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Yoink: Enhanced Drag & Drop for Lion’s Full-Screen Apps

As I noted in my MacBook Air 13-inch review, the smaller the screen, the better full-screen apps get on Lion. For those still unaware of the new feature, OS X Lion comes with the possibility of enlarging applications to fill the entire screen – thus the name “full-screen mode” – so that, similarly to iOS, users can focus on one app at a time. Whereas some full-screen apps can look comically large on bigger displays such as a 21.5-inch iMac or Apple Thunderbolt Display, I found that smaller screens make more sense in regards to full-screen mode in that you don’t feel like you’re wasting available pixel space. Apple’s system applications have already been updated to take advantage of full-screen mode, and we’ve seen third party developers starting to play around with the new API as well, coming up with interesting solutions to modify the user interface accordingly to full-screen mode.

Personally, I have enjoyed using apps like Evernote, Sparrow and Reeder in full-screen mode on my MacBook Air. With a four-finger swipe, I can easily switch between these apps, and go back to my main desktop where all my other application windows reside. However, as full-screen apps live in their own separate graphical environment, I wished on a couple of occasions that Apple would implement an easier method to move files between spaces and full-screen apps in Lion. Rather than delving into the technical details of drag & drop and APIs, here’s a practical example: say I run Sparrow in full-screen mode, and I need to quickly drop an attachment onto a new message window. I could use the app’s “attach file” dialog, but drag & drop would be more intuitive. On Lion, there’s no simple way to drag files from Desktop 1, and drop them into a full-screen app. In fact, the “easiest” trick I’ve discovered to achieve such a functionality is to click & hold a file, hit the Mission Control key on my MacBook Air’s keyboard, select a a full-screen app and wait for it to “spring load” (e.g. the window flashes and after a few seconds comes in the foreground), then drop the file. Clumsy and slow.

A new app by Eternal Storms – makers of Flickery and ScreenFloat, among others – called Yoink, aims at improving Lion’s behavior with drag & drop and full-screen apps. Built from the ground-up with Lion-only APIs, Yoink places an unobtrusive, translucent “shelf” at the side of your Mac’s screen every time you start dragging a file. Drop the file in there, switch to your full-screen app with a gesture, get the file out of the shelf. Done.

Yoink is a drag & drop assistant for Lion, in that it provides you with a virtual “safe zone” to temporarily store files – or rather, links to them – you want to move from one location (say your desktop) to another space or full-screen app.

Yoink doesn’t “copy” a file, or multiple ones, to its shelf: it only acts as a bridge between the original file, and the destination of the drop. So, back to my Sparrow example: I can select a bunch of files from my desktop, drop them into Yoink, switch back to Sparrow with a gesture, and get the files out of Yoink. Very simple. This works with any full-screen app, any space – Yoink works wherever you can drop a file. In fact, nothing stops you from using the app as a drag & drop utility for your Finder windows instead of full-screen apps, although the app is clearly focused on the latter.

In my tests, I’ve found Yoink to be very lightweight in memory footprint, and easy to use. The app only appears when you start dragging a file – you won’t see its window all the time – and you can customize it to sit on the left, or right of the screen. Alternatively, you can tell Yoink to quickly move next to your cursor as you drag a file, then go back to screen’s side. Yoink can store multiple files, Quick Look them, and let you scroll and select multiple items with CMD-click.

Yoink is available at $2.99 on the App Store, and you can head over the developer’s website to check out a demo video and get a better idea of the app in action. If you work with full-screen apps on a daily basis and you’d like to enhance Lion’s drag & drop support, Yoink is a must-have.

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