Musings from Mars Banner Image
For Software Addicts: Yes!MaybeNah!
Mars Report:

Afloat: Cocoa Extension Aims To Extend Power Over Windows

Published April 28th, 2007

Afloat: Make your windows float or make them transparent

Afloat FreewareOriginally downloaded 8/7/06. Here’s another cool SIMBL plugin for Cocoa apps that’s worth trying out (it’s free!). Afloat lets you control which windows float above others and which are transparent. You can also move them without having to drag on the title bar. All in all, sounds like another batch of useful customizations that may strengthen Mac users’ attachment to their Cocoa apps. Afloat installs on your system as a Preference Pane at either the user or system level.

Update 11/28/06. After having Afloat running for a couple of months, and several sessions of trying to use it, I’ve concluded that no matter how cool I think it is, Afloat just doesn’t work for me. My summary of pros and cons noted during testing are below.

Update 4/28/07. I downloaded and tried out the newer beta 4 “experimental” version of Afloat today, but it just cemented my view that this software is on the wrong track to adding the kind of functionality it’s after. There are other tools that do a better job, in each instance, and are likewise free. Beta 4 is a rewrite that no longer uses SIMBL, instead using a dynamic Cocoa injection system similar to the one that tools like F-Script Anywhere uses. I’ve updated the pros/cons list as well.



  • Cool idea… innovative
  • Ability to use Cmd-Ctrl to move windows from any point is a useful enhancement
  • Confusing in practice, impractical.
  • Windows lost their “on top” status for no apparent reason and without my say-so. Further, it appears that the “Always on top” setting is only local to each application… I was hoping to be able to set a given window to be globally “on top.”
  • Ability to adjust transparency, though cool, is kind of pointless in this manner. A better approach for me is to use SetAlphaValue, another excellent Cocoa-injection freeware for managing window transparency. It provides much finer-grained control with a lot less fuss.
  • In the toolbox of busy geeks, it’s important that the tools don’t fight with each other all the time, which they tend to do if they are all activated the same way. Unfortunately, Afloat provides no configuration for its key bindings at all, and this caused a couple of knock-down, drag-outs during my testing.
  • The “Overlays” feature in beta 4 crashed Mail when I switched to the Finder. Basically, this feature does the same thing that can be achieved using the free Dockless software. For regular document windows, you will almost never want them to be “overlay” windows. And everything else can be made “overlays” by adjusting the LSUIElement key in the app’s info.plist file, which is what Dockless does for you.

Version as tested: 1.0 b4

  • Google
  • Slashdot
  • Technorati
  • blogmarks
  • Tumblr
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Mixx

Show Comments
Just Say No To Flash