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This article originally appeared in the February 2000 issue of Benchmarks Online. Since many folks may be planning on using the Winter Break time to update their personal and/or student organization Websites, we thought it would a good time to run it again. -- Ed.

Uploading Your Website: FTP vs. Composer

By Shane Jester, Central Web Support

If you're in charge of a student organization at UNT or just developing a personal Web page on people.unt.edu you pretty much have two choices for publishing your site. You can either use Netscape Composer to upload the files or you can use an FTP program. For the novice developer, Netscape seems to be the obvious choice due to its friendly interface, however that doesn't necessarily make it the best choice. Although it may take a little bit more effort to initially learn how to use an FTP program, in the long run it will save you many headaches while trying to maintain your site in the future. Therefore I'm going to offer a brief tutorial on how to interpret and use FTP.

FTP, in brief

First, if you don't already have an FTP client you need to download one from the Internet and install it on your computer. Most FTP clients are pretty much the same and there are several free or very inexpensive clients on the Internet. If you are using the computer labs on campus, there should already be a client installed.

Once you have the program installed and have launched it, you should see a dialog box with several fields that need to be filled out. The first field you should populate is the Host Name. This is the Internet address of the Web server that your Website is located on. It is the same as the first part of the ftp address that you would use when publishing with Netscape. For example if you are publishing a page for a student organization the Host Name would be pollux.acs.unt.edu. The next field is the Host Type. You should leave this field selected as Automatic Detect. The third and fourth fields are your UserID and password. These are the same as your UNT Internet account ID and password. IMPORTANT: if you are using a computer on campus make sure the Save Password option is NOT checked. Otherwise the next person using the computer will be able to login to your Website. At this point you must make sure that the Anonymous Login checkbox is NOT selected. Otherwise the system will not allow you to login. Finally you must set the Remote Host option under the Initial directories section of the dialog box. This will be the same as the remaining portion of the FTP address that you use when publishing with Netscape Composer. For example if your student organization was called jimbob then this portion would be filled with /data/calliope/virtual/orgs/jimbob. Finally you may fill out the Profile Name box and click the save icon so that next time you only have to fill in your password. Click on the OK button and the program should connect you to your Website as long as you filled in the information correctly.

Assuming you connected correctly you should now be looking at the FTP file management window. Notice that the window has two different sections. The left side of the window displays information about the computer you are currently using, and the right side of the window displays information about the server that contains your Website. In each case there is a top window and a bottom window. The top window works in a similar fashion to Microsoft's Windows Explorer. It displays the current drive and directory in the drop down bar and lists any subdirectories. You can double click on any of the directory names to view the contents of that directory or click on the .. to back up a directory. For Example if you are initially in the C:\Program Files\FTP directory and you want to be in the C:\Temp directory simply double-click the .. twice and then double-click the Temp directory. The bottom, windows then displays any files that are located inside the selected directory. The right side of the screen works the exact same way, displaying the content of you folders on the Web server.

I'm sure that you can already see some of the benefits of using the FTP client over Composer. You can now visually browse the contents of your Web page which makes managing you files much easier. If there is a file you no longer need you simply click it once and then press the delete key. This is something that was previously impossible when limited to Composer. Additionally you can rename files or directories.  The main feature of the program however is to transfer files and this is really quite simple once you understand what you're actually looking at on your screen. If you want to transfer a file from your A:\ drive on your local computer to your Web page simply select the A:\ on the left hand side of your screen.  Select the file that you wish to transfer and press the --> button that is located between the left and right side of the screen. You can transfer files from your Web page back to your computer by pressing the <-- button. Once you get the hang of this, you will be a proficient FTP user, capable of managing your Website effectively.

What about Composer?

Please don't misinterpret my article as a knock against Netscape Composer. Composer is a very valuable tool and I would still recommend using it to create the actual Web pages for your site, especially if you are a novice Web developer. I am simply suggesting that learning to upload and manage the files of your Website is much easier using an FTP client. You can visit the Central Web Support Website for more information and documentation on different Web publishing techniques.