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Home : Tutorials : FTP : Part 1

FTP Tutorial
Part 1 - Introduction to FTP

Introduction

FTP is an essential part of the internet, not only for people building web sites but also for people downloading files. FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol and is the best way of sending files from one computer to another over the internet.

Software

Depending on what you are planning to do with your FTP software you should pick different ones. There are hundreds of free pieces of software so there is a very good choice. The three software packages I will cover in this tutorial are:
  • Cute FTP
  • FTP Explorer
  • Elite FTP

Each of these has its own good and bad points.

Cute FTP used to be the best shareware FTP program around. It is easy to use and has many functions. Unfortunately, because it has become so popular, the latest version only allows you to transfer one file at a time unless you register. If you can find a copy of version 2.6.* it is an excellent program. You can find Cute FTP here.

FTP Explorer is not such a good program as Cute FTP but it is freeware so there are no annoying nag-screens. It can be downloaded here.

Elite FTP is not such a good program for uploading standard files but I think it works better if you are working with CGI as you can send commands to the server by typing them in. I would only suggest this for CGI as it does not work with some servers properly and for some reason can't rename files! You can download it here.

Downloading Files

One good reason to use FTP is to download files. FTP is much faster than standard HTTP downloads (through your browser). The two ways to download via FTP are quite easy. One is to find the file you want on the internet and then copy the shortcut to the file. After doing this open your FTP program and paste it into the Quick Connect dialog box. Click OK and the program will connect to the file and begin to download it.

The second way to download a file via FTP is to connect to a download site through the software and then navigate through it to find the files you want. Follow the instructions below to connect. Usually these sites allow you to log in using anonymous FTP. This means that you either do not enter a user name and password or use anonymous as your user name and your e- mail address as your password. Two servers you can use to download files are ftp.download.com and ftp.cdrom.com.

Connecting To A Server

Because there are so many FTP programs you could use I will show you how to use FTP Explorer. Most of them look the same, though, and this technique will work with most of them.

When you open the FTP program a connection dialog box will appear (if it doesn't you should run the Site Manager or something similar). It will look like this.

This is the screen where you need to enter all the information for a connection you want to set up. This will be saved so you only need to enter it once. The following may appear on this screen. Some of the names may be different and all of them may not appear.

SettingDescription
Profile NameA name for the profile you have just created on your computer. This is just a name for you to remember the connection by.<
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Host AddressThis is the server the computer will connect to (like ftp.download.com). It will be given to you by your web host or download site.
PortThis is the port on the remote computer the software will connect to. It does not normally need to be changed.
LoginYour user name. If you do not have one put in anonymous (and select the anonymous or anonymous login option)
PasswordYour password. For anonymous login either use your e-mail address or leave blank.
Initial PathThe first directory which will be opened on the remote computer. This is normally not used.
AttemptsThis is the number of times the computer will try to download (or upload) a file if it is interrupted.
Retry DelayThe time between each retry.
Download PathThe directory on your computer where files will be downloaded to.
DescriptionAn area where you can put notes for yourself which will be stored with the connection information.


What Now?

Now you are connected to an FTP site. If you want to you can now go on and download or upload files (it is quite easy to get the hang of). If you aren't sure what to do then read on. In the next part we will cover how to transfer files to and from your computer.

© 1999 - 2001 David Gowans