Cyberduck: Awesome, free FTP

Anthony Caruana
5 December, 2008
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For most people the Internet is all about the World Wide Web and e-mail. However, there are many other applications and protocols that use the Internet such as FTP. FTP, or File transfer Protocol, was designed in ye olden days as a way to move files around the Internet. FTP is to the internet what shared folders are to a local network.

In order to use FTP you need two things: an FTP server and an FTP client. If you’ve got a Mac, then the server part is covered as Mac OS X has a built-in FTP server. You can enable it in your System Preferences by going to Sharing. Enable File Sharing and hit the “Options” button. From there you can enable sharing over FTP.

The second part of the equation is the FTP client. There are literally hundreds of FTP clients for OS X. One of the most popular is Cyberduck. Although it’s freeware, Cyberduck is a very robust and flexible application.

Cyberduck comes in a downloadable disk image file. Installation is dead easy – simply drag the application from the disk image to your Applications folder and you’re ready to go. The program launches quickly and can be set to re-establish previous connections. That’s handy if you frequently connect to the same FTP server as you don’t have to go through the process of logging in and browsing to the folder you were last at manually.

FTP is particularly useful for transferring large files. While we’ve all grown accustomed to email attachments to each other, that simply isn’t practical once files exceed about 5MB. With Cyberduck, we were able to establish a connection to an FTP server, running on a NAS unit, in our home LAN, browse to shared folders and upload and download files easily. If your FTP server can work with encrypted connections, then Cyberduck is perfect as it can handle secured FTP connections. It’s worth noting that the in-built OS X FTP server doesn’t support encrypted connections.

Connections are easy to establish. To make a connection to an FTP server you typically need a username, password and server address. You can either enter those on an ad hoc basis for one-off connections or add them to Cyberduck’s address book if you plan to visit the site regularly. 

Folder navigation was easy. The Cyberduck screen looks a lot like those in Finder so there’s no need to learn a new way of doing things. There are “Back” and “Forward” button for moving through the directory structure you’re navigating. If you’re looking at a long list of files or folders, you can simply type part of a file or folder name into a box to filter the list.

If your Internet connection has only limited speed, Cyberduck can be easily set, through the clearly organised Preferences, to limit upload and/or download speeds. The only extra we’d like to see here would be the ability to limit transfer speeds between certain hours to take advantage of off-peak download allowances.

Australian Macworld’s buying advice. It’s hard to give “buying” advice for something that’s free but Cyberduck is an easy-to-use FTP client that would support the needs of most users. If you need an FTP client, Cyberduck would not be a waste of time to try out.

Product Cyberduck
Type FTP client
Rating 4/5
Pros Easy to use, support for secure FTP
Cons Timed FTP
SRP Free
Reviewer Anthony Caruana

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