Ottawa PC Users' Group, Inc.
 Product Review 


FileZilla - Open Source FTP
by Alan German

There’s lots of buzz these days about open source software. The story goes that large numbers of dedicated programmers collaborate on a project and develop a robust, multi-featured application, which is made available for use by anyone at no charge. Because the underlying code is available for close scrutiny by so many knowledgeable individuals, any bugs are fixed in record time, and additional features are frequently added. This seems to be true for FileZilla, an open source FTP utility. The program appears to be bug free, has superb functionality, and has been updated within the last couple of months.

Having downloaded the distribution file (
http://sourceforge.net/projects/filezilla/), installation was simply a case of following a few prompts, including acceptance of the GNU general public license agreement. There are several options presented along the way, but the defaults seemed perfect for my needs so I just accepted all the installer’s suggestions, including that of creating a desktop icon. Double clicking the latter launched FileZilla and it was now time to see how this software package worked.

The program has a standard Windows’ menu bar that includes expected menu items such as File, Edit, Transfer and Help. By default, the program displays windows to the file systems on both the local and target machines, but also features two unlabelled windows. Running the program, and transferring a few files, showed these to be a log of the program’s activities, and an active queue giving information on the files being transferred.

The Help menu has a “Quick Guide to Using FileZilla”, which is an excellent starting point, but there are also more fully featured instructions on the various aspects of the program’s controls and display windows. The instruction manual is a great reference tool although, for the most part, using FileZilla is very intuitive. One minor thing to watch out for is that the main tool bar has a number of useful graphic icons that are not labeled, and do not seem to pop-up an explanatory text box when the mouse hovers over any of them. In fact, the text is shown on a status bar at the bottom of the program window so, while the information is available, it may not be immediately obvious.

Perhaps one of the most useful features of FileZilla is accessed through one of these icons, the R button, which stands for reconnect. Pressing the R button reestablishes a connection with the last server to which you were connected, and automatically switches to the last used folder on this server. The help file indicates that this is useful when you've lost the connection. In my case (and I suspect for most users) this is a far more useful function, since most of my FTP transfers are to a specific directory on my ISP’s web server. Thus, hitting the R button instantly connects me to where I normally want to be.

However, FileZilla has lots of ways of doing things. In addition to reconnecting to an FTP server, the program has a Server Manager where, as with most FTP utilities, one can set up and store parameters used to access a number of different FTP hosts. There is also a QuickConnect bar where basic connection parameters can be entered. A QuickConnect drop down menu can be used to access the ten most recent server connections. So, if you use several FTP servers on a regular basis, they are all easily available in this manner.

The program’s display windows are extremely flexible with just about everything being capable of being turned on or off and resized. The View menu is extremely powerful for setting up the various display windows precisely how you wish to have them configured. If the default screen layout, with its multiple windows, is too busy for you, just turn some of the windows off. There are also several ways in which the file lists for both the local and remote directories can be displayed. While I couldn’t seem to avoid the relatively large number of sub-directories being displayed for the target directory on my local machine, I could minimize their impact on the display by setting View - Local List View to “List” rather than “Details”. This eliminated the display of parameters such as the size, type, and date last modified of each file, and squeezed more file names into the window. This is my preference since I’m only interested in transferring a number of specific files from the particular target directory, and generally don’t need to know details about the individual files to be transferred.

The transfer process itself can also be initiated in several ways. Perhaps the most intuitive method is to select files on the local machine and then drag these to the remote machine’s directory window. The reverse process works if you wish to download files from a remote machine. Right clicking on a file pops-up an upload/download menu. Double clicking on a file adds it to the transfer queue and starts the transfer process automatically. Alternatively, individual files can be added to the queue and files in the queue transferred at the press of an icon.

FileZilla is an FTP utility that is very powerful and yet very easy to use. Best of all, being open source software, it’s freely available for your use.


Bottom Line:

FileZilla, Version 2.2.9 (26-Oct-04)
Freeware (open source)
Tim Kosse et al., Open Source Technology Group
http://sourceforge.net/projects/filezilla/


Copyright and Usage
Ottawa Personal Computer Users Group (OPCUG), Inc.
3 Thatcher Street, Ottawa, ON  K2G 1S6

The opinions expressed in these reviews may not necessarily
represent the views of the OPCUG or its members.