May 2005 marks the tenth anniversary of the original release of DragThing 1.0. Ten years is a long time to be working on one piece of software, so I thought it was only appropriate to celebrate the occasion!

In the beginning...

This page will be updated over the next ten days with various bits of trivia and previously undisclosed secrets about DragThing that you won't find anywhere else.

If you are new to DragThing, you can find out more information about it here, and download a copy of the latest DragThing 5.6 with Tiger support here to try it out.

It's okay, we'll wait for you to come back before we start.

There have been thirty-nine different releases of DragThing so far - if you've used DragThing since the very beginning or if you have any questions, I'd like to hear from you!

Send me a comment to the address below and I'll add it to this page.

Here's to the next ten years!

10 Things You Didn't Know About DragThing
  1. The official story of DragThing's name is that I was working on my drag and drop based dock during the summer of 1994, and a friend of mine named Dair asked me something along the lines of "have you finished that drag thing yet?" and the name stuck. However, since I have told that story so many times, I can't remember if it is actually true or not, and I suspect it isn't.

  2. The name was originally intended to be a parody of the many "InterCaps" product names of the time, especially in the Apple world - AppleScript, QuickTime, MacWrite and so on. I'd never originally intended to make any money with DragThing, so it didn't matter - or so I thought - that it had a marketable name. However, DragThing 1.0 proved very popular and I was stuck with it. Over the years, quite a few products appeared from other developers with the word "Thing" at the end which amused me to no end.

  3. DragThing was originally freeware, or more accurately "coolware". The idea was, if you liked it and used it, you were supposed to send me something cool. Most commonly this involved T-shirts, but I got a lot of interesting stuff sent to me from all around the world. Some time later, I got an email from a guy at a very large advertising company who explained that his finance department didn't understand the concept of coolware, and would it be okay if they just sent a large cheque instead? And so, capitalism was invented. A beneficial side effect of this change was that it somewhat alleviated the mounting T-shirt storage crisis - to the great delight of my significant other.

  4. Early versions of DragThing used to expire a year after they were released, and started warning people to download a new copy a month prior to that. I did this because I was fed up with people running ancient versions and asking about bugs that I had fixed years ago. Some people thought it was a cunning scheme that I had planned years in advance to make people to upgrade to the shareware version, but it wasn't. Honest!

  5. A certain utility software company once offered to buy the exclusive rights to DragThing for $10,000. I respectfully declined, and they bought out one of my similarly-named competitors instead. When DragThing became shareware some time later, it soon became clear that this had been the correct decision!

  6. DragThing Lite, the simplified version of DragThing which shipped with DragThing 2, was originally written to be included with Mac OS 8.5 instead of the AppSwitcher. The deal with Apple fell apart quite quickly, but the code survived.

  7. To enable the hidden debug mode in DragThing 2, open the Preferences window and type on the arrow keys: up up down down up up up up.

    This was the same code that enabled the debug mode in the game Sonic The Hedgehog 3 on the Sega Genesis/Megadrive.

  8. The reason there wasn't much DragThing development between 1998 and 2000 is because I was then part of the team working in secret on the Finder and Mac OS X Dock at Apple. I felt then that the Dock would ultimately replace DragThing. However, for a variety of reasons, I left Apple shortly after Aqua and the Dock were announced in January 2000, and very little of my code survives in the current Dock. I moved back to Scotland, and work started on DragThing 4 soon after.

    Update: I'm reliably informed that none of my original code survives in the current Dock. Thanks John for rubbing that in :-)

  9. DragThing 3.0 was an unreleased version of DragThing 2.9 that had been adapted to run on early developer previews of Mac OS X. Because of Aqua, I realised I would need to rewrite much of the user interface code, and so I started working on DragThing 4 instead.

  10. DragThing 4 on Mac OS X contained the coolest easter egg in the world, but fewer than ten people have seen it.

    Update: Many people have asked me what it is. I would love to tell you, because it was really cool. But there would be repercussions.

10 Year Timeline

Some notable events over the last ten years:

Work starts on DragThing 1.0 in the summer.
PowerPC based Macintoshes first introduced.
System 7.5 released.
DragThing 1.0 is first released to the public in May.
Cyberdog and OpenDoc announced at WWDC.
Windows 95 released.
I start working for a well known computer company.
Apple buys NeXT.
DragThing 2.0, the first shareware version, is released in July.
Mac OS 8 released.
The official site goes online in February.
iMac introduced.
Mac OS X announced.
A quiet year for DragThing due to work on that other dock.
iBooks and Airport introduced.
Power Mac G4 ships.
I stop working for a well known computer company.
Aqua shown publicly for the first time.
DragThing 4.0 for Mac OS X is released a few days before Mac OS X is.
iPod revealed.
DragThing 4.5 adds full support for Mac OS X 10.2 "Jaguar".
LCD iMac ships with a bundled copy of PCalc.
DragThing 5.0 adds full support for Mac OS X 10.3 "Panther".
Safari introduced.
iTunes Music Store opens its doors.
DragThing 5.5 finally adds support for spring-loaded folders!
30" cinema display unveiled.
iMac G5 ships.
DragThing 5.6 adds full support for Mac OS X 10.4 "Tiger".

10 Killer Apple Technologies Of The Last 10 Years That DragThing Didn't Support
  1. Copland
  2. Rhapsody
  3. OpenDoc
  4. PowerTalk
  5. QuickDraw GX
  6. QuickDraw 3D
  7. Publish & Subscribe
  8. Newton OS
  9. Dylan
  10. Cocoa

10 Years Of Screenshots

Click the images below to see how things have evolved:


Dock Options

10 Applications Used To Make DragThing
  1. Metrowerks Codewarrior - the development environment I've used for the last ten years
  2. Apple Xcode - the development environment I'm likely to be using for the next ten years, unfortunately
  3. Bare Bones BBEdit - simply the best text editor
  4. Adobe Photoshop - the best image editor, but certainly not simple
  5. Resorcerer - at least it runs natively on Mac OS X!
  6. ResEdit - the original. Still runs on Tiger
  7. PowerGlot - so much nicer than AppleGlot
  8. Iconographer - because everybody needs icons
  9. Installer VISE / FileStorm - for installers past and disk images present
  10. PCalc - the only software older than DragThing


  1. From Cletus Waldman at ResExcellence:

    You've read this many times I am sure about various pieces of software. "It is the first item i install when I load a new system." But that is what is done on my machines with this little jewel. There is nothing I have ever found to replace DragThing. Nothing! Sure there are alternatives out there in third party space. None with the feature set of DT. I happen to be a point and click person and not a keyboard shortcut guy. So this fits my work style perfectly and flawlessly.The amazing thing about it however, is that it is such a dynamic and customizable program that one can literally have the best of both worldsó both point and click and keyboarding. It seems it is always literally one step ahead of the curve. I have been fortunate to be on the beta team also, so I know the care and work James puts in on this program. James you have one great little program there. I congratulate you, and wish you continued success in this world of one shot shareware wonders.

  2. From Guillaume Gete:

    I began starting working with DragThing since 1995, or something like that. And to say that DT is one of the most stable pieces of software I've ever seen, even at the time of Classic Mac OS, is an understatement. Funny to see that one of my oldest files on my Mac is still the DragThing preferences file from 1996Ö That could be a proof by itself. The fact is, from all the applications and utilities I have tested for years on the Mac platform, DragThing is maybe the one with the most respect for the Mac itself, whether it is in its programming execution, its carefulness of using the best Mac OS technologies in the best possible ways (do you know so many applications that on the 29th of April could use Quartz Extreme effects, AppleScript and support Finder's Smart Folders while the new OS was just released ?). Finally, all of this would not be possible without talentuous programming, but also real humanity and love of the Mac behind. James Thomson is one of the finest, and also most generous (and funniest) developers I've dealt with. So far, my most recommended piece of software on the Mac if you want to amaze people while enhance your productivity with a really *usable* Dock. You need it. Period.

  3. From Rich Shupe at FMA:

    I think I got hooked on DragThing around version 1.5. I have a fairly firm memory that the v2 'About...' window was a great new look, but that might have been my initiation. That's not important. What IS important is that, since I installed this wonder app, I have not used my computer one time without using DragThing dozens--even hundreds--of times a day. In fact, I would guess that many DT converts don't even know how powerful it can be. Today people think of it as a Dock substitute. While I would never, ever, ever trade DragThing for the Dock, it is so much more than that. It's not just powerful, convenient, and productive. It is indispensable for me.

    Here's an anecdote that might be telling. I lecture and/or train at trade shows two to four times a year and have done so fairly consistently for years. I haven't gotten through even ONE presentation without someone asking about DragThing. It got to be so routine, that I included DT in a "Cool Stuff" final slide at the end of every presentation. Each audience watches me access every app, every document, every URL, every server, every window, and every drive out of DragThing and can't help but want to know how I can do all of that. It's a shame that now that Exposé is in wide use, the audience doesn't even know that a lot of switching and window control is actually being handled by DragThing.

    My biggest regret? The number of disappointed Windows users when I have to tell them that DT only runs on the Mac platform.

  4. More coming soon... Hopefully!