Despite it being April 1971 when the first FTP standard was published, FTP is still a popular downloading method. If you're transferring a group of files using FTP, a standalone client can make your job much easier.

WS_FTP is one such client. It uses a split window to connect to an FTP site where you can see your local directory on one side and the directory on the server on the other. Uploading and downloading files is as simple as dragging them from one side to another. This will create a job that's listed in a panel at the bottom of the screen, which will show the progress, estimated time of arrival and the speed of the transfer.

The main windows can be hidden using tabs, which means that you can open many sites and flick between them. You can then save this layout as a profile so that you can quickly open the same windows in future. This is great if you're administrating several Web sites, because you can split up each source and destination directory and create a profile for each.

The FTP protocol isn't as secure as it should be. Thankfully there are several ways of toughening it up. Using SFTP is popular and WS_FTP is one of the few clients that support it. WS_FTP also takes a novel approach to encrypting files, using an embedded version of PGP to ensure that a third party doesn't grab your data while it's in transit.

It's not all smooth sailing. The biggest problem we found was that WS_FTP doesn't follow symbolic links. They're a little like desktop shortcuts, but WS_FTP can't use them. Filezilla, a free alternative to WS_FTP, can navigate symbolic links without any problem. Yet WS_FTP is worth considering over a free alternative. It has potential as a backup tool, and its advanced scripting gives you all the control you need.