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Networking Notes: Move Files With Power — and Ease

A command-line crusader finds comfort and a reason to modernize in Transmit — an FTP-plus shareware gem for the Mac.

Networking Notes

I've got a painful confession to make: My concept of The Ideal Computing Experience stalled somewhere around 1992. Anyone looking over my shoulder can tell this, because my text editor is set up to show a plain, blue screen with white type.

Why?

Because the last good word processor was WordPerfect 5.

I could go on and on, but I can sum things up quickly: I hate mice, I hate most GUIs, and I believe the author of "The Elements Of Style: UNIX As Literature" when he writes:

[Windows] was definitely much too close to image culture for my comfort: endless point-and-click graphical dialog boxes, hunting around the screen with the mouse, pop-up after pop-up demanding my attention. The experience was almost exclusively reactive. Every task demanded a GUI-based utility front-end loaded with insidious assumptions about how to visualize (and thus conceptualize) the operation. I couldn't think "outside the box" because everything literally was a box.

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And that sort of attitude does nothing to explain why I'm on my third Mac in six years, except that I can lamely point out that things like the Fink project have allowed me to burrow deep into my beloved shell interface, coming out only for Photoshop and Web browsers because even I don't much care for the lynx life. (And since the Web arrived largely after 1992, using anything to read it is sort of like sinning, anyhow.)

Moving Files With Transmit
When it came to moving files around over the network, I was a devotee of ncftp for a while, which provided some comforts from the command line, but then I discovered a shareware gem for the Mac called Transmit, and I find myself willing to modernize a bit because the experience it provides is just that good.

Calling Transmit an FTP client is underselling it a little. Though it does handle FTP transfers (both plain and SSL-encrypted), it also provides access to SFTP (ssh-encrypted) servers and WebDAV shares, making it a useful tool for just about any remote download or publishing task most of us will face.

There are plenty of GUI FTP clients, though, so I'll point out some of Transmit's highlights on top of more standard fare, such as the capability to save favorite servers for repeated use.

“When it comes down to it, I'm still a command-line devotee at heart, but with more applications as functional and well-thought-out as Transmit, I'll make babysteps toward the 21st century.”

As a writer and editor, I spend some of my time looking after things on a remote FTP server. "Remote editing" used to mean firing up an FTP client, downloading a file, making some edits and then uploading it back. Transmit allows me to set a default text editor. I can open a remote location, double-click the file I need to work on, and it loads in my text editor as if I'd loaded it from my own desktop. When I finish with the file and save my changes, it's uploaded just as transparently. Remote editing extends to just about any other file type your Mac understands, too. Images you've uploaded, for instance, are easily fixed in place without a lot of shuffling files around.

As a scripting and automation dabbler, I enjoy Transmit's numerous nods to do-it-yourself convenience. It comes with a collection of basic Automator actions that make it a snap to write simple applets to upload/download files or synchronize a local folder with a remote one. If you maintain a Web site and want a simple, easy-to-understand way to make sure all your local changes and updates on a desktop testbed make it up to your production server, Transmit is a great bet.

Transmit also has a fairly complete Applescript dictionary that puts scripts that do more than its simple Automator in reach. See the product support page for a link to a zip file with several script examples to help you work out the syntax.

Finally, Transmit provides "droplets," which you can think of as bookmarks for your that exist outside Transmit as icons on your desktop. By creating a droplet of a site you frequently upload to, you can simply drag and drop a file onto the droplet and it will upload to the droplet's designated server/directory automatically, without even having to open Transmit and navigate its (simple) favorites interface.

That's a short list of Transmit's highlights. Others worth looking into include server-to-server syncing, so you can move files between two remote locations without first downloading them to your computer; and .Mac synchronization, which allows you to keep your Transmit favorites in sync between multiple computers.

When it comes down to it, I'm still a command-line devotee at heart, but with more applications as functional and well-thought-out as Transmit, I'll make babysteps toward the 21st century.

Transmit is currently at version 3.5.5. A fully functional 15-day demo is available for download from Panic. After the 15-day demo, the software continues to run with reduced functionality. A license costs $29.95.


From small offices to universities, Michael Hall has been using, maintaining and writing about networks for nearly 15 years. He's the managing editor of Enterprise Networking Planet and co-author of "The Joy of Linux."
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