- Used for: Sending oversized email attachments
- Platform/s: Mac OS X
- Software Homepage: http://www.yellowmug.com/filechute/
- Developer: Yellow Mug
- Licensing: $17.95 for single user – trial version available
- Category: Software that saves me time
Digital photographers tend to bounce a lot of large image files around the web. Email has a lot of limitations, but it has been around so long that it has become intuitive for most people; clients like it when you can just say, “I’ll email you the files.” Email is okay for sending smallish attachments, but you can never be quite sure whether the recipient’s ISP or email provider will reject the attachment for being too large. Gmail’s attachment size limit is currently 25mb, Yahoo’s range from 10mb to 20mb depending on the type of account, Hotmail’s is 10mb, and the millions of other email systems out there are set to whatever their system administrator decided. So trying to send a client a collection of 20 jpegs from a shoot could leave you decided whether to send them all attached to one file and risk it or to send it in multiple emails and waste time composing and sending sequential emails and hoping they get them all and can work it out. And trying to explain to a client that their email service is apparently blocking the attachments is just a conversation that risks unnecessary aggravation.
There are many, many ways of transporting large files over the web, but there aren’t many that are a good mix of convenience for the sender, convenience for the recipient, and ease of use.
One reasonable option is the online service YouSendIt.com, a web- and account-based system that lets you send files up to 2GB for paid accounts (100mb for free accounts) or Pando, which has 1gb for free accounts. But I’ve always been a bit put off by the need for signing up with an account, choosing whether to get the upgraded accounts to overcome the 100mb limit of the free account, and minor annoyance that someone else’s brand will be in my email to a client. It’s a good option, but it’s not an ideal fit for my needs.
Up until now, if I had to send 20 high resolution jpegs to a client my workflow looked like this:
- package the files up into a zip archive »
- drag and drop the zip archive onto a Transmit droplet (or Filezilla bookmark if on Windows) »
- work out the URL of the resulting file and double-check that it’s correct »
- manually type that address into the email »
- hit send
Enter FileChute, a nifty little app for Mac with one job to do and that does it well. The gist of it is that it acts as an assistant in preparing large files for sending to email recipients. It doesn’t “fix” the problems with email attachments, per se, but rather does an end run around them. The beauty of FileChute is that it separates out the email and the attachment and provides a link for the receiver to download the file at their convenience; not forcing the client to download a 200mb file there and then if they’re on a shaky connection is a definite plus. It’s a task that’s easily done manually, but FileChute automates the process and thus saves time. Your attachment files are uploaded to your server and your email recipient receives a direct link to download them. And if you’re using the FTP or WebDav options, the only size limit is the amount of free space on your server (the MobileMe option is limited to 2GB).
With Filechute, the workflow for sending those same dozen high resolution jpegs is a little simpler:
- drag and drop the files all at once onto the FileChute icon »
- choose whether to package all the files into an archive (zip, dmg, sit, tar, gz) »
- hit “compose email” »
- hit send
Even though it might look like only saving one step, it’s simpler, requires less effort, and is more reliable. Basically, FileChute takes care of the packaging, uploading, and generation of the link URL. And the resulting link is on my own domain, so I’m not sending a client to someone else’s webpage. And if I want to send them a link to download a 5GB raw video file, I can.
The ability to set multiple accounts is a nice feature. You could have one for work and one for personal, for instance.
There are some thoughtful touches in the preferences. You can set the default archive name based on the folder name or a random string; the latter is better for obscuring the attachment from prying eyes. Excluding the .DS_Store files minimizes unnecessary clutter. The Files Expire option is pretty neat–it sets an expiration date for the uploaded files. The files won’t be deleted automatically after they expire, but it makes it easier to delete all expired files with one click.
FileChute also includes Growl notifications, support for URL shortening service via snipr.com, and password-protected DMG archives.
FileChute for iPhone
The FileChute iPhone app ($2.99) is a nice touch. You can’t actually upload or download directly from the app, but you can see the attachment files, identify their links, and email those to recipients. So when you’re out on a shoot and your client asks you to send those 200mb TIFFs to the graphic designer, you can do it right away without having to explain that it’ll have to wait until you get back to your office and without having to download the files first onto your iPhone. Very handy.
Minor Quibbles & Feature Requests
FileChute (v.4.3.9) works great as is, but there are a few things I’d love to see in future versions. The developers at Yellow Mug seem very responsive–usually a good indication of quality software.
- SFTP support. The current version supports regular FTP, WebDav, and MobileMe. Since the file links are being sent via that most unsecure of communication methods–email–security is already reduced. But support for SFTP would add further protection against snoopers being able to intercept your login credentials and use your FTP server as their own personal warez server.
- Ability to choose accounts while dropping files on Dock icon. In the current version, if you want to choose which account to upload to you have to open the application, choose the account, and then drag and drop the files to upload. It’d be great if it could be done in one step. The ability to create desktop droplets for different accounts would accomplish something similar.
- Support for Amazon S3. My server’s pretty fast, but it can’t compete with the distributed and faster approach of S3. I’d love to be able to use an S3 bucket to share large attachments, especially massive, multi-gigabyte attachments like my timelapse videos without worrying about storage limits on my server.
The bottom line is that once set up, FileChute makes it easy and painless to send very large files to others. You can also use Dropbox or other services for this now, but I like the flexibility and control that FileChute gives me.