FileZilla is one of the most popular and used FTP clients. The program, distributed as open source software under the GNU GPL, allows you to transfer files to and from any FTP server. Among its advantages we certainly include its ease of use, but it does not hide the additional features much more advanced. Keeped constantly updated (new releases of the program are periodically released), FileZilla can be used in many ways. For example, you can use it superficially for a long time, simply dragging and dropping files and folders of interest from one pane to another (the window that reflects the content of the remote server and the one containing the files hosted on the local system) or immediately discovering the many “pearls”.
In this article we propose to illustrate some of the lesser-known features of FileZilla, focusing especially on those that are most useful for the user or for those who need to manage many websites remotely by interacting with their FTP servers.
First of all the main window. As soon as it is installed, FileZilla is proposed with a structure that only at a first glance can appear chaotic. In reality, everything is easily intelligible.
In the top horizontal pane, the FTP client shows the list of messages received by the server and highlights serious errors that may occur with the color red.
Immediately below, in the form of two columns side by side, the program presents the content of the local system (the personal computer you are using) and the one detected on the remote FTP server. Until a connection is established, of course, in the right column will remain the message “No server connected”.
Finally, at the bottom of the window, FileZilla displays the so-called transfer queue. Here the software shows the file and folder transfers in progress and also indicates the direction of the flow (to the remote server or to the local system). Clicking on the File in Queue tab (default choice), you have the complete list of items waiting to be transferred while clicking on the other two “tabs” you can check for unfinished and successful transfers.
In the Host, Username and Password fields, you can specify the parameters for accessing any FTP site. After entering them (in Host you must enter the IP or the address of the FTP server to be reached), clicking on Quick connection you must immediately obtain the contents of the root directory set on the remote system.
If you do not fill in the Port box, FileZilla will default to port 21, which is usually used for all connections with “clear” data exchange, i.e. without using the SSL/TLS encryption protocol.
Referring to the window File, Site Manager, you can organize all the access credentials to connect to the websites to be managed. In addition, acting in particular on the Advanced tab, you will have the opportunity to enable some additional features such as “synchronized navigation”.
By clicking on Connect, you will be attempted to link to the website added to your “address book”.
If you choose to “Interrupt previous connection and connect to the current tab”, FileZilla will close the connection already in progress and immediately start the requested one. Otherwise, if you choose the first item, the connection to the new FTP server will be activated in another tab.
At this point you should make a brief digression focusing on a topic that is usually ignored: the security aspect of authentication information.
All the credentials for accessing the various web servers, whether you use the fast connection mode or use the “address book” (site manager), are saved by FileZilla as plain text. In other words, the program does not use any cryptographic algorithm to protect this data on the user’s hard drive. Anyone who has “physical” access to the machine used by the user to manage his FTP servers, therefore, could unduly get their hands on the login credentials, even without having the password for the Windows account.
To protect yourself from any risk, our advice is to encrypt the files in which FileZilla notes user names, passwords and addresses.
By dragging one or more files between the two boxes shown in the figure, you can copy from and to the remote FTP server all the materials highlighted.
Go to the View menu and then check Synchronized browsing (which can be activated, as previously mentioned, for any FTP site from the “Site Manager”), you can “browse” the various folders and subfolders simultaneously, both on the local system and on the server.
It is necessary, of course, that the general structure of the folders stored on the client and those stored on the server is similar otherwise the function will not operate properly.
The use of synchronized navigation is very useful, for example, when you have to find the same file on both the local system and the server in order to perform operations (such as changes).