By Lincoln Spector
Do you need a special file transfer protocol program? After all, you can use a Web browser to download a graphics driver or a tax form from the Internet. But browsers are not the best tools for uploading files to an Internet server, and an FTP program can be useful if you're maintaining a Web site or sharing huge files. FTPing a large file to the Internet for a coworker to download is faster and more efficient than e-mailing it.
As its very nerdy name implies, Ipswitch's WS_FTP software originally targeted the technically inclined. But improvements to the user interface make the company's just-released WS_FTP Pro 7.5 (available for $45 retail and $40 by download) accessible to most Windows users.
My shipping copy of WS_FTP Pro 7.5 included plenty of serious tools for users who transfer a lot of data. For instance, it allowed me to keep two folders synchronized over the Internet--a real convenience if your Web site has so many files that you can't keep track of them all. There's also a scheduler, a scripting tool to automate regular FTP tasks, and SSL encryption to ensure that no one except the intended recipient reads your files.
Ipswitch worked to make WS_FTP Pro easier to use. A Site Profile Wizard makes setting up new sites a breeze. And a new set of help files, dubbed "The Assistance Center," offers basic-job tutorials. Although you can now upload a file directly from Windows Explorer, this operation isn't as easy as it looks. And script writing and setting up SSL encryption remain tasks for the technically savvy only.
Most users don't need this level of functionality--and shouldn't pay for it. Many free but less feature-rich FTP programs are available, including the original basic WS_FTP.
From the July 2002 issue of PC World magazine