Forklift: The Fast, Functional FTP Client

We have previously covered the range of FTP clients available for the Mac, and today we’ll be taking an in-depth look at another. Forklift is a versatile application that integrates effectively with OS X. It follows the familiar style of a traditional FTP application – with local and remote folders displayed.

The latest version brings a range of new features including file compression, folder synchronization, and folder merging. Our review will cover the functionality on offer, and decide how Forklift stacks up against the competition.


Forklift is fully capable of connecting to anything you throw at it. FTP, SFTP, WebDAV, Amazon S3, iDisk, shared network SMB, AFP / NIS volumes, and Bluetooth devices are all supported.

Connecting to a Server

In addition, through leveraging multiple connections, the app is capable of offering improved transfer speeds. I experimented uploading a mixed folder of files/images etc, and it took 1 minute 34 seconds with Forklift, and 2 minutes 33 seconds with Transmit. That’s certainly a significant speed benefit, and far more impressive than I expected:

Time taken to transfer folder of files (seconds)

General Interface

The default Forklift interface feels familiar for those who have used a file transfer tool before. You are displayed with two folder lists; one for local files, and one for remote. The layout remains fairly flexible, however, and either side can be used to display any directory. It’s also possible to switch to “single pane mode” with a single click (or keyboard shortcut).

The Forklift Interface

The current directory hierarchy is displayed across the top of each window, adjusting to display the full name of each folder as you hover. It’s a nice touch, and keeps a long list of directories fairly usable. Forklift can be completely controlled by the keyboard if you so wish.


The servers defined as favorites appear down the left hand side of Forklift underneath other Finder locations, making it very straight forward to connect/disconnect with one click.

One innovative feature which has been present in Forklift for several versions is “Sync Browsing”. If you have the same directory structure on the local and remote servers, toggling Sync Browsing on will automatically keep the local and remote directories in sync as you browse. This saves a great deal of time, and removes the requirement to change directories in two locations.

When clicking a particular folder or file, you’ll be offered an overview of all the information pertaining to that item at the bottom of the screen:

Viewing Item Information

Forklift also fully supports Quick Look, so pressing space on any item will bring up a high quality preview.

Transferring Files


Obviously the most important consideration with a file transfer client is how it… transfers files. We’ve already established that Forklift can do so very quickly, but there are a few different methods for moving data between local and remote locations:

Drag and Drop

This is the simplest method, and works well. You can drag and drop anything from the Finder into Forklift to upload it, or move files between panes within the app. It can handle moving several items consecutively, and simply creates a queue (which disappears very quickly!)


Forklift has a thorough system for syncing two directories:

Syncing Folders

A plethora of options are available for telling the app what to sync, and you’ll be offered a breakdown of exactly what will happen before clicking “Sync” (which items will be added, removed, updated etc). It offers peace of mind, knowing that nothing will be accidentally deleted or overwritten.

Merging Folders

Forklift is one of the first FTP apps to offer a good folder merge solution. Instead of directly overwriting a folder when another one with the same name, you’re able to merge the contents of the two folders, updating and adding files as necessary.


One of my favorite features of Transmit is the ability to create “Droplets”, a small application which will automatically transfer any files dragged onto it to a pre-defined remote location. I was pleased to see this functionality included in Forklift, and it works well.

Transferring Large Files

Forklift is very fast, but occasionally you may still benefit from splitting up larger files or compressing a directory. Both these features are built-in, and files can easily be split and re-combined:

Splitting and Combining Files


There isn’t a great deal I’d change about Forklift. The speed is impressive, as is the range of features included with the app. If you’re looking for a dedicated FTP application, it’s certainly worth trying out. If you’re after a solution which integrates directly with OS X, ExpanDrive may better fit the bill.

The only gripe I have with Forklift is the diminutive position of the loading spinner when browsing directories. It’s located in the lower right corner, and isn’t obvious without looking for it. I was left a few times wondering whether the application had registered my click on a new directory. I really hope that the app can remain simple in future versions, and not suffer from having features added for the sake of it.

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