If you know your Apple history, you’ll probably know that NeXTSTEP, the grandfather of modern OS X, had a clever feature called the Shelf, a placeholder where you could temporarily drop files while dragging them from one location to another. Sadly, Mac OS X has never replicated this in Finder.
So today there’s a brand new app for OS X that seeks to fix this. It’s called DragonDrop, and you can buy it for five bucks.
Developer Mark Christian released it independently today after weeks of trying to get it into the Mac App Store. Apple weren’t interested, and rejected it every time.
I’ve been testing a beta of DragonDrop for the last few weeks, and I’ve found it invaluable. Let me explain why.
Every day, there are times when I want to drag something from place A to place B, and I end up having to store it in place Z for a moment – usually just a few seconds – while doing so. Typically Place Z is the Desktop, or my work-in-progress folder. It’s become such a regular occurrence that my brain tends to screen it out. In fact, I’ve only started noticing how often it happens since I installed DragonDrop.
Here’s how it works. Select the thing you want to drag and start dragging. Then: shake. That’s right, give your fingers a little wiggle on the touchpad, or your mouse a little jiggle on the desk. DragonDrop pops into life immediately under your on-screen pointer, so you can let go of whatever object you were dragging, and it instantly appears as a little icon.
Now, leave that icon in place and navigate to where you wanted to drop your item. It might be another Finder location, or an email message, or a text field somewhere. Whatever. When it’s in sight, just grab your thing from inside DragonDrop and drop it in. DragonDrop slides out of sight, and you can get on with your work.
DragonDrop impressed me because it does many things. It solves a problem, for one thing. It does so in a particularly neat and satisfying manner. It also deals with all kinds of digital objects. Not just files, but URLs, chunks of text, images, folders, apps, everything I threw into it. You can, if you wish, use DragonDrop’s Menu Bar icon to manually copy and paste items in and out of the app, but I hardly used that feature. I quickly caught on to the jiggle gesture and now use it frequently.
The app’s non-appearance in the Mac App Store isn’t due to lack of trying. Here’s Mark Christian himself, with his account of what happened:
I never got any satisfaction from the appeal process with Apple. The initial rejection, which came about 3 weeks after I submitted the app, consisted entirely of the following text: “The app modifies native Mac OS X behavior, specifically it invokes a drag and drop behavior change. Dragging an item on Mac OS X brings the item to where the user finishes dragging, your app modifies that behavior to have the dragged item go into a shortcut portal when shaking the cursor.”
DragonDrop only appears when you summon it (barring the occasional false positive), and is easy to dismiss if you change your mind. I wrote to the app appeal board to point these things out, and waited. Eventually, I received a phone call from someone on the app review team, who called specifically to tell me that they declined my appeal, and had no interest in discussing it. Somewhat ironically, my iPhone crashed while I was talking to him, so the conversation never came to a conclusion. I emailed them, but never heard from them again.
Desperate to get the app into the store, I made a follow-up version that made the headline shake-to-activate feature optional, adding the ability to drop onto the menu bar icon. I submitted this with a letter describing the above circumstances and asked that this solution, made in good faith, be considered. This was rejected, too, with exactly the same reason as before.
Mark said he was troubled by the whole experience.
I’m deeply concerned for the future of innovation on the Mac. I believe that DragonDrop is genuinely innovative, bringing some gesture smarts to the desktop along with some helpful behaviour. Apple, intentionally or not, is doing their best to prevent that sort of innovation from reaching their users.
So there you have it. Dissatisfied with the whole app review experience, Mark took the only logical next step: releasing DragonDrop himself.
Pro: Makes life easier, period. Reasonably priced. Simple.
Con: Not available in the Mac App Store..