Any time we see online user reviews that include phrases like "thunder god," we are at once both skeptical and curious. Skeptical because, let's face it, is anything really that good? And curious because, well, what if it is?
The freeware, open source FileZilla is a cross-platform FTP, FTPS, and SFTP client. It is fast, easy to use, easy to configure, and best of all, reliable. It runs on Windows (XP, 2000, and Vista), Linux, *BSD, and Mac OS X and is available in a variety of languages. A Windows-based server edition is also available for download.
Downloading FileZilla is easy, requiring only a few simple clicks. Installing a new version over an older version will not alter existing settings, and a recent addition to the application allows for the choice between All Users and Owner during installation.
The latest FileZilla release includes a number of other positive changes, especially improved drag and drop functionality as well as the ability to drag files from FileZilla into Windows Explorer. In addition, the CTRL+A keystroke combination will now select all files in a file list.
The current version also addresses a number of previously existing bugs in the software. FileZilla should no longer leave behind empty files in the wake of failed downloads. The system also better manages the number of simultaneous connections.
All these enhancements only serve to make an already good thing better.
One of FileZilla's most attractive features is its ease of use, starting with a familiar Windows-style layout and traditional toolbar. Multiple panes within the default setup may look a bit busy for some, but these display areas can be easily resized or pushed aside to open up the workspace.
Once you're in, you'll find a program sporting a range of helpful features.
A user can initiate a transfer in a number of different ways. Most simply, it's possible to click and drag files from the local machine onto the remote machine via a directory window. Alternately, double-clicking will add a file to the queue and launch the transfer. A right-click will bring up an option to upload or download.
In terms of sheer usability, FileZilla delivers a number of powerful features. A multiple transfer function for example can support more than one transfer thread at a time; that's a big help when manipulating numerous smaller files.
If multiple threads aren't enough, FileZilla will go you one better by allowing multiple instances. That is, more than one copy of Firezilla can be up and running at the same time. In practice this offers the possibility of uploading to multiple FTP servers or connecting to a single FTP server as more than one user.
FileZilla has a number of features that serve to ease frustrations. For example, the application's keep-alive function can keep you from tearing your hair out by maintaining FTP connections, allowing you to keep up productivity despite most Web hosts' habit of nixing a connection after a few minutes of inactivity.
FileZilla also supports the increasingly popular "passive" setting that has been adopted by a number of FTP applications in response to blockades put up by routers and firewalls. In effect, a "passive" setting tells the sending and receiving machines to channel all communications through a port generated by the client.
Once you have all these settings fine-tuned to your liking, the site manager function makes it easier to FTP by storing all of a user's connection details and logins.
There are some quirks in FileZilla that one might hope to see addressed in future iterations. As a primary example, take a look at the main tool bar, which puts forth a smattered of useful icons. They cover such functions as refreshing title and folder lists; toggling the processing of the transfer queue; and filtering the directory listings.
You won't know that simply by mousing over these icons, however, as no text box explanations appear. Instead, the text is shown on a status bar at the bottom left of the program window. It's there if you look for it, but still, it is one of the least intuitive aspects of the program.
A further quibble: The default icons could be a little more aesthetically pleasing, although it should be noted that customizable interface themes are available in the newer releases that can be used to replace the default icons.
Still, if these are the worst of the complaints, we clearly are in pretty good shape here.
FileZilla stands shoulder to shoulder against a number of FTP clients, many of which have been well received in the marketplace. In some cases the chief differentiator is a matter of cost: FTP Commander Deluxe, for example, sells for $49.95, and the venerable CuteFTP starts at $39.99, while FileZilla is free — oh, have we mentioned that major selling point yet?
This article was first published on WinPlanet.