One of the challenges of the Mac’s folder-metaphor interface for working with files has always been moving an item from one location to another when the original and target destinations are in different parts of your drive’s folder hierarchy. For most people, this means opening two Finder windows—one for the folder currently hosting the item, the other displaying the place to which you want to move the file—and then dragging the item between the two. You then have to “clean up” by closing one or both windows.
Of course, Mac OS does provide pop-up folders, so if you drag an item over the icon of your hard drive or a folder, a Finder window opens (after a short delay) to display that container’s contents. You can then move your item over a folder inside that window to pop it open, and so on, until you get to the desired location. You then drop the item to move it there. In some ways, this approach is easier, but it still requires that the destination folder (or at least some folder or drive enclosing it) be visible in the Finder or in the Dock. And if you’ve used pop-up folders much, you know that folders not in Column view rarely open in a consistent location, and that if your drag is interrupted for any reason, you must start over.
If you use OS X’s Spaces feature, there’s also the hassle of moving files between windows (and programs) in different workspaces. And Lion (OS X 7) adds the challenge of dragging files and folders to apps that you use in full-screen mode—there’s no easy way to do it.
A few years back—eight, to be exact—I covered a utility called XShelf, itself inspired by a NeXT OS feature, that provided an appealing alternative: a “shelf” where you can temporarily stash items you want to move. XShelf still seems to work in Lion, but it hasn’t been updated in 4 years, and it looks the part. It also doesn’t work with full-screen apps.
Yoink (Mac App Store link) is a brand-new utility that aims to provide similar functionality in Lion. With Yoink running, whenever you start dragging a file or folder in the Finder, a small, translucent shelf slides out from the side of your screen. Drag your item onto the shelf, and the item’s icon appears on the shelf. (The actual item remains—for now—in its original location.)
Now you can navigate to the destination location, either in the current Finder window or in a new one. You then just drag the item off the shelf and into the folder. As with the Finder itself, if the destination is on the same volume as the original, the item is moved; if the destination is on a different volume, the item is copied.
Unlike XShelf’s shelf, Yoink’s shelf appears in every workspace, making it handy for moving files across workspaces and even into full-screen apps. For many users, this feature alone will make Yoink tremendously appealing.
Yoink’s shelf shows only three items at a time, but if you drag more than three items, the shelf gains a scroll bar. For any item you place in the Yoink shelf, you can click the remove (x) button to remove the item from the shelf without acting on it (although there’s no way to quickly remove multiple items), and you can click the Quick Look-style button to get a basic preview of the file. The latter option is useful, although the preview is very small and it doesn’t include the full name of the item, which, because of the narrow width of the shelf, is rarely fully visible.
Unlike XShelf, which automatically hides unless you move your cursor to the edge of the screen, Yoink’s shelf remains visible until it’s empty. I generally prefer this behavior, as if there’s something on the shelf, I usually want to act on it immediately. However, there are times I wish Yoink would let me hide the shelf with an item on it.
Yoink’s preference window offers a few additional options. You can position the shelf at the center of either the left-hand or right-hand edge of your main screen. (This option is also available if you right-click or Control-click anywhere in the shelf.) You can choose how long the shelf stays open after you drag an item to or from it. You can also choose to automatically remove items from the shelf when you drag them off, or to automatically empty the entire shelf when you add new items to it. Finally, perhaps my favorite feature is the option to have the shelf’s “drop zone” appear next to the mouse cursor whenever you start to drag a file or folder in the Finder, so you don’t have to drag an item all the way across the screen to add it to the shelf.
XShelf does have a few features I miss in Yoink. For example, XShelf offers a number of options for tweaking the appearance and placement of the shelf. You can also lock each item individually, so, for example, you can keep particular items in the shelf even if you drag them off. (With Yoink, that’s an all-or-nothing setting.) XShelf also lets you view the path to the current location of each item.
I hope future updates to Yoink add some of these features, as well as the capability to drag, say, images from your browser or text from a document to the shelf so you can then drag them into other programs. I’m looking forward to future versions.
(Note: Although Yoink is available for purchase only from the Mac App Store, you can download a 15-day trial version from the developer’s website to see if you like using Yoink before buying.)