Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The best free FTP program you never heard of

This program automatically sends any files that have changed to your server. Make a change, click, it's done. Wonderfully simple and easy, and the ftp itself is faster and easier than many other programs, such as Dreamweaver.

You won't find it in any directories of ftp programs

Why? Because it's a full-featured XHTML editor that works on many platforms. Not to disparage it as an XHTML editor (for example, it includes features such as HTML Beautify, HTML Validate and jump to closing tag), but I use it almost exclusively for ftp.

It's called Arachnophilia, it's been around forever, and you can download the free self-installer for Windows here, and download it for other platforms as a Java .jar (Mac, Linux, etc.) here.

Once you have installed and opened the program, Alt-F opens the FTP service window. Simply type in your settings, click "Rehearse" (to see which files will be sent) and then click "Execute." It's lightning fast.

Ridiculously easy to use and setup

I've circled the key ares in blue below when you first set up the Arachnophila FTP service:

  1. When you first enter settings, the window does NOT offer to save your settings, but they are saved nonetheless. Don't bother looking around for some kind of "save my setttings" button--there isn't one. Just select a site number, and type in a name, and after you're done and come back to this dialog box, your settings will be there waiting for you.
  2. Be sure to click the "Save password" checkbox for your convenience.
  3. The "Level" slider will NOT show enough detail for you to see what's happening unless you slide it most or all of the way to the right.
  4. Before you click "Execute," which will upload all your changed files, click "Rehearse." Among other things, this will tell you how many files will be uploaded. There are a number of oversights you can make that would cause unexpected files to be uploaded. For example, you might have moved some files over to your ftp location without thinking that they would appear to Arachnophilia as "new" files that need to be uploaded. There might be files you meant to delete, but didn't. And so forth.

Tips and tricks

It allows you to save up to 32 presets, so I commonly set up several presets for different folders within each website I work on. Remember to uncheck "Scan subdirectories" if you only want it to look in the main folder. Even if you don't change much in the subdirectories, it's easier to maintain if you limit the files it checks.

The first time you run it, of course, it will ask to upload all files in the directory you point it to, because it has no record of which files have been uploaded before. Simplest is just to let it upload everything, even though this will overwrite your remote files on the web server unnecessarily with your local files.

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