Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Macworld on FTP

I don’t really agree with Macworld’s assessment of seven FTP clients. The interface section leads off mentioning Fetch’s Get and Put buttons, giving the impression that it doesn’t support drag and drop. It complains that people will find these names confusing, though I personally find them vastly clearer than Transmit’s notion of “your stuff” vs. “their stuff.” (Does it cease being my stuff when I put it on my server?) Teague says that “RBrowser is the most OS X–like of the FTP clients we reviewed”—which is either very generous or very cynical depending on your point of view—and then dings it for having a “complex interface.” He gives props to FTP Client for letting you save droplets that upload files to particular folders, but any scriptable client will be able to do that, and anyone serious about synchronization will use rsync or a similar tool rather than FTP. Teague assigns a lot of weight to previewing capabilities, but I’ve never cared about that feature. He doesn’t seem to care about Edit With BBEdit, manages to imply that Fetch doesn’t support that, and prefers RBrowser’s less elegant alternative. He doesn’t mention the Keychain, AppleScript, batch downloads, Internet Config, SSH, or Kerberos.

Which FTP client do I use? I started out with Fetch because it was good, free, and had some unique features for Dartmouth’s network. I then used Anarchie for many years and was a big fan of its multiple-window interface. I used Fetch when I needed Kerberos. Then Stairways changed Anarchie’s name and got the idea that I’d rather have a skinnable FTP client than security or batch features. I stuck with it through one upgrade because it was OS X–native, but the mirroring feature stopped working for me. This led me to rsync, and I stopped using FTP entirely. Recently, I’ve been doing work on a server that I don’t mirror locally, and so I’ve wanted to edit remote files securely with BBEdit. Teague claims that Fetch supports SFTP, but that’s not true from what I’ve seen, and so I’ve instead been using Transmit. Transmit is a nice, polished program, but I’m not a fan of its single-window interface or drawers, and I don’t understand the difference between its queue and batch download features.

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First of all, I think it's very weird when people say that Transmit has a Mac-like interface. Don't get me wrong, I like Transmit's interface, but it's "two views in one window and clicking on folders opens in the same view" is everything *but* Mac-like. Oh, and the synchronizing feature of Transmit sucks.

I used to use Interarchy, but gave up on it when they started adding all these weird features, then took them out again, then put them into an additional app, then (I think) put them back in just to totally change while charging high upgrade prices and generally not delivering the things I expect from an FTP app.

I'm using Fetch right now. It has a good synch feature and is free for students. Also, it works, which is pretty important and can't be said for many other FTP apps.

The Difference Between Queue and Batch:

Say you have a download in progress and then you attempt another action on the server (such as downloading another file). In this case, a second connection must be made to the server, because the protocol doesn't allow for multiple simultaneous transactions on the same connection.

Downloading multiple files simultaneously in this manner will invoke the queue drawer. After you hit the maximum number of simultaneous connections (adjustable in prefs), they will begin queueing up, and execute in-order as free connections become available.

(If you want to transfer several files in a row without invoking the queue drawer, just do a multiple file selection by using the standard shift-click or cmd-click metaphors, and drag the files over. Transmit will transfer them one at a time over a single connection.)

The Batch Download window, on the other hand, is for preparing a series of files to be downloaded. You can drag files in, re-arrange the order if necessary, but no transfer will begin until you click "start".

At that time, the files will be downloaded, one at a time, in the given order. It gives you a little more control up-front, and the files don't all need to be on the same server.

The final difference is that the Batch Download window supports downloading only, whereas the Queue supports uploading as well.

That helped a bit, Steven. Thanks.

Ouch. If I had known that stevenf reads this blog, I wouldn't have said that "the synchronizing feature of Transmit sucks". I would have said that "the synchronizing feature of Transmit needs some more work to make it fit my particular use of synchronizing" ;-)

Nothing about Panic's software sucks, of course, it's just programmed for a different audience ;-)

I like an app called FTPeel. It works in OS X and is pretty inexpensive. I've registered my copy!

The above paragraph is brought to you by "Duh, Inc." :-)

LKM: No worries. :) If you want, feel free to send me an email on how we can make syncing work better for you.

My web host supports SFTP, and Fetch does not, so in the interests of not having to set up ad-hoc SSH tunnels, I gave Transmit a shot after 2.5.1 came out.

On my machine, Transmit crashes every time I save in BBEdit after the SFTP connection has timed out. I sent Panic support a note about this and never heard back. So I'm back to Fetch and SSH tunnels, until Jim Matthews gets around to incorporating SFTP.

What about Fugu?

I've just been playing with it and find that the SFTP client is actually pretty good. It dosen't have all the bells and whistles you might want but it does have a simple ssh tunnel builder. That would allow Nat to use Transmit in normal FTP mode for it's feature set or, for example, FTPeel which doesn't do SFTP as far as I can tell.

It comes with good documentation built in and it's free. Can't complain about the price.

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