FTP Clients - Part 11: Beyond Compare 3

For this installment in my series about FTP clients, I want to take a look at Beyond Compare 3 from Scooter Software. At its heart, Beyond Compare is a file/folder comparison tool, so it might seem an unlikely candidate for an FTP client, but it has a lot of great FTP features packed into it.

Fig. 1 - The Help/About dialog in Beyond Compare 3.

Note: For this blog I used Beyond Compare version 3.3.5.

Beyond Compare 3 Overview

Like many self-proclaimed computer geeks, over the years I have collected a lot of various utilities that perform specific actions that I need to take care of. Sometimes I discover these tools when Binging my way through the Internet, and other times they come highly recommended from other people. In this specific situation, Beyond Compare falls into the latter category - dozens of people had recommended Beyond Compare to me before I tried it out, and after falling in love with it I have recommended it to dozens of my friends. At the time I was using Microsoft WinDiff to compare files, which is still a great application to do simple comparisons, but Beyond Compare does so much more.

Fig. 2 - The Start New Session screen.
Fig. 3 - Comparing the files within two folders.
Fig. 4 - Comparing the HTML content of two files.

I could go on about Beyond Compare as a comparison tool, but that's really outside the scope of this blog since I am supposed to be talking about FTP features. Needless to say, if you're looking for a good comparison tool, you might want to download the trial edition of Beyond Compare 3 and give it a try.

That being said, let's get back to the business at hand. Beyond Compare 3 has a collection of FTP Profiles, which you can think of as analogous to a site manager in more traditional FTP clients.

Fig. 5 - Opening Beyond Compare 3's FTP Profiles.

Inside the FTP Profiles dialog, you can specify a wealth of connection options for remote FTP sites that you would expect to find in any other FTP client.

Fig. 6 - Specifying FTP connection options.

Once you have established an FTP connection through Beyond Compare 3, you can view your local files and the files in your remote FTP site side-by-side, and then you can perform comparisons, updates, merges, etc.

Fig. 7 - Viewing local and remote files.

Using Beyond Compare 3 with FTP over SSL (FTPS)

Beyond Compare 3 has built-in support for Explicit FTP over SSL (FTPS), which you specify when you are creating the FTP profile for a site.

Fig. 8 - Specifying an Explicit FTPS connection.

Once you have established an Explicit FTPS connection through Beyond Compare 3, the user experience is the same as it is for a standard FTP connection.

Fig. 9 - Comparing files over FTPS.

That being said, at first glance Beyond Compare 3 did not appear to support Implicit FTPS. For me this was not a deal-breaker by any stretch of the imagination since Explicit FTPS is preferred. (Even though Implicit FTPS is supported by IIS7 through IIS8, it is really an outdated protocol.)

10 January 2013 Update: I heard from Craig Peterson at Scooter Software that Beyond Compare 3 does support Implicit FTPS, but it does so implicitly. (No pun intended. ;-]) When you connect using FTP over SSL on port 990, it will automatically use implicit FTPS.

Using Using Beyond Compare 3 with True FTP Hosts

Beyond Compare 3 has built-in support for the HOST command, so you can use true FTP host names when using Beyond Compare 3 to connect to FTP7 and FTP8 sites that are configured with host names. This feature is enabled by default, but if you needed to disable it for some reason, that feature can be accessed on the Connection tab of Beyond Compare 3's FTP Profiles dialog.

Fig. 10 - Specifying support for the FTP HOST command.

Using Using Beyond Compare 3 with Virtual FTP Hosts

Beyond Compare 3's login settings allow you to specify the virtual host name as part of the user credentials by using syntax like "ftp.example.com|username" or "ftp.example.com\username", but since Beyond Compare 3 allows you to use true FTP hosts this is really a moot point. Just the same, there's nothing to stop you from disabling the HOST command for a connection and specifying an FTP virtual host as part of your username, although I'm not sure why you would want to do that.

Fig. 11 - Specifying a virtual FTP host.

Scorecard for Beyond Compare 3

This concludes our quick look at some of the FTP features that are available with Beyond Compare 3, and here are the scorecard results:

Beyond Compare 3.3.5 Rich Y Y Y Y Y N/A 1
As noted earlier, Beyond Compare 3 supports the FTP HOST command, and is enabled by default for new connections.

1 Note: I could not find anyway to extend the functionality of Beyond Compare 3, but it does have a scripting interface; see their Automating with Scripts and Scripting Reference pages for more details.

So there you have it - Beyond Compare 3 contains many of the features that would make up a great GUI-based FTP client with first-class support for all of the features that I have been examining in detail throughout my blog series about FTP clients. And as I have done with all of my blogs thus far, I included the following disclaimer in all of my preceding posts: there are a great number of additional features that Beyond Compare 3 provides - but once again I only focused on a few specific topic areas that apply to FTP7 and FTP8. For example, one particular feature that I might to experiment with in the future is Beyond Compare 3's support for FTP SSL Client Certificates. But I'll leave that for another day. ;-]

Note: This blog was originally posted at http://blogs.msdn.com/robert_mcmurray/

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