Replacement of DragThing

I have been using DragThing for at least 8 years. It’s an app and file Launcher dock ( You drag files or apps to it and Alas, it’s a 32-bit app and by September-October 2019 it will be dead.
What other programs can replace it?


Have you asked James Thomson if he plans to update it? With over a year before it’s a problem, he might be considering it.

I tweeted at him this morning, and he confirmed that he has no plans for the rewrite that would be necessary to make DragThing a 64-bit application.

I asked him today and he answered the following:

The honest answer is, I don’t know what’s going to happen. DragThing is an old Carbon app, and 64-bit support still will require a complete rewrite. I don’t know if there is enough market out there for a new version. I would need to spend six months on it, at least, and that would be time I wouldn’t be spending on PCalc, which brings in the vast majority of my income…
10.14 will still run 32-bit apps however, so there’s another year and a bit.


The website now states the same thing. The thing is if you use Internet archive you get this little gem:

25th August 2009
“I want to say one quick thing about the 32-bit badges - just because an application is running as 32-bit doesn’t make it second cond-class in any way. This isn’t like Classic or Rosetta where applications were running slowly under an emulator - they still run the same speed they always used to run under Leopard. The main advantage of 64-bit is to allow access to very large amounts of memory - that’s important for some applications, but not so much for others. Indeed, this release of DragThing and the latest release of PCalc are both still 32-bit apps, and won’t be 64-bit for some time to come. Same goes for many third-party applications. People asked for the feature, and I’m adding it, but this isn’t a “badge of shame”, so please don’t treat it like one”

The handwriting was clearly on the wall back in 2009 or nine years ago so why wait to where you get to ‘be 64-bit or don’t work…at all’ stage?

Back to the OP original question: What other programs can replace Dragthing?

One can create a poor man’s Dragthing via the dock:

  1. Create a folder with Aliases of the programs you want in a “drawer”
  2. Put the aliases into a folder
  3. repeat as often as necessary
  4. put these folders into another folder
  5. After moving this folder to another folder (it cannot be on the desktop) put this folder into the documents side of the Dock.
  6. Configure the resulting icon to view content by list
  7. Click on the icon to open the “drawers”

Yes this is nowhere as clean or smooth as Dragthing but at least baring apple changing how the dock works it will work past Sept 2019.

I found something called “DockShelf” which looks promising. Anyone tried it?

I haven’t used Keyboard Maestro’s palettes, but a quick check of their capabilities makes me think they might work. Much less convenient to build, but the basic functionality I use most is there.

I’d miss being able to drag things into palettes to create new items, as well as tabs & layers, but as a launcher and drag target, looks like it would work. And having Keyboard Maestro underneath adds all sorts of possibilities! Any DragThing fiends tried that?

I just got a press release for Station 2.0, which looks like it would answer the needs of DragThing users too.

I’ve been using Station for some time now and am quite happy with it. It’s an excellent app for organizing your frequently used applications.

I use docks with icons, but also layered docks with text rather than icons. I also distribute them in various places around the screen. If Station can do that, the documentation doesn’t advertise it well.

You get so set in your ways with a tool you really like. You know?

What about an alternative that does some of the other DragThing items like: sounds, trash can on the desktop, etc?

I purchased DragThing just to support James, but it never found a good spot in my workflow.

Keyboard Maestro does much of what I need, and recently I’ve been playing with three new toys (read: super interesting, but need more work):



Since I never fully embraced DT, and I don’t know what parts of it you’re looking for the most, my suggestions above might not be useful; but I also concur you can build interesting pallets with both Finder and Keyboard Maestro, and, Dropzone, especially, has some incredibly powerful action droplets and integrations with other services and apps, on top of the obvious launchers.

Unclutter also has some fascinating takes on how to organize a project or two that are in progress; you can turn off or ignore the notes and links sections if they are of no use, and it’s ability to select default and new target folders (iCloud, Dropbox, local, etc) is super handy when collaborating.

uBar is a very intersting new take on the Dock, and apart from its poor support for multiple displays, has some really powerful features.

1 Like

I can’t remember what DT does with sounds; can you elaborate? JT removed the information about all the DT features.

Regarding Trash on Desktop, this should be easily replicated with a simple folder using a custom icon; attach a Folder Action to it to both move files from it to the real Trash and change its icon accordingly; opening it can trigger a daemon to open the Real Trash folder. It gets more complicated if you’ve got multiple volumes.

Please note this is different than using the simple symbolic link method, that also works, but doesn’t manage icon status.

From the DT Quick Start Guide:

“DragThing can also provide you with a Trash on your desktop, play sounds in response to actions like ejecting a CD, and a lot more besides.”

Oh, and DT lets you set your sound volume to “11”! IIRC, MacOS only lets you go as high as “10”.

I saw a Terminal command to use a Trash alias to put a folder on the desktop with a custom icon, but it would be a fixed icon, not the “Full” & “Empty” icons used by DT. Where can I get more info on how to use Folder Actions this way (I’ve never used Folder Actions before)?

Oh, my, I’d forgotten DT played all the old Star Trek/silly/crazy themed sounds. I guess it could still be fun if you’re not in a shared space.

Much of that could be replicated, but I’m not sure how big of a rabbit hole you want to go down.

Somewhere I probably still have my ‘Trash on Desktop’ project, but I haven’t played with it for at least a decade; most of us just got over – no offense – our unwillingness to stop clinging to legacy Mac OS features.

How much time are you willing to invest in keeping Trash on the Desktop? I don’t mean to be dismissive; I just am not sure how far you want to go, given your unfamiliarity with Folder Actions (been around since AppleScript began), and is now also essentially wrapped inside Automator. Automator already includes lots of tutorials, and there’s plenty of tutorials and downloadable actions already made; check out MacScripter and Apple Orchard, as well as the (now badly neglected) Apple Developer docs.

OS X gave us new level of control using LaunchDaemons, which can watch folders, files, disks, devices, etc., and trigger an action when a change is detected; this is one way to approach at least some of the functionality of DragThing, from sounds to dynamic Finder and System items. You can write them by hand by making simple plist files and placing them manually in the proper /Library/LaunchAgents or ~/Library/LaunchAgents folders, or you can use a helpful tool like Lingon X (or similar) to speed up this portion; then you have them trigger scripts or actions from there.

For example, you can replicate the basic function of a Trash target on the Desktop using the Symbolic Link method you discovered, or you can create a folder on the Desktop that, when items are added to it, simply move them to the Trash; you can further watch that folder so that when opened, it opens the actual Trash. The dynamic icons are the tricky bit; I had it working a decade ago for this and other visual-identifier projects, but I have no idea how changes to security and other APIs might have affected their reliability (given the utter neglect Apple generally gives the Mac, I wouldn’t be surprised if they just still work through negligence).

But it sure would suck to get all this working to find out that 10.15 ends up killing it, anyway. If I were you, I’d enjoy DragThing until it is killed, and then seek to replicate the parts you need; who knows, there might be enough of a rebel group who wants this that or the other thing, and it gets made for you.

Then again, sometimes little silly projects like this that solve a need we have for ourselves lead to a greater understanding of what is possible, and inspires you to solve other problems for yourself.

And, again, take a long, detailed look at tools like Keyboard Maestro and BetterTouchTool; ask some questions in their spectacularly good communities, and see if maybe you can get some of the things you want without reinventing the wheel.

If you have more questions, I’m happy to continue the conversation.

frederico wrote: “Regarding Trash on Desktop, this should be easily replicated with a simple folder using a custom icon; attach a Folder Action to it…It gets more complicated if you’ve got multiple volumes.”

The most useful feature of DT’s trash for me is the handling of multiple volumes–secondary-click on the icon and empty the trash for a single volume instead of for all mounted volumes. I’ve needed this more than a few times over the years to empty my primary trash to make room for yet another user backup, without also emptying the trash for the user’s drive that’s mounted and needs to be backed up before working on it. Saves a lot of time over dismounting then remounting the user disk, and for a drive that may be having problems can be less stressful for the drive.

I also use it a lot to avoid having to sanity check a very full trash folder when I just want to clear off space on a single drive that doesn’t need the sanity check.

I’m sure it can all be replicated, but life’s short, I’m getting old, and these days I’d rather be having fun. Staying with Sierra for the foreseeable future = a great time saver!

1 Like

To clarify a bit further, am I incorrect that DragThing is still working under Mojave? No need to stall at Sierra, correct?

Also, Keyboard Maestro could easily do Trash empty for specific volumes and/or users (as could vanilla AppleScript/Automator). Let me know if you want to explore this further.

Thank you for clarifying why it’s more than just an icon on the Desktop. (: while I personally trained myself to never use the Trash as a maybe/maybe-not holding area, I know that millions of Mac users do, so it makes sense. (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to assist people whose disks appeared to have run out of space, simply because they’ve never emptied the trash in literally years.)

I should dig out my DT license and grab the last installer before it disappears; maybe it has some interesting tricks I’ve overlooked for not having appreciation for its banner features.

6 posts were split to a new topic: To Trust APFS or not

I’ve been using DragThing since MacOS 9 (or even before?). When Macs still had only menus, at some moment Windows acquired this docking bar which I found cool and wanted to have on my Mac too.
When the MacOS Dock arrived eventually I was so used to the configurability of DT that I’ve kept it out of sight all the time. I’ve got a Process dock, a multilayered App dock, a separate Scripts dock, all discretely minimised when not used. Apple’s Dock utterly lacks this flexibility at least as far as I know. I’ve also got a Desktop Trash (greatly confusing an Apple technician once…) but that I could eventually live without.
It’s a pity that it will disappear, really. I’ll go and explore the alternatives mentioned in this thread.

In my case it’s working even better than in High Sierra. Icons from Excel and Filemaker files, in HS, where changed in DragThing. Clicking the icon ran the file, changed the icon to the correct one, but, in my case, after restarting my Mac where again wrong.
In Mojave they are correct all the time.