FTP: A Brief Introduction to Three FTP Tools for Bloggers

After all my server problems of last week, I relied very much on a Blogger’s Old But Forgotten Friend, FTP. I was reminded of this when Steve Sutherland of AgentsChat.com dropped by yesterday.

agentschat logos

Steve’s been one of my customers for a while and I occasionally help him on his work with his forums. In fact, it was work on his logos that gave rise to several of my posts: AgentsChat – a whole new look and Creating a Clickable Image Map (both of these posts are of general interest).

Anyway, he was experimenting with hiding affiliate links and wanted to use the .htaccess file codes to create 301 Redirects … but I realized that he didn’t know too much about FTP (and I didn’t know much either). I’ll be looking at these Redirects soon.

So what is FTP?

Well, after reading the Wikipedia article on File Transfer Protocol, you’ll know a lot more than I do, that’s for sure! Simply, though, FTP is a way to send files (ie. data, whether it is pictures, files, text, programs…) from one computer to another. Usually, bloggers will have their own host that is hosted at http://www.yourblogname.com, and for the most part, you will not need to access your files via FTP. In fact, some blogging tools make it really easy to upload, and you may not even realize that you are using FTP.

But there are times when you may need to upload or download files via FTP, such as when you are uploading or downloading dozens of files (images or movies), larger files, or special files; then FTP is the most reliable way to achieve this, and in some cases, the ONLY way to do this. So how do you access your FTP site? Well, for most domains, the website is accessed via the FTP:// command (NOT HTTP://) and your website is found at a slightly modified address: ftp://ftp.yourblogname.com (Yes, you’ll likely need to enter ftp twice).

ftp address bar

Easy Downloading

For most browsers these days (IE6+7, FF2.0, Opera, etc), you can enter your FTP site by entering the address in the address bar. You will be then prompted for your FTP user name and your password. (These are NOT your blog user name or passwords but will have been issued to you separately).

ftp password

You will then find a list of the files at your blog which you can ONLY download. It should look something like this. IE works very similarly to Firefox, too.

ftp index

You are now placed in the ‘root’ or base directory of your account. Here you can see four different folders. But if you are maintaining a website, then you will need to find the directory that has a domain name, investorblogger.com. That is the home of this website. Of the four files here, it is the only one that is visible, but the other files are private files that can’t be accessed via the Internet, except by FTP.

You don’t really need much if you want to download stuff, but uploading is another matter, it’s a little more complicated than downloading, but you need the same basic information, and a new tool, an FTP program.

3 FTP Tools: Uploading large or multiple files

Most reasonable OSes these days include some form of FTP. Windows has two FTP programs, the first of which you already saw. But the second is included in Windows Explorer (not Internet Explorer). Simply open a regular Windows explorer and enter the user name and password, and you will enter the FTP site as above.

WINDOWS EXPLORER FTP

Then you will be taken to the root. And it should look like the following image:

ftp explorer view

This time though the view is different and you can now upload, move, rename and delete files. The FTP actions will be a little slower than Windows Explorer proper, but you will find it easy to use. Take a look at the image to see what I mean. A word of caution: FTP does not have a recycle bin. So if you delete a file, it is gone PERMANENTLY. You won’t be able to retrieve the file via FTP. So tread carefully.

things ftp can do

There are other tools for FTP, but Windows Explorer usually works without too much trouble. You can also find two other great tools: FileZilla and FireFTP (for FF). Remember to download the Client version, not the Server edition.

Using FileZilla

Set up is a little more complicated for these tools, but they have additional functionality, stability and speed. I’ll show you how to set up one tool, and the basic information should be the same for most FTP tools. Naturally, there are variations but they are beyond the scope of this ‘Introduction.’

filezillaftp screen

This is the setup screen from FileZilla, which is available when you start the program, under File >>> Site Manager. Click ‘New Site’. You will need to enter the basic details as above: but first set the Logontype to Normal. Then enter the host details (that’s FTP.yourblogname.com). Leave the port number (the entry key to your PC) as ’21’. Enter the User and Password. Then hit Connect to connect to the server.

After a few seconds, the screen will activate and a bunch of information will fly by. It will look something like this: reduced in size to hide personal information. Sorry!

filezilla logon screen

  • 1. The top box is the messages between your computer and the server.
  • 2. This box is the file structure of your computer;
  • 3. The box is the current folder.
  • 4. This box is the file structure on the server.
  • 5. And the final box below is the list of files you want to upload (if any).

Double clicking on any file in either #3 or #4 will copy the file to the other PC. So if you double click on a file in #3, it will copy itself in a few seconds to the server. Obviously you may need to choose the folder where you want to put it and open that folder first. Double clicking on a file in #4 will copy the file to YOUR computer. Try it. When activating either, the files will be listed in box #5 and the instructions and messages will be listed in #1. Confused? I was the first time. Experiment a few times before you do anything that you might regret!

WebFTP: in your browser

If you are really lucky, and your hosting company is smart (like Dreamhost is!), you will be able to upload files with a neat piece of software called Net2FTP that allows you to perform pretty much every FTP action IN YOUR WEB BROWSER. Dreamhost Web Hosting provides this at http://webftp.dreamhost.com (Yes, that’s http:// … not ftp://…). This kind of tool is very handy if you’re uploading only a few files or you’re not working at home, or wherever it’s not convenient or allowed to install an FTP program.

net2ftp

Which then takes you to the root folder as above:

net2ftp inside view

All of the actions that you can perform are listed in the drop down box on the right. Folders are listed below as folders (well that’s a surprise!) and click on the folder opens and lists the contents of the folder. Don’t be scared to play with dummy files and folders, but don’t delete important things. There is no recycle bin!

Caution: FTP does not have a ‘Recycle Bin’ nor does it have an ‘undo’ function, changes are immediate and permanent!

There are quite a few more intricacies that you will discover as you use FTP and encounter problems. FTP is the fastest and most reliable way to upload and download files from servers. As such, it’s a great tool to learn whichever of the three ways listed here you decide to use the most.

Oh, you can find FTP tools for your CRUZER, too. And remember FTP can also mean a “Friend To Publishers”!

Author: InvestorBlogger

Investorblogger.com takes you on a 'Random Walk To Wealth' through money, investing, blogging and tech. We'll explore my insights, mistakes, and experiences together.

One thought on “FTP: A Brief Introduction to Three FTP Tools for Bloggers

  1. Steve

    Kenneth,

    Thanks for taking the time to post such a helpful article.

    Have a great Christmas.

    Steve

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