While SFTP To Go provides our users with the server end of secure cloud storage, you’ll still need a client to transfer your files. Some prefer to use a command line, while others make use of a programming library, but the vast majority of users, techies and mere mortals, use simple and easy to manage GUI clients.
We would like to help you compare and contrast different file transfer clients, as they can all be very similar. What a basic FTP client allows you to do is upload, download, rename, or delete files on an FTP server. It also lets you manage, organize, and edit files. When deciding on an FTP client, it is important to pay attention to a few differentiators: make sure that the client supports your operating system, that it allows file transfer through the required secure protocols, and that it actually makes transferring data with FTP a more manageable task. This requires a user-friendly interface, with sorting, filtering, bookmarking and search file options, and perhaps additional features you might need such as bulk actions, synchronization or automation.
Note that while some of the clients are open source and free to use, others require a paid license. You should choose depending on the desired features and compatibility with your system and file transfer needs.
Here is a list of some the best FTP GUI clients out there:
Available only on Windows, WinSCP is a popular, open-source, free FTP client and it’s a great simple solution for your file management needs. This FTP client features an easy to use graphical interface, with an option to choose between two interface looks: dual-panel or single panel interface, and customizable tabs.
WinSCP allows for multiple sessions, and its resume options let interrupted transfers complete. Other features are connection tunneling, and an integrated text editor that enables you to edit local and remote text files live on the server. It supports several protocols for file transfer: FTP, FTPS, SCP, SFTP, WebDAV or S3.
Other interesting usability features include options to easily compare directories as well as filter masks to exclude or include certain files when performing bulk operations. There’s also a synchronized browsing option which upon entering a certain directory on the local system, automatically enters the parallel directory on the remote server. Last but not least, WinSCP’s interface also supports multiple languages.
As for automation, you can make use of WinSCP’s command line interface (or CLI for short) and scripting options in order to automate synchronization tasks. You can read more about using WinSCP to automate synchronization here.
This popular FTP client is available on both Windows and Mac OS, and like WinSCP, it is also open-source and free, though it does have a donation prompt, allowing you to support the developers if you wish to.
Cyberduck has a modern look and offers a clean, easy to use, GUI. Cyberduck supports file transfer protocols such as FTP, SFTP, FTPS, WebDAV, Amazon S3 and Google Cloud Storage, and can also connect to many cloud storage services including Google Drive, DRACOON, OpenStack Swift cloud, Backblaze B2, Microsoft Azure & OneDrive and Dropbox.
Cyberduck has all the basic features we’re accustomed to like drag-and-drop functionality, file search, pause & resume downloads and uploads, the ability to create and quickly organize bookmarks and passwordless authentication with SSH keys. Cyberduck also has its Quick Look feature for quickly viewing and previewing your files, even remote ones. Cyberduck integrates with any external editor application for editing your files. Bookmarks are easily organized and can be imported from other programs too. Another advanced feature is the ability to regulate the number of data transfers running simultaneously to improve performance.
Cyberduck also has a CLI tool named “duck” which allows running upload, download, and sync automations, and another, relatively new product worth mentioning, called MountainDuck, which lets you mount a remote file server as a new drive on your computer, so you can just use your Windows Explorer or Mac Finder to browse files, and even auto sync files to a local folder.
Panic, Inc.'s Transmit works exclusively on Mac, and with a price tag of $45 for a single-user lifelong license, its interface looks great, while also remaining user friendly and easy to use. It also has a bunch of cool features like batch rename and adding labels to files (like you would on your mac) making it easier to categorize and locate files. You can add the local or remote folders you most frequently access to the favorite folders list, to access them with a single click. Another feature is allowing users to regulate bandwidth limits if needed. Transmit offers various authentication methods to verify the user, including password authentication, public key authentication, Two-factor authentication, NTLM and HTTP Digest authentication.
Transmit supports protocols such as FTP, FTPS, SFTP ,WebDAV and S3 and is capable of integrating with Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft Azure, Backblaze B2, DreamObjects, Microsoft OneDrive, Rackspace Cloud Files, Box, OpenStack Swift, and more. In addition to synchronizing a local folder with a folder on a remote server, it also boasts local-to-local and remote-to-remote synchronization which allows you to synchronize two local folders, or two remote servers (by implicitly downloading to your local machine and implicitly uploading to the other server).
One downside we noticed is that due to its reliance on MacOS's Automator which has a 2 minute timeout for actions, synchronization on Transmit cannot be fully automated. In many cases, 2 minutes just won’t cut it for the sync process to be completed.
Though unlike some of the other options here, it’s not free, Transmit is available for a 7-day trial, so you can judge for yourself if it’s worth your while.
Forklift, which works exclusively on MacOS, is a popular client among engineers on account of its advanced features. Although it isn’t free, but plan based, and starts at the price of $19.95 for a single-user lifetime license (including 1 year of free updates), it does have a trial version for you to try out. It has a basic dual-pane interface which uses drag and drop to move files, but you can adjust it any way you like. Some of the advanced features Forklift has include syncing local-to-remote or remote-to-remote folders, multi rename, Disklet which lets you mount remote connections as local drives, and the option to search files or filter files by name, kind, extension, and tags on a remote server.
Forklift supports a large variety of file transfer protocols like SFTP, FTP, WebDAV, Amazon S3, Backblaze B2, Google Drive, Rackspace CloudFiles, SMB, AFP, and NFS.
FileZilla is one of the most well known clients, it’s basically a go-to option for many. It actually has two versions, a free one, and a fee based one. The difference between them comes down to supported file transfer protocols. While the free version only allows for FTP/ FTPS/ SFTP, you can pay $19.99 to get a lifelong license and support for WebDAV, Amazon S3, Backblaze B2, Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive, Microsoft Azure Blob and File Storage, and Google Cloud Storage.
One of FileZilla’s greatest advantages is multi-platform compatibility, since it works on Windows, Mac, and Linux. It has a simple interface, though some users find it a bit intimidating, and it has all the basic features you can expect from an FTP client like drag and drop, resume paused or erroneous file transfers, and file search. FileZila also lets you set up upload and download speed, edit remote files, and compare directories.
Filezilla’s CLI allows you to open connections in the GUI, but it doesn’t allow you to automate file transfer, sync or management as opposed to WinSCP, so, no automations for FileZilla users.
That’s it for our FTP GUI clients comparison. We do hope we managed to help you choose the client solution most suitable for your file transfer and management needs. Let’s just quickly go over some imperatives to keep in mind:
- Make sure you choose a client that supports your operating system: Mac users should go with Cyberduck, Filezilla, Transmit or Forklift, while Windows users should go with WinSCP, FileZilla or Cyberduc. If you need multi OS support for your team, Cyberduck and FileZilla are an excellent choice.
- If you want to be able to automate file transfer and management, consider WinSCP or Cyberduck and its command line counterpart - duck.
- Consider how important the advanced features that come with the paid options are for you and whether they’re worth the extra buck.
- Go over the different features the clients have to offer and see what best measures up to your file transfer expectations. Remember that if you experience connectivity issues, they are most likely up to your network or client computer configuration (firewall, etc.) and don’t have to do with the actual client you choose.
We know you’ll choose wisely, good luck.