Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
Information Systems
Using FTP URLs (Document Hyperlinks)

Email messages or web pages can contain clickable links to FTP documents or folders. These links look a lot like the web addresses that you're familiar with except that the http prefix is replaced with the letters ftp. An example of a FTP hyperlink for MBARI's server would be where folder and file will vary, reflecting the location and name of the particular file. If your email client or browser is correctly configured, clicking on the link will start up the file transfer (if a single file is specified) or open up either a browser or GUI based FTP client (if an FTP folder is specified).

The purpose of this page is to give you some basic hints on how to configure some of the common applications in use today to utilize FTP links properly. It is not meant to be an exhaustive support guide nor is it meant to replace your own support resources. We hope that these hints help you with the configuration of your mail and web browser. If you still have problems we will give you some hints on how to interpret FTP links and retrieve the file using a standard FTP client.

Internet Explorer

If you use Microsoft's Internet Explorer as a web browser and it doesn't correctly process FTP URL's, make sure that the option settings are set correctly. Go to Tools->Internet Options and click on the Advanced tab. Make sure that the box next to Enable folder view for FTP sites is checked.

Locate Link Browser Window


The first time that you click an FTP hyperlink in an email message, Outlook will open up a file browser window similar to the one below. (This may also happen if the program that Outlook has associated with FTP hyperlinks cannot be opened for some reason.)

Locate Link Browser Window

Use this window to find the browser that you want to associate with FTP hyperlinks. If your primary web browser is Microsoft's Internet Explorer, you can find this in c:\Program Files\Internet Explorer\iexplore.exe. If your primary browser is Mozilla's Firefox, you can find this in c:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\firefox.exe. If you wish to use a dedicated FTP client to handle FTP links, navigate to that program's executable file.

Mozilla Thunderbird

There appears to be a problem with Thunderbird on the Windows platform which prevents it from opening the browser when you click on an FTP hyperlink in an email message. If this is the case, simply start up your default web browser and then click on the link.

Using a Standard FTP Client

In the event clicking on an FTP link in your mail program or web browser does not allow you to access the FTP resource, try using a dedicated graphical (GUI) FTP client. More information on graphical clients may be found on the main ftp page. Once you have a GUI client running, here's how to interpret an FTP URL and navigate to the file using such a client:

Let's say you receive an email with the following hyperlink:

The first bit, ftp://, indicates that this is an FTP URL. The portion following the pair of slashes up to the next slash,, is the server name. The remaining portion of the URL is the path to the file or folder, with slashes delimiting each folder name in the path. In this example, /pub/data/2005, indicates the folder hierarchy and 20050612.dat is the name of the file to be transferred.

If you needed to manually navigate to that file using a GUI FTP client, you would follow these steps:

  1. Start your FTP client and connect to the server using anonymous access.

  2. Change Directory to pub.

  3. Change Directory to data.

  4. Change Directory to 2005.

  5. Retrieve the file 20050612.dat.

Tip: Some GUI FTP clients have "smart paste" features, where you can copy an FTP URL (from an e-mail message, for example) and paste it into the connection window of the FTP client. The client will interpret the URL and go straight to the file or folder in question.

Last updated: Feb. 05, 2009