FTP Clients

When my site reached 150 individual pages in Spring 2005, I realised that I needed a more efficient way to get all the pages from where I developed them on my home PC to the website server via the internet. Before I was using the site’s file manager, which could only upload twelve files at a time and each one had to be individually selected via the Open File dialogue window. This is extremely time-consuming and it would take over an hour to do update all the pages on my site. Indeed, the limitations of the file manager were making me update the site less and less.

Then I remembered that years ago I had used a program which uploaded files directly from the folder on my PC to the server without having to select them one at a time from a clumsy dialogue window. However, I could not remember what this program was called and so I looked for other programs which had support for the File Transfer Protocol. It turns out that Internet Explorer supports it, so that is what I started using.

I use a desktop size of 1600×1200 pixels and that is the size of the full version of the images on this page.

Internet Explorer 6.0

IE making a mess

Overall, IE makes an awful FTP client. Endless messageboxes in confused orders being created at unpredictable moments really ruin what is otherwise a simple and easy to use program. I will test IE7 when I get it and will add a note about it here but IE6 gets a very poor verdict from me.

My host already had a default password-protected FTP account set up for me. All I had to do in IE is enter the URL address to the FTP part of the server, then right-click and select "Login As..." and finally enter the account username and password. As one would expect from Microsoft, it is very easy to use, it matches the normal Windows Explorer programs, it generally does what you think it is going to and it asks you what to do if it predicts an error might occur. However, one criticism I have of Microsoft products is the incessant message boxes they throw at you get infuriating for people who know what they are doing. When using IE for file management they really do get absurd.

My website is spread out over twelve folders including the root which contains the homepage, error pages and the CSS file. IE offers no way of simply scanning the website folder on my home PC and uploading all the files of a certain type, so I have to go into each folder, highlight the website pages and drag them. IE then shows a dialogue saying it is calculating the time required to upload these files (which takes several seconds sometimes) and then shows a message box asking if I want to replace the files on the server with the ones I have dragged onto it. Calculating the time required before asking about the replacing makes no sense, since if you decide not to overwrite one or any of the files the calculation will be completely wrong! It also means you have to wait around for it to run this very slow calculation just so you can tell it to upload the files you told it to upload.

There are lots more of these annoying little quirks in the FTP support of IE, such as whenever it completes anything or displays a dialogue or shows a message box, it grabs the focus immediately. This means you can be merrily typing away in a program whilst it uploads and then suddenly a message box appears without warning. Since it is so sudden, you end up finishing the word you are on before you realise that the message box has taken your typing to be your answer to the box! If you are in a game when it does this, it will often cause a fatal error and if you are playing multiplayer it can be impossible to resume the game again. Aside from just being really inconveniant and obnoxious.

One you get over the annoyance of it pestering you for attention at every opportunity, I actually find it can upload all the pages of this website faster than any of the other clients tested. Being able to keep dumping files on it while it uploads so they get queued is a major plus.


FileZilla with the queue height I want

Overall, a well-meaning and feature-rich program which really needs some serious refinements. Endless little bugs and oddities prevent this ambitious project from being the really useful tool it is trying to be. Nothing to do with Mozilla.

When I first got FileZilla and started poking around I was very happy with what I saw. Extensive settings options arranged quite sensibly, a very flexible interface and the ability to use multiple settings files are all very impressive features. However, some of them do not work and there are some obvious options which are missing. An example of a setting which doesn't work is the height of the file queue at the bottom of the window. I set this to just a few lines (first image) but every time I load the program, it has grown to dominate the window (second image). An example of a missing setting would be the option of removing the clumsy "Local Site" pane since Windows Explorer is a far more conveniant way of browsing the HDD of your computer.

FileZilla forgetting the queue height

There are lots of other bugs and ommissions, such as the Remote Site listing does not show an icon for most filetypes, even ones like *.html and *.png which are essential to a website. The various dialogue windows which it has for setting up FTP accounts, changing file attributes and customising the settings cannot be resized. So, if you have a small screen they take loads of space and if you have a large screen they cannot be opened out at all. Most of the dialogue window interfaces are badly squashed up in some places and waste space in others.

There is no facility to scan a local folder and its subfolders for files of a certain type and upload all of them to the server, retaining the subfolder structure. You cannot drag-drop files onto the folder you want; you have to double-click the folder, wait for it to open and then drop them. When you double-click a folder, the cursor does not change so there is no obvious indication that the program is doing anything. With FireFox, when you click a link it shows a small hourglass next to the cursor and this is very helpful since you do not need to look over to another part of the interface to see if your click was acknowledged by the program. The toolbar buttons look very shabby and on my 1600×1200 screen they are so tiny it is difficult to click on them. The toolbar has a drag handle on the left...but you cannot drag it anywhere. In fact, you cannot customise it at all.

At least it doesn't cover the screen in message boxes and progress windows, though.


Really full of bugs. Sometimes remote the remote file list does not display the files, although they are there because you can right-click them and get properties. The folder operators "." and ".." are in the remote view treelist but if you select them it causes an "Error 505" for every file in the folder you were viewing. There are some neat interface touches, such as being able to collapse the treelist and the file listview retains the column proportions during resizing. The log view box works just like the ones in other FTP clients. It doesn't have drag-drop support from the desktop or from Windows Explorer, which is probably the fastest and certainly the easiest way of moving files around.

Basically, lots of bugs and only basic features. It runs as a tab in FireFox which sounds quite conveniant...problem is that the program is still in development and not really ready for a proper review.


A highly professional tool which is full of useful, stable features which are well suited to the intermediate and advanced user. Features are hard to discover and very technical to use, so this is a bit of a specialist tool.

I am still writing this review. There are so many features I havn't had time to try!