A system-wide download manager

Operating systems aren’t clear enough about which apps are causing network traffic. Sure, the Activity Monitor in OS X or its Windows counterpart (Task Manager) might show you that information but that still doesn’t allow you to control any of the traffic going into and out of your computer.

Wouldn’t it be better if developers didn’t have to (re-)invent the download manager for every single app; that the apps delegate downloading and uploading to a system service instead of autonomously handling the traffic? So, here’s what this concept could look like.

Mockup of a system-wide download manager
Copyright: Bernhard Waldbrunner

(Please excuse the slanted lines; I was drawing this without a grid, after all.) Let me iterate the features of this system service.

  • Downloads and uploads are all consolidated in this menu bar item/drop-down (or whatever it’s called.) This would include Mail, Safari, iTunes, App Store, etc.
  • Tooltips would show the origin – i.e., app – of the transfer, as well as the URL of the source – or destination, as the case may be.
  • Contextual menu items:
    • Open app
    • Copy address
    • Pause transfer
    • Cancel transfer
    • Reveal file
  • Transfers would continue even after the app was closed, unless the app explicitly stops transfers before quitting.
  • Slow Mode would artificially limit the current network traffic in order to improve the bandwith for, e.g., streaming or videoconferences
  • Available preferences:
    • Maximum number of parallel downloads/uploads
    • Automatically open safe files after downloading
    • Automatically resume when download has been interrupted
    • List of apps which get preferential treatment when downloading/uploading multiple files
    • List of apps which are exempt from Slow Mode
    • Automatically clear transfer list (after completion, weekly, daily, etc.)
  • Pausing a transfer would only be possible if the server supports byte serving.
  • The loupe button reveals the file in Finder.

For comparison, this is the situation now.

iTunes: Download manager Safari: Download manager Mail: Activity window Launchpad: Downloading apps

Every app handles its transfers differently, inconsistent UIs (and we’re just talking about Apple apps here!) and anything like a Slow Mode would be impossible without manually pausing or canceling transfers entirely. The App Store is an especially violent offender in this regard, since there is virtually no indication in the Store window that anything is happening; the other issue is that a lot of users don’t like the Launchpad (as depicted by the screenshot) and consequently don’t look there for possible downloads.

Since we are living in the information age, I think a centralized management of network traffic is long overdue.