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Toolkit item: FileZilla


I’ve been using the Internet since I was a grad student at UT Austin in computer science, starting waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay back in 1979. At that time, and for a surprisingly long time after that (until the late 2000s), one simply couldn’t function online without a good FTP client. These days, FTP — which stands for File Transfer Protocol, and which actually names a TCP/IP-based file transfer service — is mostly a historical curiosity. But occasionally (and especially if you work with or on websites), FTP still comes in handy for file transfer. And today, of course, that means Secure File Transfer (aka SFTP) which is how FileZilla mostly works and should be used.

Let me launch this toolkit item with a general description of FileZilla itself. Simply put, FileZilla is an Open Source project, distributed under the terms of the GNU General Public License (aka CopyLeft, which means anybody can change the code for the project, but agrees in advance to make such changes available for free to the project in perpetuity). There’s another version of the program also available (FileZilla Pro) for the interesting single-copy purchase fee of US$18.81. It adds support for access to Amazon S3, Backblaze B2, Box, Dropbox, Google Cloud and Google Drive, MS Azure, OneDrive and OneDrive for Business, SharePoint, OpenStack Swift and WebDAV to the basic secure file transfer capabilities already present in FileZilla itself.

What’s FileZilla Good For?

A quick look at the FileZilla GUI tells you nearly everything you need to know about working with the program. Local resources (your PC) are on the left and remote resources (the FTP or other server at the remote end of the connection) on the right. Drag a file, folder, or collection of either from the left to the right to transfer from local to remote, and vice-versa to copy from remote to local. It’s just that easy to use. And when you need to transfer files for whatever purpose, it does do the trick. These days with web-based transfer utilities abounding, I don’t use FileZilla very much or very often any more. But it’s nice to have around should you need to transfer files to/from a server that doesn’t provide you with a Web-based facility for that purpose.

Digging Deeper into FileZilla

FileZilla isn’t just a Windows thing, either. Versions for other OSes are also available, including Linux, BSD variants, and Mac OS X, among others. It supports both IPv4 and IPv6 versions of TCP/IP, along with pause and resume capabilities for large files (defined as over 4 GB in size). The local and remote divisions of the UI are tabbed, so that you can manage transfers among multiple pairs of local/remote transfer set-ups (each one requires a separate login and TCP session, of course). You can set up what FileZilla’s developers call “speed limits” on individual TCP sessions, which means you can throttle the amount of bandwidth any such session can consume. The program also includes other nice features such as search and filename filtering, directory comparison (makes it easy to keep local/remote folders or directories synchronized), and even logging capabilities to track how the program is used.

FileZilla also includes comprehensive online Documentation. Its Table of Contents appears below, with live links to many of the topics it covers (I omitted entries for FileZilla Pro and the Server version, but you will find all of those subjects covered under the afore-linked URL).

FileZilla Client
General

Installation on Windows/Linux/Mac OSX
Tutorial
Usage instructions
Fixing connection and transfer problems; Network configuration
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Specific features

Filename filters
Logging in FileZilla
Other features

Special cases

Key-based authentication with SFTP
FileZilla and Windows Vista/Windows 7 UAC
Importing FileZilla 2 Site Manager entries into FileZilla 3

Most users will find the entries on Installing and Using FileZilla most helpful and germane to the program’s successful installation and use. Those sections, at least, are worth a quick once-over before you get serious about working with FileZilla. It’s definitely a useful if specialized tool, and thus worthy of inclusion in any Windows power user’s or admin’s toolkit. Enjoy!

Author: Ed Tittel

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran. He’s a Princeton and multiple University of Texas graduate who’s worked in IT since 1981 when he started his first programming job. Over the past three decades he’s also worked as a manager, technical evangelist, consultant, trainer, and an expert witness. See his professional bio for all the details.

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