File Transfer (FTP) with a Browser


FTP (File Transfer Protocol) is a way you can move files from one computer location (network) to another. To make an FTP connection you can use a standard Web browser (Internet Explorer, Netscape, etc.) or a dedicated FTP software program, referred to as an FTP 'Client'. If you have ever used Fetch (Mac), WFTP (PC) or FTP (Win 95), you are already familiar with some clients for file transfer. Web browsers, like Netscape, can be another ftp tool that is particularly easy to use. This document is about using a web browser, which for students will work fine if you need to connect to the samples directory; if you need access to your home (H:) or web publishing (P:) directories, you need to use Fileway.

See the end of this document for more information on installing and using full fledged FTP client programs.

About Browsers

Web browsers like Netscape and Internet Explorer are comprehensive Internet tools that allow you to do just about everything you need to do on the Internet. In addition to browsing the World Wide Web, you are able to use e-mail, load Telnet, read news and work with the File Transfer Protocol (FTP). For purposes of this document, we'll show you how to FTP using Netscape; the information is the same for Internet Explorer although some of the windows will be slightly different.

Important Note for Internet Explorer 7 Users

Due to changes in Internet Explorer 7, the easiest way to FTP is to use Windows Explorer directy. To do this double click on "My Computer" on the desktop or select it from the Start menu. In the address bar at the top of the window type or paste in the ftp URL (i.e. ) Then just follow the basic steps below.

Accessing Public FTP Sites

If you want to access a public ftp site, simply enter that address just as you would normally enter a Web page URL. The "http:// " that normally precedes the domain string is replaced by "ftp:// ." Here’s an example using a university’s ftp site, which is typed in as:

example of anonymous ftp

FTP to the Samples Directory on the Oakton network (your F: drive)

To access the samples directory, the procedure is almost identical to accessing a personal folder, just replace with

A student named George Washington with the login ID "gwashing1234" would type the following string to FTP into samples:

Here’s an example using Oakton employee John Smith's account. John would type the following string in Netscape's location field:

FTP to the Share Directory on the Oakton network ( your S: drive ) - Employees Only

Oakton Employees can also access the Share directory, just replace with

Here’s an example using Oakton employee John Smith's account. John would type the following string in Netscape's location field:

Uploading and Downloading

Once you are at the ftp site, you will find that it works pretty intuitively. You should click
once on a folder to open it or click once on a file to download it. If you find that the item
opens rather than downloads (as in the case of text files) Windows 95 users should do a right click on the item and choose "Save Link As" in order to save the item on your hard drive. Macintosh users can simply drag the item to your desktop.

If you want to upload a file (for example, to your own account), you can use drag and drop (literally drag the files) to transfer them between your desktop and Netscape. This procedure will work for both ascii and binary files. The mage below shows a file being dragged from a Windows Explorer window to the Netscape/FTP window (note: you may or may not see the name of the file as you drag it over, but you should at least see a small icon near your arrow to indicate you are moving an item).

Once the transfer is complete, you should be able to see the new file(s) in the list.

example of moving file

It is important to note then when you use a browser to FTP the browser will retain your login information for that session (ie, as long as you have that browser active and running). While the benefit of having the browser retain that information is certainly handy, it can pose a security hazard. If you are FTP'ing using a browser that is on a computer in a "public" place, you will want to completely exit the browser to ensure your login information is cleared.

Creating Directories and Deleting Files

Although this is an extremely convenient way to upload and download, browsers do not offer all the conveniences of a full FTP program. Programs like Fetch (Macintosh) and WFTP are still the recommended utilities for creating new directories and deleting files or directories.As mentioned above, they are also necessary for employees connecting from outside the Oakton server firewall.

Recommended FTP Client Program

One excellent FTP program available free for educational use is FTP Explorer. This program looks and operates much like Windows Explorer. It is available for download from Instructions for downloading and installing are available at

Thanks to the Personal Computing Support Center at Boston University for providing some of this material.

Last Update: 1/13/11 jgray