Since I started reviewing FTP clients I've had a few requests to look at a few different FTP clients, and I've managed to analyze a few of those clients in my blog. A few weeks ago I had a request from one of my readers that really caught my interest - Shabbir Talib contacted me through my blog and asked me to review the Kermit FTP Client. I found his request especially appealing because I used to use Kermit before the public learned about the Internet; back then I was using Kermit to access dial-up Bulletin Board Systems (BBS's) and to connect to my college's VAX system. That being said, I hadn't used Kermit in years so I couldn't resist taking a look.

To start things off, the Kermit Project is developed and distributed by Columbia University in New York City. More information about the project, downloadable installation packages, and software licenses for purchase are available from:

http://www.columbia.edu/kermit/

I need to stress here the Kermit is actually a full suite of connectivity applications, the Kermit FTP Client is only one part of that communications suite. So from the outset the Kermit is more than overkill if you're just looking to transfer some files to and from your FTP site. The Kermit Dialer takes the place of what most FTP clients would have as a Site Manager, and opening that application will display a large number of templates for various connection types.

Rephrasing my earlier statement, saying that Kermit is overkill is really an unfair assessment when you consider the sheer number of options that Kermit gives you. If you are used to creating and configuring FTP site connections in most FTP clients, you generally have a small handful of options that you can specify. This is not true for Kermit 2.1.3 - the wizard for creating a new FTP connection in the Kermit GUI led me through eleven wizard-based pages of options before the connection was created.

Once you connect, however, the Kermit GUI is just a wrapper for command-line FTP functionality - so you have to know what you're doing in FTP to get around, and there is no explorer-style functionality like you get with graphical FTP clients like Core FTP or FileZilla.

Command-Line and Scripting Support

Since the Kermit GUI is just a wrapper for the command-line, you may have already guessed correctly that the Kermit FTP Client (ftp.exe) works just fine from a command prompt. What's more, Kermit has a built-in scripting language that far surpasses the scripting capabilities for the built-in Windows command-line ftp client (also named ftp.exe.) For example, you can script what action to take if something goes wrong - like retrying a failed upload. More information about scripting the Kermit FTP Client is available at the following URL:

http://www.columbia.edu/kermit/ftpscripts.html

From what I've seen of Kermit's scripting support, this appears to be an extremely rich feature for people that need more options for scripting an FTP client.

Using FTP over SSL (FTPS)

The Kermit FTP Client supports FTPS, and it allows you to configure options such as separate protection levels for the command and data channels for a connection.

Once you have the security options specified for the connection, connecting to an FTP site using FTPS is pretty straightforward.

No Implicit FTPS Support

I could find nothing in the Kermit FTP Client documentation that referenced support for implicit FTPS, and when I configured one of my FTP sites to use implicit FTPS I could not connect to it using Kermit. (But in all fairness, you may recall from some of my earlier blog posts that Implicit FTPS is often considered deprecated.)

Using FTP Virtual Hosts

Like the MOVEit Freely FTP client, everything is happening from a command-line, so you can use both FTP7's Virtual Hosts and the actual FTP HOST command. (As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, you should take a look at my Virtual Hosts and Host Names in FTP7 blog post for more information about FTP Virtual Host Names and FTP True Host Names, and see https://datatracker.ietf.org/drafts/draft-hethmon-mcmurray-ftp-hosts/ for more information about status of the FTP HOST command.)

That being said, FTP7 virtual hosts are supported by using the "ftp.example.com|username" syntax when specifying your username, and when you connect to the FTP7 server it will route your requests to the correct FTP virtual host site.

True FTP hosts can be used by specifying the FTP HOST command using the Kermit FTP Client's support for custom commands. The syntax for this command is listed below:

ftp quote host ftp.example.com

Note: You need to send the HOST command before sending USER and PASS.

Scorecard for the Kermit FTP Client

This concludes our quick look at some of the features that are available with the Kermit FTP Client, and here's the scorecard results:

Client Name Directory
Browsing
Explicit
FTPS
Implicit
FTPS
Virtual
Hosts
True
HOSTs
Kermit FTP Client 2.1.3 N Y N Y Y 1
1 As noted earlier, true FTP HOSTs are available when using the "ftp quote HOST ftp.example.com" syntax.

Note: Keeping with my standard disclaimer, there are a great number of additional features that the Kermit FTP Client provides - I'm just keeping the focus on those topic areas that apply to FTP7.