It’s been a work in development for quite some time now, and I’ve been using it as my main client ever since it entered beta stage, but developer Tim Kosse has finally published a stable 3.0.0 version of the famous open source S/FTP client, FileZilla.
This release is important for a number of reasons: first, while the v2 line of the program was Windows-only, this new client is cross-platform, written in C++ and wxWidgets. That means that you’ll no longer have to use gftp in GNOME, if you’re a Linux user. The program has finally found its way into most Linux distributions, sometimes as the default client. It’s also available for OS X, though in fairness, Cyberduck might be a better option in that case.
But the other key difference is that in addition to completely rewriting the front-end, the engine itself has been rewritten and is blazing fast. So fast that when I first tried the beta, I was taken aback by the responsiveness of the app and the sprightliness of its functions. Prolonged transfer speeds aren’t really any different, of course, but tasks like directory switching and deleting (especially recursive deletes) happen much more quickly.
Oh, and did I mention it has a new icon, courtesy of a forum member at the FileZilla homepage?
The interface for FileZilla hasn’t changed significantly from v2. The same general array of buttons lines the menu bar. I personally toggle off the tree views. One major UI change is the introduction of tabs (they’re everywhere now): instead of having a single queue window, which can quickly bury information about failed transfers, FileZilla 3.0 splits files into Queued, Failed, and Successful, so you can quickly see your tally and identify any problem files. There’s a bit of a learning curve to heavy FTP users, but one quickly gets the hang of it. The “File Exists” dialog has been redesigned, but it functions in largely the same way.
One other feature that isn’t of much use yet is the semi-customizable icon set for the toolbar. For the stable 3.0.0 release, FileZilla has three icon themes, one of which is the old one from v2. The version you see in the screenshot is
“Blukis,” a recent addition “Cyril” (props Blukis). A Google search will net you, at minimum, a theme based on the Tango icon theme, but at this point, adding another icon theme involves editing an XML file that gets overwritten with every upgrade. In the future, I hope this
themes.xml file will get moved to the userspace, so that custom themes can persist without a lot of extra effort.
One of the few interface widgets that I dislike is the ugly green progress bar used in the transfer window. This is used in both Linux and Windows versions, and I can’t figure out why, since it looks like it belongs in a program ten years older. If the program can’t use native widgets for that sort of thing, a booger green gradient isn’t the best option.
The other UI item that I think is poorly implemented is column management. You cannot currently select which columns to display in the file panes. At best, you can resize them until they disappear: even then, getting them back, should you ever need to, becomes an enormous pain in the rear.
The Site Manager is much the same. Windows versions of the program have a nifty dropdown list in the upper right corner of the main window which displays all saved connections for easy selection. Linux (and probably OS X) users have to open the site manager itself and select the saved connection. I’m not entirely sure why this is, but perhaps it will be fixed in future builds.
One area where v3 lags behind its predecessor is in the settings. I assume this is being implementing the sheer number of settings that v2 had on a cross-platform basis is no small task. I miss, for instance, the ability to minimize the client to a taskbar icon—this, of course, can be managed by third party programs, but I miss it regardless.
In most important ways, however, the Settings dialog covers the necessary bases. You can set speed limits, concurrency limits, connection type (active/passive), port numbers, file types and actions, a limited number of interface options, and finally an option with regard to new versions. Kosse has implemented a version tracker on the FileZilla website which the new client can talk to. The granularity can look for either stable releases, beta release, or nightly releases. The upgrade process is little more than downloading the installer and running it, but anything is better than nothing.
The bottom line is that FileZilla 3 is leaps and bounds ahead of its predecessor. Not only does it finally give the GNOME desktop a good, native S/FTP client, but it improves the speed, responsiveness, and general quality of the already-great Windows client. The fact that it currently sports fewer settings, or has a few ugly UI bugs, is only incidental: this is a brand new release, after all, which will be refined over time. I congratulate Tim Kosse and anyone else who helped in developing what looks to be an excellent new revision of this S/FTP client.