Why I (used to) recommend WinSCP over FileZilla for your FTP and SFTP needs.

15 February 2009 update: In the time since I originally wrote the following article,  FileZilla 3 has improved to the point where I am beginning to prefer it again over WinSCP.  Most of my problems with it have been fixed, including issues such as not maximising the window and columns that were too narrow.  Missing features have also been added, such as a right-click menu allowing editing of files in the local pane.  As of recently FileZilla has also added a synchronised browsing mode just like WinSCP.  I still miss being able to set a custom background colour for each site preset though.

With the release of FileZilla 3.x beta versions, I switched to WinSCP. Now in version 4, WinSCP finally supports regular FTP as well as just SFTP, making it a genuine competitor to FileZilla. There have always been things that annoyed me in FileZilla, and I was a little disappointed by what I saw in 3.x versions – especially the fact that many of the annoying bugs were not fixed and there were new bugs that were worse.

Even after 11 beta releases of FileZilla 3.x, I still encountered the following new bugs.

  • No longer remembers the positions of panes between sessions.
  • No longer remembers whether the window is maximised between sessions.
  • Column widths are not remembered between sessions, and the default column widths are too narrow. The filename column is not wide enough to show an 8.3 filename, for example, and the date column (Last Modified) is not wide enough to show a date.
  • There is nothing to allow me to double-click to edit a file, or even right-click and choose ‘Edit’ from the context menu like I could in the older version. I can’t seem to open a file in my text editor from FileZilla (unless I drag and drop, but then my text editor needs to be open already).
  • Navigating in the left hand (local) pane is noticeably slower, especially when using a network drive. I think loading the file icons is slower. It’s much slower than the right hand (remote) pane, anyway, which is silly.

The 3.x betas also didn’t fix some of the problems I’ve always had with FileZilla, that I just put up with.

  • When I open FileZilla, it doesn’t appear in the foreground or on the Windows task bar until I give focus to it some other way, such as by minimising other windows.
  • SFTP transfers are fairly slow.

So I switched to WinSCP after the 11th beta and I have been happy since. I think WinSCP is much easier and nicer to use. I particularly liked the following features.

  • I quite liked the way that ‘advanced’ preferences were hidden by default, and when I showed them, they are all set to how I would have had them anyway, so I don’t need to worry about them.
  • I love the ‘synchronised browsing’ mode. Whenever I used FileZilla I always wished that it would have something like that.
  • Dragging and dropping, and right-clicking on files to edit or view them, works like it should (or rather, like I am used to from regular explorer windows). The only exception to this is that F5 does not refresh – it’s actually Ctrl+R.
  • I can set up profiles including what background colour should be used for my session, allowing me to use colour to differentiate between ‘live’ and ‘staging’ server connections for example where they would otherwise look pretty much the same.

One Reply to “Why I (used to) recommend WinSCP over FileZilla for your FTP and SFTP needs.”

  1. Hi there just wanted to give you a brief heads up and let you know a
    few of the images aren’t loading correctly. I’m not
    sure why but I think its a linking issue. I’ve tried it in two different web browsers and both show the same results.

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