Making Sense of FTP Sites

Typically, what you see when you connect to an FTP site is a single column listing of folders and/or files. The folder icon indicates folders, or directories, which contain files. The page icon indicates a file. File details, such as name, size, and date added to the directory, are also shown. On the far right is a column in which you may see some descriptions of the contents:
Description Meaning
Plain text Text file readable in the browser window
Directory Folder The location of sub-folders and files. Click on to display the folder's contents
Symbolic link A special, UNIX file, which acts as a link and shortcut to another folder
Binary executable A program file; a self extracting executable
Zip compressed data A .zip compressed data file
Macintosh BinHex archive Equivalent to UUENCODE in the PC and UNIX world. A .hqx file, which is an ASCII text file containing a binary file
Macintosh archive A .sit Macintosh archive file
GNU zip compressed data UNIX archive file
UNIX tape archive A .tar (tape archive) file (UNIX)
(blank; no description) File of some other type

File types are important because you need to check the file type before you download a file. If the file is a Macintosh file and you don't have a Macintosh, downloading might be a waste of time. If the file requires a program or software you don't have, downloading may not be what you want to do.

The listings you see on the FTP page are links, meaning you can click on them to open a folder or read a file. Look for a folder called "pub." This folder may not always be present, but when it is, it signifies a public area of the server and is available for public use.

Also, you may see a link at the top of the page called "Up to higher level directory." As the name suggests, clicking on this link takes you to the parent directory (folder) listing.

Note that the "Up to higher level directory" link is not the same as the Back button.

Finding Information on FTP Sites

You know of a few FTP sites, including the Monster FTP Sites List, from reading A Place To Start. You can obviously use a search engine to find FTP sites, but there is another tool for searching for information. This tool is Archie, a program that indexes FTP sites. Specifically you use a form called ArchiePlexForm to do your searches.

Most of the downloading and saving file information is covered in the Advanced section along with other more technical information you need to know before downloading files. But as a new user, you can read a text file (*.txt or files called Readme) and view some picture (GIF, JPEG) files by clicking on the filename. Try using some of the FTP sites listed in A Place To Start.

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