Happy 15th birthday, DragThing


On 1 May 1995, young James Thomson released the first version of DragThing, “the original dock designed to tidy up your Macintosh desktop.” On 1 May 2010, a still young James Thomson celebrated his product’s 15th birthday the way any good indie software developer would: with a free update.

It’s been over six years since we last charged for an update, and we’ve released over twenty free updates since then, so this should really be a paid one. But since it’s a relatively minor release, this is still free for people who bought any earlier version of DragThing 5.

My favorite DragThing feature

… is the ability to assign keystrokes to my favorite apps. I launch TextEdit with F1, Mail with F2, Fetch with F3, TextMate with F6, Photoshop with F7, Safari with F8, Illustrator with F10. The best part is that even when I’m working in a half-dozen or more apps at once, I can easily switch between them with a keypress—for instance, after copying a selection in Illustrator, I can hit F7 and paste it into Photoshop.

There are certainly other ways of doing these things (including other ways of assigning keystrokes to applications), but DragThing makes it easy.

Trash Can love

DragThing also lets you stick documents, folders, and applications in single or multiple, highly configurable docks, and can store frequently used text and photo clippings for pasting into other applications with a click. Plus you can assign sounds to actions (now you can hear when you empty the Trash can), stick the Trash can back on the desktop where it belongs, and play with all manner of dock styles and color schemes (caution! a little goes a long way).

You can take my copy of DragThing when you pry it out of my cold, dead hands.

Congratulations, James Thomson. The rest of you, download DragThing 5.9.6.

13 thoughts on “Happy 15th birthday, DragThing

  1. I loved System 7 but lusted for the Copland update (which never came), so I used DragThing, the Aaron System Extension, Espi Sans and Copland icons to mimic the look and feel.
    Can’t believe DragThing is still going, I’m off to download it, it looks better than ever!

  2. Related: Learning From Kaleidoscope

    Back in the heady days of Macintosh System 7.5, Greg Landweber released Aaron, which changed the system’s windows and buttons to match the “Platinum” appearance of the upcoming MacOS 8 (codenamed “Copland” after the composer Aaron Copland). Hacked versions of Aaron quickly appeared with the MacOS 8 images replaced by images of the hacker’s creation. Landweber realized he had a cash cow and released Kaleidoscope, which could switch “schemes” on the fly.

    …Kaleidoscope and Apple were at odds from the beginning, with Apple suing to have (former Apple employee and Kaleidoscope partner) Arlo Rose’s Mekong scheme removed from Kaleidoscope 2.0, then demanding that the third-party imitations of Gizmo and Hi-Tech never be allowed in the Kaleidoscope-maintained Scheme Archive.

  3. I used DragThing back in the days before the dock was built into OSX but now I really don’t see the need for it. Personally, I try to keep third-party OS addons, like DragThing and Suitcase, at a minimum and *maybe* that’s why I don’t have the issues with system upgrades that you always seem to have. Very nice of you to support Mr. Thomson, though!

  4. I keep them to a minimum as well: Dragthing, Dropbox, Growl, and Typeit4me are about it.

    I love Default Folder X but leave it off these days because its presence seems to cause Adobe apps to quit on launch.

    Likewise, I leave FontExplorer X Pro off except when absolutely necessary, because even though it is a great app, my systems seem less stable when it is turned on. (This may be because of funky font, but, if so, I’ve been unable to track down which font is to blame.)

  5. In retrospect, System 7 was actually quite quirky with it’s UI, but after using it for about 10 minutes, you realised how dull it actually was! Thank God for the Iconfactory :) Every frustrating issue [with system software] that I’ve ever had (even today) always came back to a dodgy font. In System 7, Suitcase was the only option when it came to font management and it was all the madness and misery of ten lunatic asylums rolled into one application, the only thing consistent with it was it’s ability to crash. I love System 7 :D

  6. Ok, posting the link to this screenshot is going to make me appear quite pathetic, but in the spirit of celebration (15 years of DragThing) here are the files from my Kaleidoscope folder, circa 1998. Flickr Link. Check out the Scheme Colors for DragThing 2.6!

  7. Jon, I am afraid that even after removing the DFX preference file per the instructions, Adobe Illustrator quits the minute I open a document if Default Folder is open. If I open even the simplest Illustrator documents 514 times with Default Folder open, Adobe Illustrator will quit 514 times on open. Simple as that.

    But if I quit Default Folder and open an Illustrator doc, Illustrator does not quit.

    May have something to do with an errant unrelated file left over from an earlier system migration blah blah. Whatever it is, if I’m using Adobe software, I unfortunately need to turn off Default Folder. :(

  8. I happened to have stumbled across this article via Google today. I just wanted to mention that I’ve been using Default Folder X with Adobe CS4 suite for quite some time now and I haven’t had the issue you described with Adobe Illustrator and other Adobe CS4 apps, and I use those apps for hours every single day. So maybe it has trouble with some versions and not all? Who knows…

    I actually run all sorts of utilities and add-ons and I’ve had pretty good luck with all of them. Well, nearly all of them except DFX and maybe Growl are just regular apps, so it’s not that big of a deal… In fact I use DragThing to manage background apps so I can turn on/off stuff like Snaptz Pro X with just a click-select. DragThing rocks!

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