Five of the best FTP clients around – for both Macs and Windows
An FTP client gives you a graphical way to interact with files on your server, which comes in really handy when you’re managing a WordPress website (or other types of websites, too!).
Looking for the best FTP client to manage files on your server? In this post, we’ve collected five great FTP clients for all operating systems, including Windows, Mac and Linux.
Note: While we’re calling these the ‘best FTP clients’, all of these programs do, of course, support the much more secure SFTP connection method. You should always connect over SFTP instead of FTP whenever possible.
Best Free FTP Clients
For most users, a free FTP client will totally get the job done, so don’t feel as though you need to crack open your wallet just to get a solid FTP program.
In terms of interface design, the free clients don’t always have the most beautiful experience, but, functionality wise, a free client should be able to do everything you need it to (and then some).
WinSCP is one of the most popular free FTP programs for Windows users.
It offers two different interfaces — an orthodox file manager ‘Commander Interface’, where you’ll see local files on the left and remote files on the right. Or, an ‘Explorer Interface’, where you’ll only see your remote files. For reference, the screenshot above depicts the ‘Commander Interface’.
Of the free FTP clients, I’d say WinSCP has one of the best-looking interfaces — and the ability to choose between the two different interface approaches is quite convenient.
To connect, you can use FTP, FTPS, SCP, SFTP, WebDAV or S3 protocols. And if you want to store connection details, WinSCP encrypts your passwords and lets you set a master password to unlock stored connections.
Other helpful features include:
- Integrated code editor to help you to make changes
- Workspace saving (e.g. save multiple sites you’re connected to for easy reuse later)
- File queue
- File resume
FileZilla (Windows, Mac, Linux)
Along with WinSCP, FileZilla is one of the most popular options when it comes to free FTP clients, and it’s also cross-platform with support for Windows, Mac and Linux.
However, unlike WinSCP, there’s some controversy with FileZilla. Some people don’t like that its SourceForge installer comes with bundled offers (e.g. it tries to get you to install other programs). I personally use FileZilla (installed from the project’s site — not SourceForge) and have never had an issue with malware. However, you should be aware of what some people say, as this is a popular criticism.
With that out of the way, let’s get into the details…
First off, FileZilla’s interface definitely looks a little dated, especially when compared with WinSCP:
But it has a good list of features, including:
- File transfer resume
- Tabbed interface
- Master password to store connection details (FileZilla used to be bad about securely storing passwords, but it now lets you encrypt stored passwords behind your master password)
- Remote file searching
Beyond the free version, there’s also a $19.99 Pro version that adds support for other protocols, including Amazon S3, Google Cloud/Drive, Microsoft Azure and so on.
Cyberduck (Windows, Mac)
Cyberduck is a popular free FTP client that works on both Windows and Mac. In addition to supporting FTP and SFTP, Cyberduck also supports a number of other protocols including:
- Amazon S3
- Google Cloud
- Cloud storage services (Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, etc)
In terms of interface, Cyberduck is much more minimal than both WinSCP and Filezilla. By default, it only shows you an explorer view of your server, and it opts to put the file transfer queue into a separate popup:
So, if you like having that dual-pane view with a local file browser as WinSCP and FileZilla offer, you’ll probably want to pick a different FTP program.
To edit files, Cyberduck lets you choose your preferred text editor, which lets you work in a familiar interface. And it also includes other nice features, such as file resume and synchronization.
Best Premium FTP Clients
Coincidentally, both of the premium FTP clients are for Mac only. While you can certainly find premium options for Windows, there’s really not much that differentiates them from WinSCP or the other free options.
In fact, in doing lots of research on social media for this post, I didn’t come across a single person who recommended a premium Windows FTP client (though there were plenty of recommendations for the following two Mac FTP clients).
When it comes to premium FTP programs for Mac users, Transmit is definitely the most well-known option. It comes from Panic Inc, which is the same team behind other popular tools such as the Coda editor.
The first thing you’ll notice is the interface. It just, well, seems way nicer than pretty much every free FTP program with its clean, simple looks:
In addition to core protocols such as FTP, SFTP, WebDAV and S3, Transmit also includes support for 11 cloud services including Google Drive, Dropbox and more.
The latest version — Transmit 5 — offers big speed improvements, and it also has helpful features such as:
- File sync
- Batch rename files
- Two-factor login to secure connection details (including support for YubiKey)
After Transmit, Forklift is probably the next most popular premium option for Mac users.
Two of the big reasons why people seem to like Forklift are its speed and its dark mode interface.
Beyond that, Forklift supports most popular protocols, including SFTP, FTP, WebDAV, Amazon S3 and others.
The interface uses a nice dual-pane view, and it also includes a feature that lets you preview files right in Forklift. For example, you can view pictures or watch videos without the need to download a file. That probably won’t come in handy every day, but it’s a neat feature:
Other helpful features include:
- File sync
- Choose your preferred editor to edit files
- File search
- Workspaces (e.g. save multiple connection tabs and reopen them later)
- Add tags to help organize files
- Bulk rename files
Bonus: File Manager WordPress Plugin
Okay, the File Manager plugin definitely isn’t a full FTP client. But I’m including it as a bonus because if you’re using WordPress it may be able to get you the functionality you need from right inside your WordPress dashboard.
Essentially, File Manager lets you manage your WordPress site’s server’s files from a new WP File Manager tab in your WordPress dashboard. Without leaving your dashboard, you can:
So, if you just want to do some simple file management on your server, this could be one to consider. Just make sure your WordPress admin account is locked down tight, because anyone with admin access will be able to directly edit files on your server.
File Manager has a free version at WordPress.org, as well as a $25 Pro version.
Wrap Up: What’s the Best FTP Client?
While usually there are clear-cut reasons to choose between a free and a premium offering, this decision really just comes down to your preferences, as even the free options should be able to do everything most users need.
WinSCP and FileZilla are great free options if you like the dual-pane approach of seeing both your local and remote files in the interface (though again, make sure you get a clean FileZilla installer).
On the other hand, if you prefer only seeing the remote files on your server, Cyberduck has a really clean interface, is free, and works on both Windows and Mac.
If you’re using a Mac, the two premium options — Transmit and Forklift — both offer really nice interfaces, as well as extra nice-to-have features such as two-factor authentication (Transmit) and detailed file preview (Forklift).
Know of any other top FTP clients for Mac and/or Windows? Any preferences?
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