Most hosting providers nowadays offer one-click install utilities for several popular software platforms that easily enable users to get their websites up and running in no time.
Of course, although it’s quite easy to install WordPress manually (you must have heard of the famous 5-minutes installation), WP installers are quite convenient and widely used.
I’m all for making things easier and easier for web users. However, I realize that a good number of people who set up their WordPress website on a server might be non professional developers or newbies. They just click a button on their hosting provider’s control panel and lo and behold, in just a few seconds, a brand new WordPress website magically appears in front of their eyes.
One implication of this is that not all of one-click installers’ users have any inkling of what the folder and file structure is like on their servers. Perhaps they would love to add a child theme, or simply peek inside their favourite theme’s files and code. However, they don’t have a clue on how to make the jump through the looking glass, as it were.
How To Use An FTP Program To Access Your Website Files On The Server
For someone who’s new to web development or is not a professional web master, simply mentioning FTP sounds scary.
It so happens that using an FTP program to get your hands on your website files remotely is far from complicated. It’s quite easy, in fact.
Here’s how to do it step by step using FileZilla as the FTP solution of choice.
There are many FTP programs available, both free and premium, both as stand-alone software and as part of an IDE, i.e., Integrated Development Environment.
FileZilla is open source, is freely distributed under the GNU General Public License (the same as WordPress), and is one of the most widely used FTP programs, which is a sign of the robustness of the software and of the community support it enjoys.
In any event, that’s what I myself use on a daily basis, therefore I vouch for its great performance and ease of use.
#1: Download FileZilla
FileZilla is a stand-alone piece of software that you need to install on your local computer. What you need in order to manage files on the remote server is the FileZilla Client (not the FileZilla Server).
Just head over to the FileZilla website Download page and click on the download button that applies to your computer’s platform, i.e., Windows, Mac, or Linux.
Save the FileZilla executable file somewhere on the hard drive of your computer, double click on it and follow the set-up wizard’s steps.
Nothing out of the ordinary so far, just what you would ordinarily do when installing most softwares on your computer. However, if you need a detailed guide on how to install the program, the Installation tutorial on the FileZilla website covers all you need to know.
#2: Open FileZilla And Connect To Your Server
Open the newly installed program in your computer. This is what it looks like on my Windows 8 machine.
There’s a lot going on there. You’re faced with a good many windows. However, once you know what the windows are there to display, it’s all very straightforward.
To get access to your remote server, you need to connect FileZilla to it using the Quickconnect utility at the top of the screen.
Make sure you get three pieces of information from your hosting provider: the Host Name, which is your primary hosted domain name, your Account Username, and your Account Password.
Your hosting provider should have made this info available to you on registration. However, if you have trouble finding this out, a quick look at your provider’s documentation or a chat with their support staff should easily clarify any doubts.
Once in possession of this crucial piece of information, simply enter it in the appropriate boxes at the top of the FileZilla screen and click the Quickconnect button. Here’s what my screen looks like once I’m connected to my remote server.
Your local directories are on the left pane, your remote ones are on the right pane. You can double-click with your mouse to drill down each folder on both panes. If you need to go up one folder, simply double-click on the top folder with the ellipsis.
The Quickconnect feature is totally cool: the next time you connect to your server, you won’t need to re-enter your credentials. Simply click on the caret icon to the right of the button, select the server you want to connect to and click Quickconnect. That’s all!
#3: Make The Transfer
You can upload files from your local computer to the remote server and download files from the remote server to your local hard drive.
Before you perform either operation, make sure your local and remote directories are in sync. If you want to add a page to your website, ensure you have the right folder open on the remote server. Your website files are usually inside a directory called public_html, but your hosting company may use a different folder name.
Let’s say you’d like to move a file from your local computer to your remote server.
First, make sure you have the right folder open on the remote server. In the screenshot below I have the directory called public_html open because my HTML page is going to be transferred to my website’s location.
Right-click on the file you’d like to move, in my case a file in my local machine, and click on Upload in the context menu.
As the transfer takes place, FileZilla lists all the details of how the operation is proceeding at the bottom of the window. Once the operation is complete, you’ll see the copy of your file inside the remote server’s directory to the right and a reassuring message that all went well.
You’re not limited to transferring files to and fro. You can also cut and paste files inside the same server environment, delete files (to be done with care and attention – do back-ups), and simply view files. Just use FileZilla as you would use the file explorer in your local machine.
#4: Once You’re Done, Disconnect From The Server
It’s advisable to disconnect from the remote server after you’re done working with your remote files. Doing so with FileZilla is almost as easy as connecting.
From the navigation menu at the top of the application, click Server > Disconnect. That’s it!
To Sum Up
This post has offered a concise step by step guide to using FileZilla FTP application to gain access to your website’s files on the remote server.
I hope that’s resulted in dissolving all hesitations towards using an FTP program and has opened the doors to total control of your website’s files and folder.
More details on FileZilla are available on the FileZilla Documentation website where you can find a plethora of easy-to-follow tutorials and news on this great application.