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Definition

FTP is a method of transferring files (or data) between systems (computers or servers). FTP is an alternative to transferring and editing files in with a browser-based system

FTP, or file transfer protocol, is a method of transferring files (or data) between systems (computers or servers). FTP is an alternative to transferring and editing files in with a browser-based system, usually a webshell. It is similar to HTTP or hypertext transfer protocol which is the method to transfer HTML (Hyper text), It is the technology used to transfer. In order to transfer, one needs a program to use the technology. Like HTTP is used by browsers, FTP is used by FTP clients. An FTP client connects your computer (the local host) to another system (the remote host) and allows you to download, upload, open, view, set permissions and edit files. Generally, one connects to the other system with a login username and password but sometimes anonymous connections are allowed.

In order to use FTP, one needs an FTP client.

Explorer

Most Windows PC systems already have a program that can use FTP/In a bind; when one is unable to download or use an FTP client, one can use windows Explorer (Not Internet Explorer) to connect via FTP. Simply type in ftp:// followed by the ftp server in the address bar in any open Windows folder (if the address bar is not showing, change the settings under “View”) – usually domain.com or ftp.domain.com but sometimes it is like an IP similar to 172.16.10.1.

Upon pressing enter/Go, the browser will try to connect to the server via FTP. If the server allows anonymous login, it may connect automatically. If the server requires authentification (a username and password), a box will prompt for this information. Correctly entered information will show the file list.

FTP Explorer

In Explorer, one can choose the option to log in anonymously, if the serer allows it.
Anonymous FTP

As well as browsing files, one can paste files into the Explorer window, which actually uploads them to the server and vice versa. One can also delete and rename files as well as view properties and set permissions (CHMOD)

As you can imagine, this method works well for minor edits but is usually much more limited than an FTP client which is made specifically to use file transfer protocol.

One can also use a browser to connect to FTP to view files but files cannot be edited this way. Simple log in the same way one would do in Windows Explorer, and a dialog will pop up asking for authentification or anonymous log in.
FTP Firefox

FTP IE

An incorrect login combination will refresh the login dialog in Explorer or cause an “502 Login Incorrect” prompt in Firefox.

FTP Clients

It’s generally more efficient to use an FTP client like the ones listed below. Not only do these programs allow one to see files on the remote system, users can see files on their own system in the same window. Transferring to (uploading) and from (downloading) the system is much easier because there is no cut and paste involved. One can simply right click and select “Upload” or “Download” or select the file and press the corresponding button (usually an arrow). Users can still sett permissions but can do so with an advanced tool and editing can be done easily by right clicking on any file(s) and selecting “Edit.”

Try one of these FTP clients:

Using a Client

Once an FTP client is downloaded unzip and install it according to the installation instructions. After installed, take a minute to read the help/read me information and start it up. FTP clients do not take up a lot of space or memory, usually.

Generally, FTP clients open up and several panes (or separated areas) appear. One of these is usually a quick connect where one can enter FTP address, log in, and password. For a quick connection, one can type that in right away. If there is an option for a port, this can generally be left blank. The default port is 21 which is the port for networking.

Log On

Other panes will appear. Generally, on the left side, the panes deal with the local host or your computer There will usually be a file tree (A way of describing a group of files on a computer. The top of the tree is called the root directory, and is denoted by /. The rest of the branches spread downward from the root), which shows a complete directory of your system. This will start from the root which means it shows all the drives on your system (A:/Floppy, C:Hard, D:/Disc, so on and so forth) including your hard drive and removable (Flash, USB, memory card) drives. One can nagivate through different folders in this pane.

A similar pane will show the files, rather than the folders, of your system. This is where you can select files for upload or edit. If your file tree automatically opens the root, you’ll initially see a list of drives. If, for example, My Documents is open, you will see all your files and folders inside that particular folder. Right clicking on any file or folder brings up editing, uploading, deleting, renaming and properties options.

When connected, there will be panes for the file tree and file list for the remote host. When connected, you are actually looking at files on another system.

Several other panes are common: a message pane and a transfer pane. When connecting, uploading and downloading the message pane alerts the user to the status (connecting, sending password, disconnecting, upload, finished etc). The transfer pane shows files that are currently transfering or in the queue to be transferred and information about the file such as the size, location direction of transfer (uploading or download), status and ETA (estimated time of arrival at destination.)

File List Pane

Remember, FTP is a technology, not a place. When a user uploads a file, he is uploading it to another system, usually a server (computer) of his webhost. One does not upload to FTP but with FTP.

If that system is set up to be accessable via HTTP, the contents will be viewable on the Internet via browser. If another user connects to the same server via FTP, he will be able to download files already on the remote host (similar to how a user browsing a file via HTTP can save that file with his browser), making FTP a way to transfer files between users without a real time connection.

Any file can be uploaded via FTP; however, not all files can be viewed via HTTP on the internet.

Using FTP is generally more efficient than using a webshell because one can edit or transfer more than 1 file at once (simply select multiple files with your mouse or press shift while clicking on a Windows PC). It also is faster. Those who work frequently with web sites will frequently use FTP. Where a browser-based upload may fay because of file size, this is rarely an issue with FTP.

Transfer Type

Although FTP and FTP clients are fairly straight forward, there are some advanced options frequent users may consider. One of which is transfer type. There are 2 types of transfer: binary and ASCII and if a user uses the wrong type, files may become corrupted. Generally, FTP is set to autodetect the type of transfer and most users will not have an issue. Your files may become corrupted if the wrong transfer type is selected.

ASCII transfer is used for text files such as:

  • HTML (HTM, DHTML, SHTML, PHTML)
  • CGI, PL
  • PHP
  • INC
  • XML
  • TXT
  • CSS

Binary is used for non-text data such as:

  • Images (JPG, GIF, BMP, PNG et cetera)
  • Archives (ZIP, RAR)
  • Applications (EXE)
  • Proprietary formats (DOC, SWF)

Transferring a text file in binary will cause you to lose all formatting (like like breaks and indents.)

CHMOD

CHMOD stands for change mode. When one “CHMODs” a file ,one is stting the permission of who can read, write and execute the file. Some file types will only be edited by the owner and may allow someone access to the serve with the wrong permissions. Other files need to be edited by scripts or the browser. Generally, most personal web site owners will only need to CHMOD files or folders when installing a script, otherwise the script will not work.

One can usually set the permissions via FTP by right clicking on a file or folder and selecting “Properties,” “Attributes” or “CHMOD.”

chmod

Settings

Each FTP client will have different settings. These usually include the home directory (the first folder which will show in the local file pane) and the text editor of choice (Notepad, Word, Textpad, et cetera), maximum number of transfers, transfer type settings. language, and interface (appearance, date, time).

Most FTP clients also allow a user to save log in information for quicker log in. This is especially helpful if a user has several FTP accounts.

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