Questions on Software, Files, and File Transfers (FTP)
Locating and transferring software and files
© 2007 Walt Howe
(Last revised 13 April 2007)
What is FTP?
File Transfer Protocol. The Internet protocol that permits you to transfer files between your system and another system. You can use any of three approaches to transfer files:
- your browser's limited FTP capability
- programs like WS_FTP, CuteFTP, or Fetch
- FTP command language that can be run from a DOS prompt or from Start/Run in Windows or older shell accounts
I have a DelphiPlus account. What is my Delphi web site FTP address?
If you use your own FTP software, you will be prompted for your username and password. With some software, you can set it up to automatically enter it. If you use an FTP URL with a web browser, you must enter your username as part of the URL or you will get an error message. Delphi Forums has an oddity where the username must be entered twice separated by a % symbol. You can use either of these forms with a web browser with Delphi:
Accounts created after November 2007 use a different form of name. In this case, the username format should be username%delphi instead of username%username.
What software do I need to use FTP?
Limited FTP capability is built into most browsers, and you can use an FTP URL to get files. Some browsers also include the ability to put files from your system to another system using drag and drop from directory software like Windows Explorer. But if you are going to put files elsewhere very regulary, such as when you are maintaining multiple web pages, you will need FTP software. The older shell accounts normally include built-in FTP software, usable with FTP commands. If you are using a dialup or networked account, you will need your own sofware. Windows 95 and later comes with its own FTP software that can be run from MSDOS or in a dos window from the Run function. To use it, you need to know the basic FTP commands. There is a lot of friendlier software, like WS-FTP for Windows, that automates the FTP process for you so that you don't have to remember the command structure. See Delphi's FTP FAQ for recommended software for Windows and Macs and detailed instructions for using it
How can I find software and files I need?
There are several approaches to searching for software and files.
- One is to use one of the general Internet
to find the files you need. Most common files are pointed to by web
sites, and the search engines' web indexes will then find them. Directories like Yahoo can also help you find what you need.
- Another approach is to use the software collections of major sites like ZDNet and C|NET
How do I get or put software and files with FTP?
What are the basic FTP commands for manual FTP?
If you know the ftp URL
or your browser is already pointing to a file as the result of a search,
your browser can handle most file transfers for you.
If you know the name and address of a file, you can create an ftp
URL for your browser to get it for you. For example, if you want to download the
latest version of Netscape and you know that the address is ftp.netscape.com, type the
following URL in the location window:
You can add specific subdirectories after the address, separated by
slashes, if you know them.
If you know the full path and filename, you can make the URL still more
If you don't know the full path and filename, you can browse the
subdirectories to find the file you are looking for.
If you are logging into a private account, such as Delphi's webspace, that requires a username and password, you can use this format URL:
You can also omit the password, if you don't want it recorded in your browser's history, and just use:
You will then be prompted for the password.
You can log into your Delphi webspaces with these URLs:
A more flexible approach to retrieving files is to run ftp
software of your own. It gives you more control, and can solve problems that your browser may not be able to. It lets you control whether ASCII or binary mode is used, and it is easier to transfer multiple files. See the Internet Software Guide for recommended software for your computer and operating system.
If you are using a shell account or software that uses a command mode to run FTP, you need to know a basic set of commands. They may differ slightly from one operating system to another. Here are the most common ones:
Opens the ftp software. If you follow it with an ftp address, it completes the connection.
If the ftp software is already running (you will usually see an ftp> prompt), use the open command followed by an ftp address to connect to a site.
Changes to the named subdirectory. Successive subdirectories can be chained together in one command, separated by slashes.
Changes to the next higher directory. The double dots can also be chained with slashes to move more than one level.
The chmod command changes file permissions. Typically, the permissions are set to read, write, and execute for the owner, a specified group, and the individual. For example, "rwx r-x r--" specifies that the owner can read, write and execute, the group can just read and execute, and the individual can just read. The command syntax can vary a lot from system to system, and is not explained here.
ls or ls -l or dir
Various forms of directory commands. Try them all and see their effects.
Make a new directory
Remove a directory
rm or del
Various forms of the delete command. If one doesn't work, try the other.
rename or mv
Various forms of the rename command. In unix, the syntax mv oldname newname effectively moves the old name to the new name.
Get (download) the named file from the remote system to your system.
Multiple file get. You can use wildcards, such as *.gif or list each filename in turn.
Put (upload) a file from your system to a remote system.
Multiple file put.
Sets ascii (text) mode for subsequent transfers. Use with HTML files.
Sets binary mode. Must be used for all binary files.
help or ? or man ftp
Calls up more help. If one doesn't work, try another.
Are there any restrictions on filenames?
Note that there are some restrictions on filenames. To avoid compatibility problems, use only letters, numbers, and underlines in filenames. Avoid spaces and special characters completely. Rename files before uploading them, for best results. Always end a filename with a common extension, such as .jpg or .gif.