Two Essential Tools for Running Websites: FTP Clients and Text Editors

When you run WordPress websites, you’ll need FTP software to get files from your computer to your web server. You’ll also need text editing software for adding custom code into your custom.css and custom_functions.php.

Now I know this sounds basic, but if you’re using a web-based FTP client, you’re wasting tons of time because, in my experience, it tends to run extremely slow. And furthermore, if you’re using WordPress’s Theme Editor or Thesis Theme’s custom file editor, you’re missing out on the time-saving features of more advanced software.

So, in the remaining part of this article I’ll tell you about some of the advanced software available for both FTP and Text Editing. Oh, and don’t worry, the software is either inexpensive or FREE.

FTP clients

Some of the benefits of using an FTP client, rather than the cPanel file manager or something simliar, include faster file transfers, the ability to bookmark different servers (this is great if you run several websites), and easier access to your local files (the files on your computer).

The question remains, which FTP clients are best? To answer this, I’m going to break this into two sections: FTP clients for Windows and FTP clients for Macs

FTP clients for Windows

FileZilla – FileZilla is an extremely popular FTP client because it’s free, open source, and quite powerful. Since so many people use this software, you should be able to find plenty of tutorials to help you get off the ground with FileZilla, if the interface isn’t guide enough.

FTPx – If you prefer a more minimal interface, FTP Explorer may be for you. It uses a window interface that is quite similar to the normal Windows Explorer, giving it a native feel that you may be more comfortable using. It’s not free, but you can download a free trial to see if you like it.

Cute FTP – If you’re looking for a premium FTP software, Cute FTP is it. It offers different secure file transfer options, a drag-and-drop interface, and tons more advanced settings. Luckily, you can download a free trial and try it out.

FTP clients for Mac

Cyberduck – I can’t quite express how much I love Cyberduck! It was the first FTP client I used when I started on a Mac (mainly because it’s free), and it is so simple and smooth to use. Here are some great things about Cyberduck:

  1. The file listing window is simple. All you have to do is drag and drop files from your computer into the Cyberduck Window and they will be automatically uploaded into your server.
  2. It supports all kinds of connections.
  3. You can open files from Cyberduck into your favorite text editor, and then when you save it, the changes are saved automatically to your server.
  4. It’s free (need I say more?)

Transmit – I haven’t used Transmit (I usually use the FTP built into one of Panic’s other applications, Coda), but I would be remiss not to mention it. Panic makes quality software, and the popularity of Transmit is evidence of that. Plus, Chris Pearson, the creator of Thesis, swears by it, so it must be good. Check it out here.

Coda – Coda isn’t a FTP client, it’s a premium site manager. If you’re working with multiple sites, Coda is amazing because it saves your settings. It also has a file editor, file preview, help books for web languages, and much more. If you need an FTP client, I wouldn’t recommend Coda, but if you want an all-in-one solution, Coda Rocks!

Text Editors

As I mentioned earlier, you can use WordPress’s built-in file editor, or Thesis’s Custom File editor to edit files from your WordPress dashboard, but for more extensive editing, I recommend a good code text editor. And if used in conjunction with your FTP client, it is extremely efficient.

What features matter in a great code text editor? You should look out for:

  • Syntax highlighting because it helps you view the code with ease and it will help you avoid mistakes
  • Tabbed windows for viewing files because it’s great for dealing with several files
  • Autocomplete because it helps you remember the right CSS properties and functions
  • Powerful search/find/replace feature because it will help you save time.

Like with the FTP clients, I’m going to break this into two sections: Text Editors for Windows and Text Editors for Macs. Now let’s dive in!

Text Editors for Windows

Notepad++ – Notepad++ is hard to overlook when using Windows because it’s free! It also has: syntax highlighting, the ability to collapse code (hide PHP functions, or hide the HTML contents), tabs, split views, and tabbed split views. It pretty much has everything, so unless you are a power user with specific needs, I’d say Notepad++ is perfect.

NoteTab – NoteTab was suggested to me by Doug Cloud, and although I haven’t used it, the info on the site is impressive. NoteTab has two interface options, bare bones and not-so-bare, the not-so-bare has buttons in a similar fashion to Microsoft Word that let you make text bold, italic, into paragraphs, quickly create hyperlinks and more. I think this would be a swell way for someone who is new to HTML to get the hang of common HTML syntax.

Side note: never ever copy from Microsoft Word or a rich text editor into your website, there is all kinds of hidden stuff in rich text editors that can mess your site up.

Text Editors for Mac

Fraise – Fraise is a beautiful little text editor for Mac. It’s based on Smultron (the first text editor I used when I moved to Mac), which stopped development. The interface is so simple, but quite powerful. Some of its features include search, and managing groups of files as projects. Rather than the common tabbed interface for currently open files, it has a list on the side, which is easier to use when you have lots of files open at once.

TextMate – Again, one of those ones that I haven’t used much, but have to mention. TextMate is very popular and suitable for beginners and advanced users. Its interface is simple, but it has so much power under the hood: you can add plugins, record macros, it has powerful search and replace, support for projects, subversioning, and more.

Coda – Yep, I’m mentioning it again, because it’s both an FTP client and a text editor. What I didn’t mention before is that Coda has a text editor with syntax highlighting, support for many languages, autocomplete, powerful seach tools, and more. It also has a CSS editor that is rather impressive, and would be extremely handy if you don’t remember every CSS property off the top of your head.

The Bottom Line

There are many tools out there, but these are just a few suggestions of some of the better ones around to help you customize WordPress and Thesis. Happy code travels! Also, if you have any other recommended pieces of software or have any questions, feel free to leave a comment!

About the author: Kristarella is the mastermind behind Kristarella Studios, a Thesis Theme Design company. You can follow her on Twitter here or read some of her other tutorials at her blog.