Choosing the Best FTP Client

By Cody Arsenault
Updated on May 10, 2023
Choosing the Best FTP Client

While most web hosting dashboards try to make managing files as straightforward as possible, a good File Transfer Protocol (FTP) client can further simplify the job for serious web developers. There are certain cases where a solid FTP client is required, such as uploading data to a KeyCDN Push Zone. Mandatory or not, FTP clients allow users to quickly download, upload or update website files without navigating endless dialog boxes.

In addition to being equipped with cipher suites for encrypted FTP transfers, most FTP clients are lightweight and consume few resources. If you were to ask 100 developers to name the best FTP client, you'd probably get 100 different answers! The best client for you depends on many factors, so here is a guide to the most popular free and premium options to help you decide which one best matches your needs and preferences. We have listed clients in a randomized order; this is not a ranked list.

The Best FTP clients on the market

  1. FileZilla
  2. Cyberduck
  3. WinSCP
  4. Transmit
  5. ForkLift
  6. Commander One PRO
  7. Free FTP
  8. SmartFTP
  9. Core FTP LE
  10. WS_FTP® Professional

Some of the best FTP clients are very similar in features and interfaces. Some are drastically different. We recommend you first check which FTP clients are supported by your operating system. Then consider our detailed reviews below!

Let's get started.

1. FileZilla

As far as free FTP clients go, FileZilla is a favorite among developers thanks to its intuitive UI and impressive protocol and cipher suite support. This lightweight, multi-platform FTP client typically installs in under two minutes, so you can get to work right away. However, FileZilla's biggest selling point is the comprehensive set of documentation the FTP client comes with, making the learning curve less steep than many other clients. Features such as filename filters and the ability to compare two directories make juggling a large number of files more manageable. Some web developers who are partial to GUIs may turn their noses up at the limited UI, but this simple FTP client is powerful enough for most jobs.

Notable FileZilla Features:

  • FileZilla is completely free open source software.
  • FileZilla is one of the very few FTP clients where it doesn't matter what machine type you have.
  • The FileZilla community is active and thriving, which means updates are common, and you can interact with users and developers.
  • Support documentation is plentiful, with a full development help section, FAQs, a support page, and a forum.
  • The side-by-side display on the main screen makes it easy to interpret where your files are being moved to and the status of a transfer. The FTP client supports several protocols, including FTP, SFTP, and FTPS.
  • The client is available in many languages and can be used worldwide.
  • The remote file search feature ensures that you never scan around to find them manually.
  • You get remote file editing, so you don't always have to log in to your host account.
  • Bookmarks are provided to save your place and remind you where the files are.
  • You can transfer large files. Most files larger than 4 GB are supported, which is better than some competitors.

To note: There have been several reports of malware and virus downloads from the SourceForge website (which offers a FileZilla download). Always make sure to download directly from the FileZilla website to get the safest and most reliable download file.

2. Cyberduck

Cyberduck is well known for its visually appealing UI and also has a wealth of options for keeping your files organized. The "Quick Look" feature allows you to easily preview files, and the Transfer section offers plenty of choices to help streamline synchronization. What makes Cyberduck a great candidate most is the easy integration of external editors and Integrated Development Environments (IDEs), which allows for instantaneous file editing. Like FileZilla, Cyberduck is open source and multi-platform, but there is currently no GUI Linux version, unfortunately. Integration with system technologies like Finder and keychain makes Cyberduck especially appealing to Mac users.

If you're a die-hard Linux fan but want to see what Cyberduck is made of, you have the option of grabbing the core behind it, available as a command-line application for Linux. Check out the documentation on Cyberduck's wiki on how you can install duck and give it a go!

Notable Cyberduck Features:

  • Cyberduck runs as an open source project at no cost.
  • You can easily download the client for both Windows and Mac computers. It allows you to connect via multiple protocols such as FTP and SFTP.
  • Cyberduck also offers transfer support for some of the most popular third-party cloud storage platforms, such as Google Drive, Microsoft Azure, and Dropbox.
  • The Cryptomator feature ensures that all your files and transfers are encrypted and secure by adding an extra layer by encrypting each file individually.
  • There are no backdoors either, as you don't have to register or create an account.
  • You can use an external file editor to change all your documents.
  • Sharing files is quite simple with the help of a URL generator.
  • The bookmark tool has features to log history, imports, files, and more.
  • You can easily browse by using the quick look feature or looking at the general overview for large folder structures.
  • Everything can be transferred via Cyberduck. This is achieved with the help of a drag-and-drop module. You can also synchronize and copy and paste.
  • Cyberduck has several integrations, such as the keychain password protection and the Bonjour auto-discovery platform.

3. WinSCP

WinSCP is another free, lightweight client similar in most respects to FileZilla. Initially created as a tool for securely copying files between two computers, WinSCP also serves as an excellent FTP client. Consequently, WinSCP's key feature is its superior security, which came along naturally with its age and the fact that it's an open source project. WinSCP automatically uploads your alterations to the remote server when you save the file. The only downside for some developers is that WinSCP is exclusive to Windows, but regular Windows users will find this client's UI to be extremely intuitive.

Notable WinSCP Features:

  • WinSCP runs without any fees.
  • The documentation and support tools are better than some of the competitors.
  • The client enables transfers via SFTP, SCP, FTPS, FTP WebDAV, and S3.
  • The graphical user interface allows you to visualize your work more clearly and understandably.
  • You can integrate the text editor of your choice.
  • Tasks and scripts can be automated by creating rules.
  • The client translates into multiple languages for support in many countries.
  • All files are encrypted when sent via WinSCP.
  • If you want to use the client for your company or if you want to deny certain people access to certain files or functions, you can set administrative restrictions.
  • You can customize the user interface to suit your needs.
  • WinSCP is constantly connected to your current workspaces and restores the entire workspace should you lose something.

4. Transmit

Transmit, an FTP client exclusively available for Mac has a large developer following. Apple enthusiasts will grasp the UI right away. Furthermore, multi-connection support ensures the stability of your large transfers. Transmit is an ideal FTP client for you if time is critical for your projects. In addition to the standard features, you can set advanced server preferences in the Transfer section.

Transmit provides a free trial version. However, the main software sells for a price of $45. This is for one license only. If you buy multiple licenses, you get a small discount, which benefits companies that need the extra copies. For example, ten copies of Transmit cost $43 per copy.

Notable Transmit Features:

  • Transmit does not offer a free version, but the price is reasonable, and you get discounts if you buy multiple licenses.
  • It covers the basics like FTP, WebDAV, and SFTP. However, it also allows server integrations with services like Rackspace, Dropbox, and Backblaze.
  • Transmit supports Amazon CloudFront.
  • The Client has a drag-and-drop system for uploading and synchronizing files in no time.
  • Parallel connections allow for blazing transfer speeds.
  • You can manage files on multiple servers simultaneously.
  • In case something goes wrong with your computer or remote server, Transmit has a "Panic Sync" tool that will safely store your data in another location.
  • It is one of the fastest clients on the market, with intelligent searching in complex folders and fast multithreading.

5. ForkLift

ForkLift is a dual pane file manager and file transfer client for macOS. Thus, this FTP client is not interesting for Windows and Linux users. Moreover, it is worth mentioning that it is a premium software in advance. So, if you are looking for a free client, this is not the one for you.

Remote connections are provided for cloud storage like Amazon S3 and Google Drive or protocols like SFTP, FTP, and WebDAV. In addition, you can connect to multiple servers at once, giving you more flexibility when you need to do more than one transfer.

The main file manager connects your remote servers to the local environment. You can connect to multiple servers at once and copy between them with drag and drop. Moreover, the side-by-side comparison lets you see everything in one window and move from file to file. It's a sleek new interface that should come with the elegance Mac users are used to.

ForkLift has a free trial, but the core software requires a $29.95 payment for a single-user license. Priced at $49.95, the family license can be used for all user accounts on all Macs in your household. However, businesses and educational institutions are excluded from purchasing this license. The small business license costs $99.95 and can be used on up to five Macs. ForkLift also offers educational discounts for teachers and students.

Notable ForkLift Features:

  • Although ForkLift is not free, it has reasonable lifetime pricing and discounts for students and teachers.
  • You can sync all your favorites between computers with the use of Dropbox.
  • With ForkLift, you can right-click and copy Dropbox files and instantly drag them into ForkLift files.
  • Several remote connections are available, including WebDAV, Amazon S3, and Google Drive.
  • ForkLift supports transfers with SFTP and FTP.
  • The transfer module includes a preview window to review important details from all files. For example, you can play an audio file or view an image.
  • The multi-rename tool lets you select a large group of files and rename them all at once.
  • ForkLift has options to set your preferred editor. This means that all file editing is done outside of ForkLift but then synced to the software.
  • Eyes relief and more concentration on work with the possibility of changing your interface to a dark mode.

6. Commander One PRO

Commander One has a free version that you are welcome to download. However, we focus more on the premium Commander One PRO FTP client for a few reasons. First, the feature set is far better when upgrading to the Pro version. Second, the personal license for Pro is only $29.99. After that, you can get the team version for $99.99 (five licenses) or the corporate plan (50 licenses) for $149.99.

As with ForkLift, Windows and Linux users can skip Commander One PRO. If you're a Mac user who needs multiple connections and a highly customizable interface, Commander One PRO may be for you.

Commander One PRO supports transfers with SFTP, FTPS, and FTP. It is a reliable and fairly fast client for quickly transferring, uploading, and moving items from server to server. Multiple connections are possible, and tabbed browsing makes your workflow more efficient. The new release Commander One PRO 2 leads to many cloud syncing options like Backblaze B2, Box Cloud, and Amazon S3. All these servers are connected with the help of a nice connection manager. This way, you always have access to your connections in one place - even if you have five or ten connections simultaneously.

Notable Commander One PRO Features:

  • Commander One has a free version and offers an extremely affordable premium version with unique features.
  • The client has great support for compression files. Some of the compression versions include RAR, ZIP, and TGZ files.
  • Commander One PRO supports numerous languages such as Spanish, French, and Hungarian.
  • You can choose from a variety of color themes.
  • The encryption service ensures that your files are protected during all transfers. This happens between local, cloud, and remote servers.
  • It allows you to connect to an Android device for file management on your smartphone or tablet and can also be installed on all iOS devices.
  • Commander One PRO can be useful for analyzing metadata because it includes a file viewer to see which media items are currently in your files.
  • For improving your workflow and speed up finding specific files, you can assign hotkeys.
  • The client has a large list of connections it can use, including Google Drive, Amazon S3, OneDrive, and Dropbox.

7. Free FTP

Free FTP doesn't contain all of the bells and whistles that premium tools offer, but it's likely to satisfy a lot of developers just for this reason. It has one job and one job only: Make transferring files secure and quick. If you really like "Free FTP" but want some extra treats, the company that made it offers a premium version with more advanced features called "Direct FTP". The premium edition has features that mostly aim to speed up software development.

Notable Free FTP Features:

  • Free FTP has both a paid and a free version.
  • File permissions are available to protect your work and ensure that the right users can see and manipulate what they need.
  • There is a simple drag and drop editor with a side-by-side comparison to view all folders in both your local and remote servers.
  • It is worth emphasizing that the user interface is very effective and simple for all users. Thus, it is very easy to bookmark and track the progress of your files in the main window.
  • The quick archive functions ensure that you can back up all files and folders without fear of losing anything.
  • The full version offers a code completion solution that suggests and completes elements such as HTML tags and attributes for you, minimizing some of the strain on your fingers.
  • All transferring and browsing operations are logged in a history module. So if you ever forget where you put a file, you can always go back in time to locate the file.
  • The status bar at the bottom of the client lets you quickly see if an error has occurred or when files are being transferred.
  • Free FTP offers support for more variations of FTP than other competitors. For example, you get support for HTTPS, SFTP, TSL, FTPS, and SSH.

8. SmartFTP

The premium version of SmartFTP is another great option for professional users, thanks to its extensive protocol support. In addition to performing important tasks like backup, SmartFTP has a Visual Compare feature that allows you to easily keep two directories in sync. The integrated editor is perfectly suited for professional developers as it contains convenient features like syntax highlighting. If you're curious about SmartFTP, the limited version can help you get a feel for the client, but you'll have to pay to enjoy all of its features. Fortunately, you can get plans for multiple users at a discount. Unfortunately, SmartFTP is only available for Windows.

Notable SmartFTP Features:

  • It is ideal for a wide range of professional projects.
  • The client supports FTP, FTPS, SSH, SFTP, and WebDAV, as well as Amazon S3, Google Drive, and OneDrive.
  • Since version 4.0, the client has an integrated and developer-oriented text editor with syntax highlighting for programming languages like HTML or PHP.
  • SmartFTP enables secure mobile file sharing via TappIn.
  • SmartFTP's interface can be extended to include languages other than the default supported English, including German, via one of 20 separately available language packs.
  • SmartFTP has an SSH terminal to control remote computers, while printing content from the SSH server to the local device is also possible.

9. Core FTP LE

With Core FTP LE, you have the option to either pay for the Pro version, which costs $24,95, or use the free LE version. Core FTP LE should work well for most users because the main features you need from Core FTP LE are included in the free version. It is relevant to mention that Core FTP LE can be used only with a Windows computer.

The user interface and layout with two panels have a remarkable resemblance to FileZilla. In our opinion, Core FTP LE is a good alternative to FileZilla. Maybe you don't like the overall user interface of FileZilla. Try this one out to see if it's a workaround in such a case. However, one big difference is that Core FTP LE dedicates its development to Windows software only.

Nevertheless, the file manager offers modules for transfers, drag and drop, and a status area to understand if and when your file will move from a local location to a remote one. The majority of your tasks will be performed in the same window, allowing you to search the files in a long hierarchy and bookmark the items that are most important to you.

As for the website, you'll find many support resources for your research or talk to other community members.

For example, you have the option to send an email to the developer, or you can post your question in the forums and hear from other users. Some other tabs on the website include documentation, a feature list, and a FAQ.

Notable Core FTP LE Features:

  • The main Core FTP LE client is completely free and available for you to download.
  • The free version supports secure FTPS, TLS, SSL, and SFTP.
  • It has similarities with FileZilla, differing by a few unique features.
  • If you want some tools like file synchronization, encryption, and custom screen settings, there's a Pro version.
  • The Z-compression mode improves your transfer rates and helps speed up your work process.
  • Drag & Drop makes it easy to drag all file items to other directories.
  • In case of error, the client provides a unique function to repeat all transfers.
  • File masking and file permissions are available from the admin level.
  • You can create your desktop shortcuts.
  • Core FTP LE allows you to transfer multiple files to multiple locations simultaneously.

10. WS_FTP® Professional

WS_FTP Professional offers extreme encryption levels, easy customization, and advanced management tools. These are reasons that bring the client over 40 million users. Starting with security, WS_FTP protects all files at all points of the transfer process. This includes before and after files are transferred. Multiple forms of encryption are used to ensure that all your files are protected within WS_FTP.

This kind of security makes WS_FTP a premium FTP client, which is also reflected in the pricing: A license for a single user costs $49.95. You can use community and email support when you upgrade to the professional option, starting at $89.95.

Security is at the forefront of the WS_FTP. FIPS 140-2 Validated Cryptography and built-in file encryption combine for the ultimate protection of all your important files. Couple this with backups and syncs, and you should have no trouble keeping your files on lockdown. This is why we like WS_FTP best for Windows users who want the best security.

Besides encryption, WS_FTP offers several other ways to protect your files from damage. Each file is backed up according to a schedule. To save the backups on other computers, you can also compress them. Synchronization is also automatic, so you can send these files to remote servers and not worry about losing them somewhere else.

Notable WS_FTP® Professional Features:

  • The main advantage is its high security. This includes backups, file encryption, signature keys, FIPS 140-2 validated cryptography, and more.
  • All transfers are guaranteed to go to the right folders.
  • You can synchronize your files with a variety of devices and servers.
  • You can compress your files directly from the WS_FTP window.
  • Set email notifications to be sent to you or other stakeholders in your organization when a transfer occurs.


So, which FTP client will best meet your needs? You'll need to ask yourself several questions, such as what your OS of choice is, what your priorities are, and how much money you're willing to spend. Given the wealth of options, you could make a list of the qualities you desire in an FTP client and probably find several that match your criteria. Since professional developers don't always get to pick which software they have to use at the office, being well versed in several different common FTP clients could pay off in your career. Regardless, there is absolutely no reason to stick with a cumbersome FTP client when there are so many excellent alternatives, both free and paid, waiting for you to try them!

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