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Mac FTP: A Guided Tour
Pages: 1, 2, 3

Captain FTP

Captain FTP also stands out from the crowd, because of its unusual interface.

It's a Cocoa app but you might not think that when you first open it up. The toolbar, for example, is set to show only text by default, a very unusual choice on the part of the developer.

Captain FTP

Like Fugu, it uses the two-pane approach, making side-by-side navigation of the local and remote filesystems nice and simple.

What takes some getting used to are the buttons and controls underneath the file listing:

Captain FTP's odd buttons

I only grokked the meaning of one of these (Refresh) by resorting to the tooltips and program documentation to find out their purpose. There's a learning curve here, not to understand the features, merely get used to the interface. it turns out that if you Control-click on any of these buttons, you can customize it to a function of your choice.

But if you do take the time to get used to the interface, Captain FTP isn't a bad little client. I found it quite speedy.

The feature I liked most was the concept of virtual folders, which is an excellent way of adding or updating files on servers you access frequently. It works like this: having connected to a server, you choose a directory on it and click the Virtual Folder command. This creates a new folder on your Mac, which is uniquely tied to the remote one you just selected. Any files saved in your virtual folder, or simply dragged on top of it, will be uploaded automatically.

At the bottom of each window is a Working Directory line, showing you where you are locally and remotely. You wouldn't guess it by looking at it, but this line is editable, making it a convenient way of jumping from place to place among filesystems.

Captain FTP might not make a good first impression; I didn't like it to begin with. But there are nice features on offer which make it worth a little patience.


Two words jump into mind when using Transmit: slick and friendly. It has an added sense of fun that you simply don't see anywhere else (except, perhaps, for Fetch's little running dog cursor).

Panic Inc.'s application is just bursting with features, and is a pleasure to use. It allows you to edit remote files with any local application, talks Spotlight-speak, has a smart little Dashboard widget, and comes with useful Automator actions and optional AppleScripts (.zip file).


Transmit also offers tabs, but by far the nicest bunch of tabs yet. Each FTP connection is clearly separated from the others, yet easy to get to. Like many other clients under the spotlight here, it now supports .Mac accounts, WebDAV, and FTP-SSL/TLS, and it can seek out FTP servers elsewhere on your network using Bonjour.

Transmit's droplets are a very nice touch. Any of your favorites can be edited and saved as an icon; drag any files on it, and they'll be uploaded. Similar functionality can be enabled with the Transmit Dock icon. As with Captain FTP's virtual folders, this is incredibly useful for frequently changed files, although Transmit's implementation is fractionally easier to set up.

Final Word

FTP clients, like many things in this world, will all do a broadly similar range of tasks equally well. Some of them may have extra widgets (or Widgets) that others lack, and some may do certain advanced tasks that their contemporaries won't. But on the whole, you could use any of the apps we've covered here and not have any complaints.

And we've only mentioned a fraction of what's available; there are plenty more clients you could try.

If you're a student, or work in an organization where keeping costs down matters, your obvious choices are going to be Fugu and Cyberduck. By contrast, if you're a web professional who spends a lot of time using FTP, the most feature-rich clients are going to have the greatest appeal--Interarchy or Transmit.

Giles Turnbull is a freelance writer and editor. He has been writing on and about the Internet since 1997. He has a web site at

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