June 4th, 2013


How to configure and use the Windows 7 native FTP client ("program")

As usual, this was not completely intuitive, but it's still a pinch easier than it was in Windows XP. Oddly, I couldn't find any tutorial on this, but I was able to figure it out. (On XP, it was so hidden, I couldn't do this without outside help; it turned out that you have to explicitly turn on the ability to add network locations, and later turn it off because it takes up too much room in Windows Explorer.)

Start > Computer. Right-click on the right side panel; Add a Network Location. Next. Choose a custom network location. Next.

There is no Windows dialog for the four elements, (username, password, server name, directory path on the server); they need to be combined into a single URL, entered as:
(The directory path is often not needed, and thus can be collapsed to a single slash, but you'll often find yourself returning to this later to better manage your work.)

e.g., For AboutTh.is, currently hosted on Stephen Pickering's Rackspace Cloud Sites account, the URL looks like:

Not sure if ftps: (secure FTP) is supported, and if you're using a special port number, you'd follow the server name by a colon and that port number before the first slash.

Also note that the URL approach means that certain special characters which are legal for the password itself can't be directly supported in the URL, and likely need to be escaped, if this can even be done.

For security purposes, FTP servers typically don't publish everything from the machine's root, which means that you'll usually not use the full directory path on the machine (which is /mnt/stor13-wc2-dfw1/418424/762775/www.aboutth.is/web/content/ in my case, if anyone cares).

Next. Optionally Open when Finished. Finish.

A new folder will now appear in/under Computer, where you can use it to view and manage remote files, or you can Copy and Paste Shortcut to wherever it makes more sense for you in your local computer's file organization. To upload or download files to/from your FTP server, simply drag-and-drop (using two Windows Explorer windows) or copy-and-paste. No separate FTP program needed! The ongoing simplicity makes all of the above malarkey worthwhile.

Note that Windows 7 displays your password in the clear in places like the bottom of the Computer screen. Frustrating, but deal with it.

Another frustration is that there's no way to edit the configuration, e.g., when you change your account password. I imagine that this is stored in the Windows Registry somewhere; I'll leave that as an exercise for the reader.