How Do I Use My Browser for FTP?

You don’t need to have an FTP program to download files from an FTP site. Just use your Web browser.

Using a special Uniform Resource Locator (URL) or Internet address you should be able to log into most any FTP site and navigate the file tree at the site by clicking on directory listings. The general format of the URL is…


This looks imposing at first glance but, in reality is fairly simple.

First, note that the URL does not start with http:// but, instead, ftp://. This tells the browser to use its FTP routines instead of its normal Web browsing routines.

Second, note that there is a part before the host domain that tells the FTP site the login information: user:password@. These are optional but, if the site needs a login you will have to provide one at some point. If you leave out the user, the browser will assume that this is an anonymous login and use that along with whatever E-mail address you have put in your browser preferences as the password (anonymous FTP sites demand an E-mail address as the password for various tracking or notification reasons). So, if the site requires a real user login then you must provide the username at least so the browser does not attempt to log in as user anonymous. If there is a password required and you leave it out of the URL a dialog box should pop up and ask for the password as part of the connection process to the FTP site. And, remember that all of this is taking place in the open so all user names and passwords are being transmitted in clear text; not encrypted. Some versions of Internet Explorer have special ways of entering the password; see the more info link below.

After the @ sign you see host:port. This would be the domain name for the host followed by the port to be used for connection. In the vast majority of cases you can ignore the :port part as the browser assumes the standard FTP port 21 will be used for the connection and the vast majority of sites are configured that way.

Finally, if there is any special path to a particular directory that you need, it would go after the host domain name. So, a fully qualified example might look like (I certainly hope this one doesn’t work! 🙂 )…

ftp://billgates:[email protected]/special/secretplans

Once you are logged into the FTP site you will generally see a directory listing. By clicking on other directories you can see what’s in them (assuming you have the right to — otherwise they will be blank or you will be asked for a password). By clicking on a file the browser should either attempt to display it (e.g., a .TXT text file will often be displayed along with any .HTML file) or ask if you want to download it. For downloading, just pick a location on your system where you want to store the file and wait for it to be completely downloaded.

More Information

Comments from Original Article:

Said this on 2011-05-03 At 07:08 pm
I have been able to make this work in Firefox. In Safari, I am only told that my user/pass is incorrect (thought it isn’t). When it works in Firefox, though, there is no way to log out. So if I want to log in as a different user, i cannot; even if I close the window.

Any ideas of what I’m doing wrong?

[The connection should break when the window closes or when you connect using a new URL with a different ID in it. Not certain why that’s not working for you. However, I would suggest that if you have lots of FTP work to do that you use an FTP client as it’s much easier and more reliable. I use FileZilla, a free client, but there are others both pay and free. –DaBoss]

Said this on 2011-05-27 At 07:55 am
Is there anyway to use this to upload files? Or a reputable web based ftp client.

[The basic technique won’t upload files but there are services such as net2ftp (as just one that comes to mind) that can be used. Just keep in mind that any web-based service will have your various passwords, etc. So, mind the privacy aspects. I prefer using FileZilla, a free ftp client (but not web-based) –DaBoss]