Thoughts on ExpanDrive

April 24, 2008

I started using ExpanDrive today, a SFTP application that uses MacFUSE to access a remote server in Finder. There was a good review of it a few weeks ago at Daring Fireball, and I’ve been hearing good things from several other developers.

The appeal of ExpanDrive is that it “just works;” you don’t have to worry about disconnecting or reconnecting to the server if your network connection changes (working from a MacBook Pro, mine frequently does) or any of the other problems that Finder sometimes has with remote volumes. With the exception of one Finder crash, ExpanDrive has worked very well with me. In no particular order, here are some quick thoughts, both good and bad (I’m currently using version 1.1).

  • I wish ExpanDrive had the option to display "." hidden files in Finder, like .htaccess. There's probably a hack to enable this systemwide, but it would annoy me to see them everywhere; I want it enabled just on my webhost. It's not hard to use to open hidden files, but it would be better if it was an option, like it is in Transmit.
  • ExpanDrive doesn't let Finder dump lots of metadate files (.DS_Store and ._Filename.txt) on your remote volumes, from what I can tell. That's good! I was afraid this wouldn't be the case, and it actually kept me from trying ExpanDrive at first.
  • Finder reports my webhost remote server as an 8TB volume with 8TB free. I could be wrong, but I assume that's just the maximum volume size, not the actual disk space. It would be great if I could configure this per server, so Finder would report the actual disk quota for my hosting company.
  • ExpanDrive is fast! I'm not just talking about moving bits across the Internet either; copying, moving and editing files is just quicker through Finder than a separate FTP application like Transmit.
  • Bug report. Adding a "," in the volume name causes the MacFUSE connection to fail. ExpanDrive showed it as connected until I restarted the application.
  • Minor annoyance, but I don't like the menu bar icon. It's too three dimensional compared to other menu bar icons, and there's really no reason for me to use it often. A preference pane would have been better suited, with the option of showing a menu bar icon for users who disconnect and reconnect to drives more frequently than I do.

I still love Transmit, and I’m going to keep using it for some tasks, but I’m probably going to end up buying an ExpanDrive license when the demo expires. The allure of using SFTP reliably through Finder is just too much to resist.

Marc Charbonneau is a mobile software engineer in Portland, OR. Want to reply to this article? Get in touch on Twitter @mbcharbonneau.