ftp made simple
The Editing Process
It's important to make sure you've got a complete and accurate copy of your web site on your computer at all times, in case your web host has a disk failure, or you inadvertently delete a file. Therefore, it's best practice always to edit your site on your own computer, then upload files to the live server when ready. This also ensures that the public won't accidentally browse to a file that's currently in the middle of being edited on the server and see half-baked information or design.
After making an edit, you'll need to RE-upload each changed file. Your FTP client will prompt you to make sure you really intend to overwrite the copy of the file on the server. After overwriting the file, you'll of course need to refresh your browser again to see the changes.
However, if you prefer to live dangerously and are very confident in your ability to change an HTML document without breaking it, there is a faster way through this process. Most modern FTP clients have built-in integration with desktop text editors. Take a look in your FTP client's Settings or Preferences menus to set your favorite text editor. Once configured, selecting a file and clicking the Edit button will cause that file to open up directly on the server. When you save the document, the changes will be transparently written back to the server, thus sidestepping the whole upload/overwrite process every time.
Most modern FTP clients have the ability to push files on the server directly into text editors on your computer, so you can edit directly on the remote server.
That's very convenient, but keep in mind two gotchas:
- You're working without a net. The public will see any mistakes you make as soon as you hit Save.
- By doing this, your local copy of the site you're working on goes out of sync with the version on the server, which could cause problems down the road if you're not careful. So only use this method if you also remember to manually sync the two versions of the sites, or rely on some other backup system.
You can, however, provide yourself with a bit of a safety net by using your FTP client's "Duplicate" feature. Just as you can duplicate a file in the Mac Finder by pressing Cmd-D, you can do the same thing on the remote server with the same keyboard shortcut (or right-click | Duplicate File). It's an excellent idea to always make a live backup of a file before doing any live editing on it, just in case things go wrong (and they will... eventually!)
Always make a backup copy of a file on the server before editing it live!