ARCHIVED: For Mac OS X, what native FTP and SFTP clients are available, and how do they compare?

Note: In addition to graphical clients, if you are familiar with the Mac OS X terminal, you may use command-line FTP and secure FTP (SFTP) programs from the Unix prompt.

The following clients are the most widely used. In addition to FTP, many (but not all) are also capable of SFTP:

The Captain FTP icon is a red sphere with a jolly roger in its center.

Captain FTP has the ability to split files, download each segment individually, and then reassemble the pieces. Particularly when connecting to servers that limit the bandwidth for each connection, this can greatly improve download speeds. Captain FTP is also an SFTP client. It is shareware available from:

  http://captain-ftp.xdsnet.de/
The Fetch icon shows a dog carrying a floppy disk in its mouth.

Fetch has a long history and enjoys tremendous popularity in the Mac OS community. Though it was not updated for several years, in version 4 it re-emerged as a modern, OS X-native FTP client, supporting server-to-server transfers, resumable downloads, and site mirroring. Developed by Jim Matthews, formerly of Dartmouth, it is available free of charge to users affiliated with academic institutions. For others, Fetch is available as shareware. Visit the Fetch web site at:

  http://fetchsoftworks.com/
The Hefty FTP icon looks like a notched wheel with an H in the middle.

Although Hefty FTP does not have a particularly intuitive interface, it does have a few unique features, such as the ability to schedule downloads and play MP3 files. It also has a separate window that you can use to queue file transfers, pause and restart downloads, and adjust the priority of queued items. It is shareware from Black Diamond; you can visit the Hefty FTP web site at:

  http://www.ziggy.speedhost.com/bdhefty.html
The Interarchy icon looks like a filing cabinet.

Formerly called Anarchie, Interarchy has enjoyed a long history as a favored Mac OS, and now Mac OS X, FTP client. It is one of the most advanced programs of its kind, offering several features unavailable in other FTP clients, such as integration with the Mac OS X Network Utility, and supports a number of protocols including SFTP. It behaves much like the Finder in the way it displays and manipulates files on FTP servers, making it easy to use for those familiar with Mac OS X. Developed by Stairways Software, it is now a commercial product. Visit the Interarchy web site at:

  http://nolobe.com/
The NetFinder icon shows a gray dog running.

NetFinder offers an interface that looks and behaves more like the Finder than any of the other programs. It is very customizable and has a strong feature set. Perhaps its most useful feature is its ability to move files between directories and servers without using the hard drive as an intermediary. Created by Peter Li and Vincent Tan, NetFinder is available as shareware. Visit the NetFinder web site at:

  http://members.ozemail.com.au/~pli/netfinder/
The osXigen icon is a sphere with an O2 and an X in its center.

osXigen is an FTP and SFTP client with several advanced features, including a time zone manager that makes it easier to synchronize with distant sites. It is shareware available from JomoSoft. You may download it from:

  http://www.jomosoft.com/osxigen/osXigen.html
The RBrowser icon shows two computers sitting on globes connected by a blue cable.

RBrowser is a Mac OS X-only application that provides a graphical interface for the FTP, SFTP, and SSH programs built into the operating system. It is a commercial product developed by Robert Vasvari. You may download a demo from the RBrowser web site:

  http://www.rbrowser.com/
The SimpleFTP  icon is an S overlaid on a stylized globe.

As its name indicates, SimpleFTP is an FTP and SFTP client that forgoes advanced features for ease of use. Although its interface doesn't attempt to mimic the Finder, it is straightforward and uncluttered. SimpleFTP is shareware available from On-Core, Inc. You may download it from:

  http://www.on-core.com/
The Transmit icon looks like a delivery truck.

Transmit combines elements of Fetch and the Finder, resulting in a very easy-to-use FTP and SFTP program. Transmit offers a compact and attractive interface that lets you view remote and local directories in the same window. Developed by Panic, Transmit is available as shareware from:

  http://www.panic.com/transmit/
The Internet Explorer icon is a lowercase blue e.

Although primarily a web browser, Microsoft's Internet Explorer also doubles as an FTP client. It has fewer features than the dedicated FTP clients, but its downloading capabilities are better than Netscape's or Mozilla's. Visit the web site for Internet Explorer for Mac OS X at:

  http://www.microsoft.com/mac/default.mspx
The Mozilla icon is a blue M.

Mozilla is the open source web browser upon which recent versions of Netscape are based. It is updated more frequently than Netscape, but its feature set is more experimental. It is less functional than dedicated FTP clients, but has the advantage of combining several functions in a single application. Visit Mozilla's web site at:

  http://www.mozilla.org/
The Netscape icon shows an N against a blue and black background.

Netscape, which is Mac OS X-native in version 6 and later, is a freeware web browser that also functions as an FTP client. It has fewer features than the dedicated FTP clients, but has the advantage of providing several services in one application. Visit the Netscape web site at:

  http://netscape.aol.com/

Client comparison table

For a side-by-side comparison of the clients discussed in this document, refer to the following table. Aside from the standard functions of FTP and SFTP, all clients allow you to bookmark sites and offer at least limited support for drag and drop.

Feature Captain FTP 2.x Fetch 4.x Hefty FTP 1.x Interarchy 6.x NetFinder 2.3.x osXigen 2.0.x RBrowser 3.x SimpleFTP 1.0.x Transmit 2.x Internet Explorer 5.x Netscape 7.x/Mozilla
Resumed downloads* Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
HTTP download No No Yes Yes Yes No No No No Yes Yes
SFTP support No No No Yes No Yes Yes No Yes No No
Multithreaded Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Synchronize local and remote directories
No Yes No Yes Yes Yes No No Yes No Yes1
Move remote files between servers**
No Yes No No Yes No Yes No No No No
Session transcript Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes No2 No2
View remote file Yes3 Yes Yes Yes3 Yes Yes3 Yes3 No Yes Yes Yes
MacBinary upload Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes No Yes No No
Finder-like interface Yes No No Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes No No
Classic version available*** No Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No Yes Yes Yes

Notes:

*The server must also support this feature.

**This implies that the move does not involve the local hard drive. Both remote servers must support this feature.

***Either as a separate version or as a Carbon application that will work in either Mac OS X or in earlier versions of the operating system

1Possible with Composer, which is the web editor component of Netscape and Mozilla

2The web browsers have a history feature that approximates a very primitive transcript.

3It will download the file and open it in the appropriate application. It has no built-in capability to display text files, however.

This is document ajeq in the Knowledge Base.
Last modified on 2010-03-31 00:00:00.

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