Captain FTP 3.1.1, by Xnet Communications
Posted: 24-Feb-2004

4 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Xnet Comm Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Steve Lazarus Class: INTERNET

Overview
Captain FTP 3.1.1 is a full featured FTP client for Max OSX 10.2 (Jaguar) or higher. It supports transfers of files or folders, creation of folders (directories) on either the remote or local system, and file deletion on either the local or remote systems. It supports the standard FTP and the secure, SFTP, protocols. A built in address book provides storage for FTP locations and associated passwords. A Cocoa style "Metal" interface is provided. This includes the ability to customize the toolbar in both the address book and transfer windows.

Price

$25.00 - Single User
$110.00 - 5 User
$800 - 50 User


An evaluation copy, valid for 14 days, may be downloaded from
http://www.captainftp.com/.

Requirements

  • Mac OS X 10.2 (Jaguar) or higher
  • G3 PowerPC process
  • 64 MB physical memory
  • 10 MB free disk space

Reviewed on

  • Macintosh G4 Dual 1.2 MHz
  • Mac OS X 10.3.2 (Panther)
  • 1024MB RAM

Setup
I downloaded Captain FTP from the vendor's website. The download is a disk archive (.dmg) file which can be mounted on the Mac desktop. Inside this archive is a "Captain FTP" folder that contains the application and documentation. This folder can be simply dragged to the Applications folder on your system. On first launch I was presented with a splash screen indicating that there were 15 days left in my evaluation period. Options were available to enter a registration code, acquire a code, or to just try it. A second launch immediately showed the advertised 14 day evaluation left. Subsequent launches present this same screen until a registration code waa entered. During the course of my evaluation, I was automatically notified that the 3.1.1 update was available. I later downloaded and installed this update with ease.

In Use
The first test of any Macintosh application is to launch it without reading the documentation and determine if "Macintosh instincts" allowed its use. Captain FTP did well from this regard.

On launch, I was presented with a dual panel screen. Each panel showed my Macintosh desktop. Clicking on the disk icons presented allowed navigation through my disk hierarchy. A finder like listing of disk/folder contents was displayed with a pulldown at the top showing the path to the current location and allowing navigation up the folder hierarchy. The toolbar had an icon for the Apple web site. I double clicked this icon and was presented a password dialog box. I entered my email address (the standard convention for anonymous ftp) and found myself, as expected, connected to an Apple FTP site. On the Apple site, I navigated to a folder to find a test document to download. I navigated my local folder to a suitable download folder. I quickly identified that I could download by double clicking, drag and drop, or by selection from the file menu. I easily discovered that a contextual menu was available to delete files, rename files, edit with BBEdit and perform other operations. As expected, the File menu presented a similar set of options. A set of 5 buttons are displayed at the bottom of the window. Their meaning was not immediately obvious, but moving the mouse over each resulted in a hot tip explaining their function. The window display more or less corresponded to the Finder's list view without the open folder tab.

OK, time to try to do something more useful. Under the file menu I found a "Quick Connect" option. This brought up a dialog box in which I could enter the remote site, login, password, and a limited set of options. I entered a remote server and readily connected. Having figured out the buttons at the bottom of the window, I then disconnected. I then reconnected, this time selecting the "remember password" option. I then disconnected, quit and relaunched the application. On "Quick Connect" it remembered my password and allowed me to reconnect to the previous site.
While the password remembering is a nice feature, I later discovered that the passwords are not securely saved. I disconnected, unchecked "remember password", quit, and relaunched. I verified that my password was indeed gone. Exploring the "Show" menu, I selected the "FTP Trace" option and found a nice log of FTP commands that had been executed.

Now it was time to look for the address book. I found it under the "Show" menu. I pressed the new button and a very comprehensive "Connection Details" dialog was launched. I entered my host address and found a very handy "Check" button which verified that the host was reachable. Pressing the "Advanced" button provided a complete list of FTP options. Included in these settings were the remote folder to access and the local folder to use. Hot tips were available for many, but not all, of the options. It took a bit of trial and error to determine that I had to enter a complete path name for the remote folder. This was contrary to all my expectations and experience which allowed a relative destination from the login directory. I did not enter a password in the settings dialog and was, as expected, prompted for a password on connecting.

During the above experimentation, Captain FTP crashed. A dialog popped up asking me to sent a crash report to the vendor, as opposed to the Apple destination I see all too often. This is the only application I've seen do this - very nice. This was the only crash I experienced during my tests.

Documentation
The help menu provides options to connect to the vendor web site, send email for help, and launch help for Captain FTP. The latter did nothing more than launching the PDF manual. The manual is 36 pages with no linked table of contents, no index, and not even links for their internal "see xyz" references. I search on "password" and found the reference that the "Quick Connect" option stored passwords in the preferences file. Not very secure. More on this later.

Beyond the Basics
One of my desired activities is to mirror a directory with a remote site. Captain FTP's "Synchronize Folder" option was too limited. It would only copy in one direction and did not delete files that had been removed from the remote site. My need to have a local copy matching the remote copy was not met.

A tour of the documentation, menus, and preferences indicated an extremely complete set of functionality. I registered on their web site and entered their support area. There I found a long list of active user support forums, an option to vote on features for the next release, and the ability to send an email question. I did not find the usual FAQ page. I enjoy small vendors with whom users can interact directly, and Xnet Communications appears to be that kind of vendor.

My remaining concerns were the above mention password security and whether automation was supported. Keychain support was quickly verified. I went to the "Misc" section of the preferences and selected "Store Password in the Key Chain". There was an immediate prompt for keychain access when I tried to access my remote server from the address book. I saw no hint of automation in either the menus or the documentation. I launched the Applescript editor and found no Applescript support either.

Summary
Captain FTP is a very comprehensive and usable FTP client. It will readily meet the FTP needs for most users. The only "basics" in which it fell short were in its having only a list file view, and the lack of hyperlinks in the documentation. Users monitoring and/or maintaining remote servers are the ones likely to be impacted by Captain FTP's lack of automation and limited synchronization capabilities. Anyone needing an FTP client should certainly take advantage of the free trial that Captain FTP provides. Captain FTP is a great FTP client for standard FTP access, and provides a nice intuitive interface as well as excellent vendor support.

Pros

  • Complete suite of FTP options
  • Email sent directly to the vendor on a crash
  • Excellent vendor support
  • Intuitive interface


Cons

  • Absolute paths required for remote folders
  • Documentation contains no table of contents, index, or links
  • Mirroring options are limited
  • No automation support


Overall Rating

4 out of 5 Mice