providers like BulletProofFTP, CuteFTP, and WSFTP
are really responsible for feeding that craving. With their dual
file window panes (see above) that make files on a remote server
look so readily accessible - users can't help but ask "why cant
I just edit that remote file there - README_NW.TXT in which I have
to make a few simple changes? After all I can view it with ease
- why not change it?" Well two vendors have addressed that very
issue in two distinctly different ways - and developers are the
better for both solutions.
The WSFTP Pro 8 Solution
WSFTP is in the mold of a classic FTP program. It supports FTP
services in a number of ways:
- wizard guided connection list for making quick link to frequently
- fast connector dialog for one-time only connections
- file transfers controlled through easy-to-use dual window pane
- special procs for authorized transfers through proxy servers and
- secure socket layer encrypted transfers for data that must be protected
- parallel multipart transfers of large files for faster throughput
- auto compression and decompression with http-compression savvy
servers for faster transmission
- auto recovery and resume facilities for transfers interrupted by
blockag/downtime at server or client
- batch file transfers by schedule or "hotdrop" to a specific directory
triggers background transfer
- sripting capabilities to automate complex file transfer tasks.
Many of these services are common to the best of the FTP programs.
WSFTP Version 8 however starts to address the cravings for remote
edit in three important ways. First, users are able to see many graphic
files as thumbnails - this certainly helps identifying specific graphic
files for updates and changes. Second, the drag and drop facility
allows users to easily drag files from the remote site directly to
the appropriate program to edit the file. WSFTP's new Active
Edit allows the file on exit to be immediately uploaded back up to
the remote server or batched to together for auto-upload at a scheduled
time. Either choice, users perceive the process as simple as local
file editing. Or equivalently - the craving for remote file edits
is effectively simplified and solved. Very nice and at a price of
$55 this is a very attractive new FTP direction taken by WSFTP.
Like the other FTP program Contribute has an easy to setup connection
dialog that stores all the information needed to make an FTP connection
- so once the connection list is setup, its just a single click
to link to a Website by FTP connection. And like other FTP programs,
Contribute shows a file tree for remote files.
But the major way for navigating on a site with Contribute is
an imbedded browser ccomponent (Internet Explorer ActiveX - one
of the reasons Contribute has not ported immediately over to the
Mac). Here is the Contribute magic - with an FTP connection made
to a website, browsing through the files on that website means
any file there can be edited by Contribute either directly (applies
to HTML files and .txt files) or it can be editted by a designated
program on the users desktop. This latter capability is much like
the ActiveEdit feature of WSFTP. However, Contribute takes ActiveEDit
3 steps further.
First, Contribute implements a limited but reasonably effective
version control system. This means that no two persons can edit
the same website file at the sametime, preventing destructive updates.
However, the version control only works if all updates to the site
are done with either Dreamweaver or Contribute software. Third
party software like Adobe GoLive or Microsoft Front Page or a local
web server app could be used - and they would not necessarily respect
the Macromedia locks on the website files. Still this is major
improvement over completely unprotected sex ... uhhhh ... remote
The second step is that Contribute is able to use and respect
Dreamweaver templates. These templates restrict the edits that
a user can make to an HTML file. This means that fragile scripting
code or complex frames and tables can be effctively "masked off"
from any editting or change by the Contribute user. This is a powerful
because this means that relatively novice users (from the IT perspective)
can work away at a website with the confidence that they cannot
do major damage to the supporting coding and layout infrastructure.
Enhancing this capability is a the ability to assign different
roles to each Contribute user which further delimits and controls
exactly what type of updates and changes can be made.
The third Conrtibute innovation has already been alluded to -
HTML files can be directly editted within Contribute. Already it
through templates and roles to simplify the available edits. But
Contribute's web editor has a unique always open "How To Do It"
helper window pane. This combination makes web editting almost
fool proof. Direct experince on a number of websites has shown
that word processing or email savvy people take to simplified Contribute
editing very well. So at $100, is Contribute taking FTP software
in a new
content management direction ? This reviewer suspects that both
programs and both directions will prosper.