Utility software

SMB Made Easy

With Mac OS X 10.3, Apple made the Mac a full citizen on Windows networks. For many Mac users, the biggest advantage of this move was the ability to connect to shared volumes on Windows computers (and other computers providing SMB/CIFS shares). You simply open the Finder’s Connect to Server dialog (via the Go menu or by pressing command+K), type in the Windows computer’s IP address (or, for local computers, the computer name), and click Connect. You’re asked for your username and password, and then the shared volume is mounted in the Finder.

Unfortunately, there are a few, shall we say, “issues” with this process. The first is that you need to know how to format the SMB URL of the target computer/share. How many users remember that they have to type smb://workgroup;serveraddress/share/ ? (If you click the Browse button, you may be able to see the desired Windows share, but only if it’s on the same network subnet and assigned to the same workgroup; and even then it’s not guaranteed thanks to a slightly buggy Network Browser implementation.) The second is that many users find that they have to type in their password every time—for some reason, no matter how many times you check the Add to Keychain box in the password dialog, it doesn’t work. Great for security, bad for convenience.

Some users have found workarounds to make the process easier. For example, you can make an alias of a mounted Windows share and then double-click that alias to initiate the connection in the future; you still need to provide your password, but at least you don’t have to remember and type the URL format. Or you can create an AppleScript for each Windows share to which you connect; for example, I’ve used the following:

tell application “Finder”
mount volume “smb://workgroup;username:password@serveraddress/sharename”
end tell

Double-clicking such a script mounts the volume without requesting your password. But if you connect to a number of Windows volumes, it’s a pain to create one of these scripts for each.

All this is a long-winded way to say “I wish there was an easier way to connect to Windows shares.” Turns out, there is: Supinfo’s free SMB Manager 1.5 (   ), which saves your login information for frequently-accessed SMB /Windows shares and lets you quickly connect to those shares. When you launch SMB Manager and switch to Edit Mode, you can enter information—server name/IP address, share name, workgroup/domain, user ID, and password—for as many “Favorite” shares as you like. You can also give each Favorite a descriptive name and a custom icon. Unlike OS X’s own connection dialog, your password really is saved to your Keychain by SMB Manager.

SMB Manager Edit Mode window

(If you’ve been using the Finder’s Connect to Server dialog for a while and have added a number of shares as Favorite Servers in that dialog, SMB Manager’s Favorites -> Import Finder favorites command will convert all of those to SMB Manager Favorites.)

Although you can connect to Favorite shares directly from the Edit Mode window, once you’ve got your Favorites set up, you’ll likely prefer to use Easy Mode. In Easy Mode, you simply choose the Favorite to which you want to connect (via the pop-up menu) and click Connect. Quite a bit easier than the Finder’s Connect to Server dialog, eh? Once connected, the Connect button changes to Disconnect, letting you easily disconnect from the share.

SMB Manager Easy Mode window

You can bring SMB Manager to the front by pressing a system-wide keyboard shortcut (by default, command+option+K), so it works much like the Finder’s Connect to Server dialog. (You can even set SMB Manager so that it doesn’t show up in the Dock.) And if you frequently connect to the same share(s), you can have SMB Manager automatically connect to those particular shares when launched.

By default, SMB Manager connects using the Finder’s AppleScript support, but if you’re an advanced use who would rather it use Unix commands and custom mount points, you can take advantage of such options in each Favorite’s connection options. (This all happens behind the scenes—you won’t see Terminal windows on the screen.)

If you frequently connect to Windows/SMB shares, forget the Finder; SMB Manager will make your connections much easier.

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