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  1. Computer Skills
  2. Networking
Computers

Quick Tip: FTP Into a Server With Finder

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Difficulty:BeginnerLength:ShortLanguages:

You've just set up a new website and you’re very excited to customize it, but adding a custom logo entails accessing the server via FTP. You may wonder what on earth that is. It stands for File Transfer Protocol, and it’s a quick way of uploading to—and downloading files from—a server. 

It all works just like the filesystem on the Mac, but there is special software to manage it. Cyberduck and the like are great tools, but they aren’t necessary. Accessing a server can be accomplished via command line, but if you’re more of a graphical user interface type of person, Finder is the perfect pre-installed tool for you. 

In this Quick Tip, I’ll show you how to connect to a server using FTP in Finder and move files around. I’ll also explain the limitations of Finder and why a third-party app may be necessary.

Connecting to a Server in Finder

Two servers I may work with.

Talking to a server using Finder is a very straightforward process. Before you begin, you will need the server’s address, FTP login information, and a capable Internet connection. The first two items can be obtained from your Web host.

  1. Open a new Finder window by clicking the app’s icon in the Dock or by using the Command-N shortcut when the cursor is on the desktop.
  2. Open the Go menu and select Connect to Server or use the Command-K shortcut to open the Connect to Server window.
  3. In the first field, enter the server’s address. You can use the public IP address of the host, ftp://192.168.1.1 format, or the domain ftp://example.com format. Note: if you don’t use a protocol, like ftp://, Finder will automatically use AFP, which the server most likely doesn’t use.
  4. Click Connect or press Enter on the keyboard and wait for an authentication window to appear.
  5. Log in with the FTP username and password. You may be able to log in as a Guest, but your ability to view or modify files will be very minimal. Press Connect or Enter on the keyboard once you’ve finished filling out the fields in the authentication window.
Logging in to a server
Logging in to a server

Tip: Add a server to your favorites list for faster access by inserting its address into the applicable field and clicking the + button.

Navigating the Server in Finder

An authenticated FTP connection with the username and server address in the menu bar
An authenticated FTP connection with the username and server address in the menu bar

Now that you can communicate with the server, it’s time to work with your files. Please note that Finder is designed to be read-only when it comes to servers, so you can only download stuff or check what a file name is for your front-end code.

Finder’s server connection is similar to regular file and folder management, save for it being read-only. The interface will not include the sidebar, though you can bring it back by selecting Show Sidebar in the View menu. Other than these little things, files will behave the same as they always have.

Tip: Don’t forget to disconnect from your server when you’re finished by clicking the Eject button beside it in the Shared section of Finder’s sidebar.

More Advanced Solutions

What you get when you log in as a guest Pretty boring
What you get when you log in as a guest. Pretty boring

In this tutorial, I’ve shown you how to access your server using the file transfer protocol and Finder. I also explained that Finder is a read-only FTP client. 

If you want to read and write to your server, I suggest using a free tool like Cyberduck or FileZilla to get started. When you get into more advanced file operations or need a better interface, check out Forklift, my FTP client of choice. And remember to have fun out there.

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