Drag and drop has been integral to the Macintosh user interface from the very beginning, one of the few elements to remain relatively unchanged since the original hardware was unveiled in 1984. And with good reason: It’s not easy to improve on what works so well.
But just because UI pioneers Jef Raskin and Bill Atkinson nailed it more than 35 years ago doesn’t mean there aren’t still ways the drag and drop experience can be more efficient.
Out of all the software installed on my iMac, there are only a handful of apps I use consistently, day in and day out. Dropzone is among them, and the latest 4.0 release makes the core functionality of this powerful shortcut utility free for everyone.
To use a sports analogy, if drag and drop was like pitching a baseball, then Dropzone would be the catcher receiving files and folders at home plate. This menubar app enhances the process with convenient “drop zones” to copy, move, or open files in frequently-used applications using a single gesture.
The Dropzone panel is comprised of three sections: Drop Bar, for temporary storage of files and folders you want to access quickly later; Folders and Apps, which offer a faster way to access frequently used destinations; and Actions, effectively shortcuts for a variety of different services. For even faster access, pressing F3 opens Dropzone, allowing anything on the grid to be opened via keyboard shortcut.
Drop Bar is similar to Yoink, another excellent drag and drop utility that provides a temporary “shelf” for working with files and folders. Although Drop Bar lacks some of Yoink’s niceties such as Quick Look preview and the ability to remove all stored content with a single click, the implementation here is convenient enough to avoid paying for both apps.
In the zone
Dropzone really shines with Folders and Apps. Add frequently-used folders to the grid, and you’ll never again need to drill into a specific destination when copying or moving files. Start dragging content, and the Dropzone overlay appears under the menubar icon, conveniently expanding the grid as you move onto it. Folders can be configured to either copy or move whatever gets dropped onto them.
I use this feature daily to organize electronic documents for credit cards, utility bills, and bank statements into specific iCloud Drive folders, as well as archive downloaded software installers to a network-attached storage. Likewise, you can also add applications to the grid, making it easy to import JPEG files into Photos, open a PDF in Preview, and more in a single gesture. You can already do this from the Dock, but Dropzone provides quick access to lesser-used apps you don’t want cluttering up that precious screen real estate.
Best of all, using the core Drop Bar and Folders and Apps features are now free. Dropzone 4 eschews the one-time cost of prior versions in favor of subscription-based pricing. Priced at $2 per month after a 14-day trial period, a Pro subscription unlocks full use of Actions, which includes uploading files via Google Drive, Amazon S3, and FTP servers; others are free, such as custom shortcuts to shorten web links via Tiny URL, or integrating with AirDrop and Imgur.
At this writing, only 20 different Actions are available, a fairly skimpy lineup considering the annual cost. That’s not to say Actions aren’t convenient; shortcuts like Print, Install Application, and Image Search make life easier, and those with a knowledge of Ruby or Python can also choose to roll their own. Presumably there are more Actions to come, but as a premium feature, the current lineup isn’t a compelling reason to subscribe.
Now that the best parts of Dropzone 4 are free, there’s simply no reason not to install this must-have menubar utility.