WS_FTP is the daddy of FTP software. It’s been around for donkeys’ years, back when the Internet was just fields. We used the old 16-bit version on a 486 notebook to transfer files to our first bit of Web space. Ah, memories…
So much for nostalgia. What you need to know is that this piece of software is designed to make it easy for you to transfer files to and from remote computers. Sometimes that will mean transferring data from live FTP sites on the Net (getting new anti-virus definitions, downloading software patches and so on), although you can do most of that sort of thing just as easily with a browser nowadays.
But what this tool is really for is updating your Web site. Unless you have a very simple site (i.e. the ISP builds it for you) or a very complex one (with a browser-based content management system), you’ll need to upload graphics and HTML pages to it from time to time. There’s a text-based FTP client included with most versions of Windows (run away, it’s got a command-line interface), but a graphical one such as WS_FTP is much more convenient.
It’s certainly simple to use. You start with a selection of FTP sites to which you can connect anonymously and start downloading files, including game demos and other interesting bits and pieces. Adding your own site is simple and you can either include the connection password or leave that field blank for extra security, typing it in whenever you connect.
Once connected, the right-hand pane shows the remote site and the left-hand pane displays the local drive and directory. You can configure the ‘starting’ directory for local and remote drives for each FTP site, to save time, and both panes can be sorted by name, date, size and file type. The program starts with a conventional file listing but you can change this to large or small icons, just as you can with Windows itself.
You can decide which file types are transferred as ASCII and which as binary, or leave the program to decide for itself. You can configure firewall settings to maintain security during the file transfer operation, and you can also integrate WS_FTP Pro with Netscape Navigator or Internet Explorer so that it will handle all URLs beginning with ‘ftp://’, although this isn’t really going to be necessary for most users.
Why the ‘Pro’ in the name? Because this version is designed for professional Web administrators. It has additional features over the older, more basic version, including secure transfer via SSL (for which you’ll need a secure FTP server at the other end, of course), options for scheduling transfers to go at a specific time, or to be repeated at regular intervals (so that your site is updated regularly with less interaction from you) and the ability to handle multiple connections so that you can connect to several different sites simultaneously, bandwidth-permitting.
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