Mac OS X FTP Clients Throwdown

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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).

53 Comments

Rick

Sorry to be pedantic, but this blog has a lot of exposure, and if you learn this once all your future articles will be just a little bit better: The possessive “its” doesn’t have an apostrophe. So, in your sentence

Although early in it’s development, it’s already quite bad.

you should take out the first apostrophe (before development) and leave the first one in.

Mark

Michael,

Thanks for the extensive review. It is very useful for us to see how ecxFTP compares to other clients. In the PDF spreadsheet, ecxFTP is claimed to have no support for Multiple Concurrent Transfers and Connections. However, it is possible to upload multiple files, while making a new connection to a different FTP server. Of course, we admit that the interface does not make it easy to accomplish this, yet.

Please note that ecxFTP is still in beta stage and we are working hard to add several of the missing features. Also, we aim at a niche market. Basically, this means we create it for those who have told us what they miss in other FTP clients while we are not trying to re-create the n-th version of the same thing. Everyone who feels top be missing something in all other clients is welcome to contact us. Contact information can be found at our web site.

Best regards,

Mark Schonewille
Economy-x-Talk

P.S. Could your make a PDF file in landscape format for printing?

Dat Nguyen

I don’t think the price point matters much for this type of software. Transmitt is only $30 — that’s $1 everyday for one month. If you rely on FTP software regularly, it’s a great deal. While Cyberduck is nice, I’d pay the small fee for the extra polish and to support great developers. This isn’t like paying for Joe-cheap-3D-modelling-software instead of Maya.

Somazx

For me, free and opensource outweigh the few features Transmit has over Cyberduck. I like Cyberduck’s minimal interface and it seemed a lot faster than Transmit ever did. I gave up on Transmit like 6 months ago in favor of cyberduck and haven’t looked back since.

gisli h

first application i have ever bought on any computer.

use it to maintain my website and dumb crap on my xbox

Rob

Fetch is free if you’re a student or work for a charity, and personally I prefer it to Cyberduck for it’s ease of use.

GS

I agree too. Transmit if your a novice. Interarchy if you want to do anything serious. I used to use Transmit but outgrew it. Now I use Interarchy.

Interarchy is to Transmit what Aperture is to iPhoto.

Techscraper

I have to agree. Transmit is a real pleasure to work with and deserves the top honors. The droplets are a godsend…

olof

I would really like to se a mac verion of Flash FXP.
Its the absolute best FTP program I ever used.

hackand

I hate don’t like Cyberduck. It gives me way too many spinning beachballs, it is quite unstable and slow on my system (Intel iMac 17″) and the UI is most of the time slow and not so comfortable to use.

Matthew Drayton

Hello Andrew,

I think your comparison chart has a couple of missing features for Interarchy. Interarchy supports spotlight and has a Quicksilver plugin. And Interarchy 8.2, which is currently in beta testing, supports Growl.

Regards,
Matthew

Michael Marmarou

Ezra, I did mention them at the bottom. I do use ncftp and sftp frequently for quick transfers, and also my job requires me to be ssh’ing to other computers, so I am forced to use command-line.

To all: Please note that I said just after the Top 5 that all 5 make very good apps. I am sure everyone has there preferences, but I would recommend all 5 to anyone.

Jon Harris

Don’t shoot me down in flames for ignorance – but what’s wrong with Dreamweaver, especially if all the website files you are creating are created using that same program? Interested to know why people feel such a strong need for a separate client?

fallenrogue

I want to like Cyberduck…mostly because of the price point. But it crashes anytime I move anything upwards of 2 MB. Downloaded Transit and never looked back. Great list!

Andrew Stone

I use commandline apps rarely in OS X but for FTP most of my ftp requirements are well served by NCFTP. Does all the nice stuff like file transfer resumption that some of the more mature GUI based FTP apps do but NCFTP uses almost no resources so it chugs away in the background. If you are dealing with a flakey connection that can timeout easily NCFTP will trounce Transmit or Interarchy almost every time for uninterrupted transfers.

Anyway, commandline apps are only for a few of us who don’t mind working that way but if you are comfortable with the commandline NCFTP should be able to serve 80% of your FTP needs and for the situations where you are transfers a file in this directory, two in that and then 3 in that directory – then a GUI based FTP app is the way to go but for whole directory transfers if you do commandline thing you should be using NCFTP.

Dennis

Yummy is the one for me. After months of trying all of the above, it just felt better to me at the time. I would consider Transmit with the latest version as it seems better than previous versions. Since I have paid for Yummy I will stick with it, plus the developer is very responsive in the forums and by e-mail.

Dennis

Michael Nowlin

Interarchy supports Amazon S3 storage (a cheap – secure online backup solution)

Thomas

Used Transmit, CyberDuck and YummyFTP quite regularly, I have to say that YummyFTP beats out CyberDuck for sure and even edges out Transmit. It’s got a cool history area that makes tabs un-necessary.

Jacques Lema

I recently tried Disk Order, which is kind of a Total Commander clone (which many ex-windows users will recognize). It has a nice FTP feature too.

Other than that I use cyberduck which is nice. The only regret is of course that as any other java app it’s not as snappy to launch.

Ezra Spier

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.

Michael Marmarou

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.

Tony

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.

Charlie Sorrel

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.

Dan

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.

Jim Matthews

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

Poster

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

Tor

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

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