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Summary:

While I am not sure how many there are, one thing is for certain – there are far more FTP clients than one person needs. This is a classic problem when looking for a piece of software. There are dozens of offerings, but which one is […]

While I am not sure how many there are, one thing is for certain – there are far more FTP clients than one person needs. This is a classic problem when looking for a piece of software. There are dozens of offerings, but which one is the best for what I need. Hopefully that problem will be addressed in this article. Although not every client was included, I tried to demo as many usable clients as I could. There are a lot of clients, and this should help most people figure out which one is right for them.

What Counted

There are a lot of different features for each client. No two clients had the same feature sets, except the one that was clearly a white-label version of the other. Obviously, the most important feature was the client’s ability to do what ftp does: connect, view, and transfer. Every client did this, but some did it better and with more options (i.e. sftp or TLS). As with most Mac applications, the UI was a major part of the score. Not just how it looked, but the usability. The last major scoring point was features such as remote editing, preview, tabs, bookmarks, etc. The Top 5 is a pretty good group of clients, each with it’s own strong points, and all worth their price (except Cyberduck, which is free). After the Top 5, however, there is a sharp decline. Here’s how they stacked up…

The Top 5

1. Transmit – Transmit was the clear winner. It’s as close to perfect as you could want in an FTP application. Easy to use, has nearly every feature, looks amazing, and the demo is actually quite handy. That’s right, even if you don’t want to fork over the cash for this app, I would recommend keeping it in your Applications folder for a rainy day. The demo version allows for 10 minutes of use, which is plenty of time to get something done, and in some cases transfer an entire web site. $29.95 from http://www.panic.com/transmit/

2. Interarchy – Interarchy is not for the novice user. This is clearly an advanced app, but it’s very good at what it does – everything. If you need a full Internet transfer and analysis suite, this is your app. I would recommend this app for anyone who does a lot of data transfers in multiple protocols. The UI is perfect for a pro app, but may have confused beginners. Well worth a try. $39 from http://www.interarchy.com/main/

3. Cyberduck – While cyberduck is missing a few advanced features, you can’t beat the price – free. Keep in mind I did not take that into account when putting Cyberduck in third. It’s a great FTP app. I tested all of these FTP clients, and I can honestly say this is the one I use. Drawers are probably my least favorite OS X UI element, so I always respect an app that manages to use them in a way that I don’t mind. OmniWeb’s tabs and Cyberduck’s bookmarks are possibly the only two I actually like to use. At its price there is no reason not to try this app or at least have it on hand (and now your Adium duck will have a friend in the dock). Free at http://cyberduck.ch/

4. Yummy FTP – Yummy FTP has a clean, easy to use interface, lots of features, and stacks up well against the others above it. It has a neat “DualBrowse” mode that is quite useful. I could live without the brushed metal, but all-in-all, a solid app. $25 from http://www.yummysoftware.com/

5. Fetch – The oldest FTP client in the Top 5, and one of the oldest for Mac, Fetch delivers consistent performance. The interface is not quite as intuitive as Transmit, but it doesn’t get in the way. The lack of resume is the only major flaw. Other than that, it stacks up very well, and is a great app to round out the Top 5.

*Although the Top 5 is in order of rating, any one of these apps would be a great FTP application for most users. Each has their strong points and weaknesses.

The Specs

FTP Spreasheet Abridged
Download full PDF comparing ALL the clients (33KB)

* This data is based on current versions of each application as of August 1, 2006 from each company’s website and from the product itself. The Apple Blog makes no claim that these are entirely accurate, but is simply what data we could find for each.

The Others

Quick notes about the others in the full comparison (in order)…

CaptainFTP – Lots of features but a UI that looks so ugly I wouldn’t recommend the app.

RBrowser – Crippled demo (only FTP), lack of modern Nice to Have features, and it’s high price make this an unattractive app stacked up against the new generation of FTP apps.

SimpleFTP – It’s simple, that’s for sure. Too simple, and on OS X where we expect our simple apps to at least look good, it does not.

Fugu and Son of Fugu – Fugu is clearly the second best free FTP app, but unfortunately it’s far inferior to Cyberduck. Son of Fugu adds nothing.

CuteFTP – Why do I need to give an email address to download this app? Here is the direct link: Download CuteFTP. But, before you download, keep in mind this app lacks most advanced features for the same price as Transmit.

BulletProof FTP – Clearly a repackaging of CuteFTP. Couldn’t they have picked a better app?

ecxFTP – My notes for this app say, “Non-intuitive, featureless, and ugly.” Not to mention it did not even bother prompting me when I tried to overwrite an existing file. It just went right ahead and deleted the old file.

OneButton FTP – Although early in it’s development, it’s already quite bad. I didn’t easily find a way of canceling a transfer, which was about the only thing I did successfully with this app. Avoid it – at least for now.

Summary

If you use FTP all the time, buy Transmit. For advanced users who need more, grab Interarchy. Everyone should have Cyberduck no matter what. For those who have the time, give Yummy and Fetch a try- they are solid apps, and they won’t disappoint. The rest of the apps on this list, simply put, are probably not worth your time. A couple work just fine, but with 5 great apps, including one free one, why bother? What most amazed me is that apps like excFTP cost money.

When taking price into consideration, Cyberduck wins hands-down, but this very good lineup of FTP apps will satisfy just about anyone needing to transfer files. As a final note, I’d like to say that I use two command-line apps quite frequently: ncftp (ncftp.com) and sftp (built-in).

  1. Regarding Yummy. If you don’t like the metal, just turn it off in preferences.

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  2. I’m amazed there are this many options out there!

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  3. I wanted to like Yummy, but it was just too clunky. My next one to try out will be Transmit.

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  4. A couple corrections: Fetch does support resuming transfers (upload and download). It does not have Spotlight support.

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  5. I have used Captain FTP for quite a long time now. Not sure what is considered ugly about it, but performance wise it does everything I need.

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  6. Transmit all the way, baby. I love anything from Panic. They really get what the Mac is about.

    And you didn’t even mention the awesome widget, the DockSend feature and the ability to drop stuff into a local folder and hae it mirrored on the server. Awesome indeed.

    I got the warm fuzzy shareware feeling when I bought it.

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  7. What about FTPeel from http://www.freshsqueeze.com ???

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  8. Transmit all the way. I’ve been using at home for my “after hours” web development work, and love it. We use CyberDuck at work (due to the price,) and while I like it…I don’t *love* it.

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  9. I am not sure how I missed FTPeel. Sorry about that. After looking it over, however, it would not have been very close to the top 5, and it’s development seems to have stopped over 2 years ago.

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  10. I actually use Fugu quite often as an SFTP client. It isn’t as quite as slow as Cyberduck, but it can be buggy. Often requires a force quit-restart.

    You did forget the most important ftp client on the OS X platform, however: the command-line ftp and sftp utilities. They’re lightweight and have gotten me out of binds numerous times.

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