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An Introduction to FTP

20 Aug An Introduction to FTP

FTP, or file transfer protocol, is the way files are transferred to and from servers. These servers house all your WordPress files, and can really store just about anything you want (pictures, videos, etc.) although making them viewable online is an entirely different story. For now, we’ll just take a look at how to upload and download files. In the future, we’ll take a look at managing databases (to interact with your files), file permissions (who can read/write/execute) and more.

First, we’ll need an FTP client. I use a client called Transmit. But, we can also work with a free client, called FileZilla. If you think you’re going to be doing a lot of file manipulation getting a paid client like Transmit is easily worth it. With Transmit, you can download a file directly into a text editor, edit the file, save it and have it automatically upload back to the server. A very convenient alternative to the free client like FileZilla.

In order to use any FTP client, we’ll first need credentials. These include: domain, username and password. All of this can be set up from your cpanel (or hosting provider login), under the FTP info. YOU set it up. Create your username and password.

Now that we have our domain, username and password we can go ahead and login. It’s a little different for every FTP client, but for FileZilla it’s at the top (followed by a button that says QuickConnect). Once you login, you’ll see a list of files come up on the right hand side. Those are your sites files. If it’s a WordPress site, the only files you should edit live under the wp-content folder and the themes folder within that.

On the left hand side of your FTP client, you’ll see another list of files and folders (called directories). These are your local files and folders. They live on your computer.

To upload and download files, simply drag the files (or folders) you wish to edit. So if you want to change a file from your server, first download it by dragging it from the right side to the left side.
Note: change your local location to put the files in a strategic place. This will help you when cleaning up your local machine.

Once they’re downloaded and on your computer you can do with them what you like: edit, delete, etc. And then re upload them back up, simply by dragging them from the left side back to the right side. Make sure you’re in the correct location on the server, because where you put them WILL make a difference.

Since they’re not actually being executed on your local computer, where you put them on your local computer doesn’t matter. For example, if you drag the files from your server to your desktop or your downloads folder it won’t make a difference. But, if you upload them back to your server in one folder, when they should be in another, it will make a difference.

So, why is this useful? Often using the WordPress editor in the dashboard is hard to read. It can be good for one or two small changes, but when you need to bulk edit files it’s tricky to read with no markup. Downloading files to edit them locally allows you to use your editor of choice. This often makes reading and writing much easier as syntax is often highlighted.

That’s it for now! We’ll take a look at FTP clients more in depth and how they relate to WordPress, but knowing how to download and upload files is a good place to start.

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