How to Use an FTP Program

How to Use an FTP Program

When you want to publish files to your web server, you need an FTP program (File Transfer Protocol). Many HTML editors already have a built-in FTP function and many web hosts allow you to upload files via a web browser.

Both options work well, but an FTP program can be a better alternative because they include more features and more control over the file transfer.

This guide shows how to get started and use an FTP program and the basic functions when sending files to your web host. This is not a detailed review of all functions available, but the essential to get you started.

There are many FTP programs to choose from and they offer near enough the same functions and interfaces.  CuteFTP is highly rated and you can try it for free for a limited time, but must pay a fee once the trial runs out. In this guide, we have chosen to use FileZilla which is free and open source software.

Download and install FileZilla

FileZilla is free and open source and available in both FTP client and FTP server. In our example we will use the FTP functions to upload and download files from the web server.

1. Download FileZilla here:

2. Select "FileZilla Client".
Downloading FileZilla

3. Choose your operating platform. For example, Windows (64bit).

Downloading FileZilla client for windows

4. Once the file has downloaded located it on your computer double-click on the icon and the installation process will start.

5. Agree to the license terms.

Agreeing to the terms and conditions of FileZilla

6. Select all users or just me.

Confirming who can use FileZilla on your computer

7. Install FileZilla with the default settings. If you want a desktop item tick that box as well.

Choosing which components you want to install within FileZilla

8. Confirm where you want the software to be installed. Normally this is in program files.

Choosing file location where you want FileZilla installed

9. Click on finish the installation button and start the program.

Confirming the installation of FileZilla

Making a connection to your web server

FileZilla allows you to add multiple connection details in Site Manager. Select the menu "File/Site Manager" or click on the "Site Manager" button in the top left-hand corner.

FileZilla main interface

Select "new site" and enter a name of your choice. It's probably best to choose the name of your website.

Entering your site details into FileZilla

Enter the "host", "user" and "password" given to you by your web host. Choose port 21 as default or leave the field empty if no port needs to be specified. Select Normal logon to see the fields for "user" and "password".

Enter the host, user and password

Test the connection to your web server with the "Connect" button!

If the connection is successful, you should see your remote location and the files and folders.

Below are the files in the folder "public_html" but other common name is "www" or "www_root" etc. Click on the folder to open it.

Files in the folder

Transferring files

An FTP program shows the file structure on your local computer and the remote computer (server) side by side. In this example, the remote computer (web server) is on the right and the local computer to the left but it may differ depending on the FTP program you are using. Make sure that you open and selected the correct destination folder on the Web server, and then select the folders or files you want to upload from your local computer.

To transfer files from your local computer (left) to the web server (right) you can drag and drop files. Another method is that you select the file or files and folders to transfer, right-click on the file/folder and select "Send".

Transferring files

If you want to transfer files from the web server to your local computer, select the files, right click on the folder and select "Download".

ASCII or binary file transfer?

Standard Mode for transferring files is "Auto", which means that most of the files are transferred in binary mode. You do not normally need to change anything here, but if you experience problems with the files after the transfer, it could be that the files transferred are using the wrong method.

ASCII is a form of "text" and is used to remove extra characters such as line breaks to work with any server program. CGI files is an example of the type of file that can be transferred as ASCII if it fails to run on the web server. ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) uses 7 of 8 bits in the transmission and it was an advantage when "broadband" did not exist and modem transmission was standard. Binary files use all 8 bits during transmission and is used for files, images, databases, music files, video and compressed ZIP files.

If you need to select the transfer type, you can do by clicking on the "transfer" tab and select "transfer type" it will then give you the option to transfer files in either ASCII or Binary.

ASCII or binary file transfer

  • CHMOE - specify file permissions

  • CHMOD (change mode) is a method used to change the properties and rights for files and folders on Unix-like systems. Most FTP programs have functions to change the CHMOD and features may have names such as "file attributes", "Change Mode" or "file permissions". Several web hosts have a web based control panel where you can change the CHMOD instead of using an FTP program.

    File permissions is assigned to the three groups. Owner permission, group permission and public permission. The example below show CHMOD with FileZilla FTP.

    CHMOE - specify file permissions

    To change file attributions, simply select a folder and right click and select "file permissions".