Maintaining a Web site can become quite a chore if you don't have the necessary tools. To make even simple changes to the site, you have to change the files, download and upload the new files, and update your Web site backups. If you're an active Internet user, you probably have a favorite FTP utility for handling your Web site's file-transfer duties. And if you use Windows' command-line FTP utility, it's time to move into the 21st century.
I use the command-line FTP utility and GlobalSCAPE's CuteFTP Pro to handle my FTP file-management needs, but for Web site maintenance on the five Web sites I run, I use CoffeeCup Software's DirectFTP 5.1.
DirectFTP has two features that make the product worth its $30 price tag: an excellent in-line HTML editor and a one-click Web site backup tool. Other FTP tools (including the aforementioned CuteFTP Pro) have built-in HTML editors, but the DirectFTP editor has a usable, but not overwhelming, feature set. CoffeeCup didn't design DirectFTP as a primary HTML design and editing tool (CoffeeCup sells its HTML Editor 9.1 for that purpose), but the program has more than enough firepower for editing and maintaining existing Web pages.
DirectFTP automates the connection to your Web site and lets you configure the connection for the type of FTP transfers that the site and connection will support. After you connect, you can edit any file by right-clicking the file and selecting Edit Selected File. Make your changes and select either Save as Local or Save to Web site. Saving to the Web site uploads the changed file without any further user intervention. When you exit DirectFTP, you can choose to either complete any in-progress tasks first or exit immediately. The editor defaults to complete current tasks, which is handy when you're working over a low-speed connection and you still have file transfers in progress.
The editor's real power is its simplicity. Wizards help you perform basic tasks such as editing the text, adding images and links, changing fonts and formats, and applying a new page template to the file. These tasks aren't difficult, after you have the experience, but DirectFTP is an excellent starting point for those people who know what they want to do but aren't sure how to do it.
But DirectFTP's most compelling feature is the Make ZIP button on the toolbar. When you click this button, DirectFTP creates an archive file of your Web site's contents and stores the archive on your hard disk. The only downside to the site-backup capability is that you can't automate it. You must have DirectFTP running to use the backup utility. You can minimize the program so it won't interfere with any other tasks you might be running. Although the Web site creation and management tools will help you start using DirectFTP, the one-click site backup will keep you using it, even if you consider yourself a master at writing HTML code. The software has a 30-day evaluation version, so at the very least, you can back up your Web site while you evaluate the software.