Interarchy 6
Review

On May 28, 2003, in Review, by Jeffrey McPheeters

Interarchy 6
Company: Stairways

Price: $45.00
http://www.interarchy.com

Interarchy is, by all accounts, the single most popular FTP client on the Macintosh with an estimated 650,000 users. Since changing it’s name from Anarchie 3.x to Interarchy 4.x, it has added a host of networking tools, SFTP, FTP/SSH tunneling, HTTP, and a specialized form of WEBDAV called FTPDisk and sold over 100,000 copies. It has an active user group of over 1000 members. It has customizable, skin-able parts, and every command available to it is also Apple Scriptable. If you haven’t tried Interarchy in awhile, take a look. It runs natively on Mac OS 8.5 through Mac OS X 10.2.5. The current shipping version as I write this is 6.1.1, but by the time you read this version 6.2 may be available, which adds some improvements as well as bringing back the popular Classic networking tools for the Mac OS X users.

If you are not sure what is meant by an FTP client, then please indulge me while I give you a brief snippet of Internet history.

Of the various schemes for moving information around on the Internet, the three most popular are, without a doubt, for e-mail, for File Transfer Protocol, and for HyperText Transfer Protocol. In the early days of the Internet, back before the browsers attempted to become the mother of all Internet Apps, there were various client applications designed to send and retrieve files to and from various repositories. Some of you as old as I am will find terms like gopher, jughead, veronica, archie and wais familiar. Today these have been supplanted with more familiar and user-friendly means of acquiring files and data.

Around 1993-1994 some Mac-only tools began to appear and quickly grew popular for taking care of not only downloading files from these anonymous ftp sites, but uploading as well. Perhaps the most popular were Fetch and Anarchie. Anarchie was eventually renamed Interarchy, and it is the subject of my review today.

I first became familiar with Interarchy in 1994, as part of Adam Engst’s Internet Starter Kit for Macintosh and was included on a 3.5″ floppy! I spent a lot of time searching around the Dartmouth archives for useful files and information. Ah, those were the days…NOT! Today, I would bet most of you let your browser handle the occasional download of an update or document even when the link is to a real ftp server, rather than fire up a dedicated ftp client. As we step back to the present day I note that Mac OS X has native ftp capabilities built in! Yet, web professionals, network administrators, and Mac professionals know the value of a dedicated networking client such as Interarchy.

Interarchy 6 is much much more than an FTP client. In my mind, Interarchy is to FTP what BBEdit is to text. If you are familiar with BBEdit, you know it is a lot more than a text editor, yet doesn’t add those other great features at the expense of doing its primary job well. Interarchy also adds many useful, additional features while maintaining solid ftp support. Interarchy has been in the hands of it’s original developers since the beginning, and offers excellent support through an e-mail list in which the developers take an active part. You can download a fully functioning 30 day demo, purchase a single license for $45, a 5-user license for $90, and so forth. There is an updated manual available from the web site, in browsable html format, single-page html format, or PDF. I think the manual is extremely well written and even if you are familiar with ftp clients and Interarchy in particular, you should download and read that manual. You will find some invaluable tips if you’re a power user.

If you are familiar with the latest version of Interarchy, here are some features you can look forward to in the upcoming product in final beta:

- There is now an ‘interarchy’ command-line tool bundled with Interarchy so for example, you can send Interarchy links to download from the command-line. It is in the Extras folder.

- A new auto-installing InterarchyCMPlugin technology that allows you to Control-click on links and URLs in other applications (such as Internet Explorer or BBEdit) and get a contextual menu command “Get URL with Interarchy”.

- The SFTP Mirroring engine has been made more efficient.

- There is an advanced command-line tool also included called ‘icutil’ which you can use to explore and modify your internet config settings, the part of your system that maps protocols and helpers to applications and stores other special settings. It is in the Extras folder.

- You can now remove (Command-Delete) the “Rendezvous” folder, “Scheduled Bookmarks” folder, or the “FTP Disks” folder from the Bookmarks window – for those users that don’t use some or all of them and don’t want them cluttering their Bookmarks.

Perhaps the most well known feature since Interarchy 5 is Interarchy’s ability to create FTP Disks. If you have a .Mac account, or had an iTools account that allowed you to mount your own iDisk on your desktop, you have picture of what FTP Disk is all about. FTP Disks are a kind of automated mirror that becomes active when Ômounted’ and inactive when Ôunmounted.’ Consider that you have a particular web site which is not only active, but undergoing regular updates and upgrades. You need to be online in order to make changes and view them, or you need a local directory, which you then upload when the changes have been made and approved. What if you could keep a local mirror of the remote web site in a folder to which you could point GoLive or Dream Weaver, making changes and modifications even when away from an Internet connection, and then once connected, you simply mount the FTP Disk and Interarchy automatically checks the remote site for changes and brings the two into sync.

If you need a mirror download or mirror upload, rather than a true sync, Interarchy not only allows the creation of bookmarked mirrors, it allows you to schedule the routine mirroring in any repeating increment of minutes, days, weeks, etc. I use SFTP Disk (the same thing as FTP disk, but using a secure protocol) to keep working directories of sites under construction, SFTP Mirror download to keep backups of finished web sites, SFTP Mirror Uploads scheduled to keep remote FTP directories and photo album directories current and SFTP Mirror Both Ways to keep mirrors of local work in progress between multiple work stations here at home.

As an administrator of two dedicated servers, I keep complete backups of those servers locally, by using SFTP Mirror Download. What if you have multiple web developers working on a site or sites? Sometimes one can accidentally delete data or corrupt files and the problem isn’t found for a day or two. Worse, what if you’ve backed up that corrupted data? The simple preventative solution, using Interarchy’s scheduled backups, is to create a separate mirrored download for each day of the week. If someone discovers a problem on Wednesday, just check back to Monday’s or the previous Friday’s mirror to see if the problem was present. If you have Retrospect Express or Tri-Backup, you could conceivably schedule evolutive backups of your SFTP Disks or Mirrors and not have to create multiple backups, but I still recommend the practice of using multiple mirrored backups. You don’t actually have to download the site 5 times, or whatever. Just mirror it once, then duplicate the folder as many times as you need and point the additional mirror bookmarks to the appropriate folder. From that point on only incremental updates are made.

Scheduling tasks goes beyond this to creating a queue for downloads or uploads at a particular time. This can be handy for people with limited bandwidth who need to schedule downloads for a more convenient time. Interarchy gives ample feedback through it’s History and Transcript reports. I have tried every FTP client available for the Mac, due to the fact I spend a lot of time SFTPing files up and down from remote servers or other clients on our LAN. Overall I’ve found Interarchy to be the most reliable at determining automatic settings for uploading and downloading mixed directories of binary and ascii files, whether from a Mac running the classic OS or one running Mac OS X. SFTP or FTP via SSH, by the way, only work with Mac OS X. If you work from multiple systems and have two or three users also assisting with similar tasks, I think the 5-user license is definitely worth the modest fee. At $90 it’s less than $20 per user! If you are all using Rendezvous capable systems, it’s a no-brainer.

Interarchy is a true networking client, handling PING, Trace Route, DNS resolving, and monitors status of ports and traffic flowing between. Classic Mac OS clients also get Finger Daemon, Whois Daemon, TCP/UDP Echo Daemons, Ident Daemon, Daytime, Time, and NTP Daemons.There’s also a Telnet Daemon to allow you to telnet into your Mac and give it Applescript commands. Interarchy support resumable downloads for servers that support it.

Searching for files and documents is made simple and thorough with a Sherlock-style search engine and the ability to search through many powerful archives, reference databases, Apple’s knowledge base, versiontracker, info-mac archives (just recently undergoing a major overhaul), locate old classmates, etc. If you spend a fair amount of time in FTP or SFTP sessions, having the ability to conduct sherlock style searches within Interarchy is very intuitive and fast. Once you have found your information, THEN choose the best tool for handling that data.

Interarchy can also download entire http directories or look into http directories and list their contents. You have the option of opening the pages in a browser, or your preferred text editor. Interarchy displays listings in either a list view or column view, similar to the finder in Mac OS X. Besides simply downloading via HTTP, Interarchy can check and validate http links on a web site.

If it sounds as though I think Interarchy has cured every problem but the common cold, you’ll have to forgive my prejudice. I’ve been using it for many years, and while I still use a command line for a lot of simple projects, or RBrowser for certain remote maintenance tasks via SSH, I have come to rely upon Interarchy in ways that have allowed me to manage single handedly a number of sites and services that would have been impossible without it. The fact that Peter Lewis has been at the helm all those years has certainly been a factor in it’s favor. The fact that the developers are so willing to listen to their users’ concerns and ideas, and even encourage suggestions, and take the time to discuss the ideas openly, has created a product that continues to progress and improve with each version update.

Perhaps you have been using Interarchy but only scratching the surface of it’s capabilities and time saving features! If you haven’t upgraded to version 6, I strongly urge you to do so; it costs very little to upgrade. It’s a must-have product for the Mac professional, and I give this new version our highest rating.

MyMac.com Rating: 5 out of 5


Jeffrey McPheeters

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