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Flow review

Verdict:

Needs Mac OS X 10.5

Review Date: 9 May 2008

Price when reviewed: (about £14.50)

Reviewed By: Giles Turnbull

Our Rating 3 stars out of 5

Flow is a new FTP client from independent development team Extendmac.

It requires, and is built exclusively for Leopard, and includes some aspects of the operating system's built-in functionality. This is most noticeable when you start using QuickLook to view files stored remotely. As soon as you select a file in Flow's window, it downloads a preview in the background. A small progress indicator in the Info pane tells you how far it's got. Then you can preview most types of file with a quick bash on the spacebar.

Leopard users will know how handy this is on local files, and it's lovely to see it working over FTP, too. It makes a difference when shuffling through a long list of files and trying to find exactly the right one.

The built-in text editor is basic but provides all the essentials, including syntax colouring and a live preview for those live-site edits on HTML files.

Bookmarks are another essential, and Flow lets you divide them up into folders. Oddly, our first attempts to create either bookmarks or folders failed, and the application had to be restarted before this worked. This was the first sign of a handful of bugs, individually quite minor, but which have the cumulative effect of making this a discouraging release.

Having created bookmarks, any one of them can be dragged to the Desktop to become an instant upload droplet. This is very useful and works well using a small and simple upload progress window rather than insisting on bringing Flow itself to the front. It's great to see features like this, especially such attractively designed ones. If only they weren't let down by Flow's rougher edges.

In our tests, the application was let down by strange bugs and behaviours. It would declare nothing was selected when files clearly were; and connections would sometimes seem to fail in the background, with no alert from Flow. Development errors were evident while customising the toolbar, when it appeared that two toolbar controls were missing icons altogether.

It's frustrating, because in terms of its ideas and innovation, Flow looks like it could (in time) be a breath of fresh air for the Mac FTP space. In its favour, its developers have made it clear they're all too aware that this first release will have its shortcomings and have asked users to submit bug reports.

In the meantime, though, there's work to be done. At present, permissions can only be changed on one selected file or folder at a time - changing permissions across multiple items is impossible. Fixing this, the performance bugs and the mysterious missing UI elements should be high on the developers' to-do list.

Priced at just under £15, Flow isn't exactly expensive, and that price does include all 1.x updates. However, this 1.0 release is just a promising first step towards something more appealing. For the time being, professional FTP users are likely to be better off sticking with the application(s) they're accustomed to, and keeping an eye out for future, improved releases of Flow.

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