (or ⌘-/), and then start typing. You can type an application name, and then hit Return when it pops up in the list to launch the files in that app. Or you can type the names of your favorite devices, often-used commands, a Multi-Rename preset, and simply hit Return when they appear in the list.

ForkLift light work of heavy lifting

ForkLift is full of thoughtful design touches that make a real difference. Dark mode changes the whole interface to a dark background to reduce eye strain if you're using it for long periods. You can open folders in tabs to keep your screen from getting cluttered by multiple windows. You can add tags to your files and folders to find them quickly whether they're local or remote. You can sync your favorites via Dropbox so ForkLift works the same on all your Macs.

ForkLift is one of the best file managers ever made for the Mac, and we know Setapp users will love its power and ease of use. Setapp is adding new apps all the time, so stay tuned for more!

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