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LLNL XFTP: An X Window FTP Client

XFTP Application Window


LLNL XFTP enables scientists and engineers to easily transfer and manage their files in an increasingly distributed computing environment. Based on industry standards, such as the X Window System and the UNIX operating system, LLNL XFTP can execute on a wide variety of computing platforms.


LLNL XFTP can be used to manage files in a heterogeneous network by using an intuitive point-and-click interface. One of its more notable features is its ability to perform third-party file transfers. A key to successful computing in a distributed environment is the ability to easily transfer data between computers on the network. For example, a computer user might edit input files to a numerical simulation problem on a local workstation and then move the files to a more powerful computer, where the actual number crunching will take place. Output files from the production run might be transferred to both an archival storage device and the local workstation for perusal. Finally, the input files might be transferred to the archive for safekeeping.

With so much file movement taking place, it is important to make file transfer and management as effortless as possible. LLNL XFTP was developed by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) to meet this need.

FTP (File Transfer Protocol)

Probably the most popular file transfer mechanism is the File Transfer Protocol (FTP), which is a member of the TCP/IP family of communication protocols. The advantage of FTP is that implementations are available for virtually all computing platforms, making efficient and reliable file transfer in heterogeneous networks a reality. The main user interface to FTP on UNIX platforms is the program FTP. FTP is effective, but its command-line user interface can be awkward to use.

LLNL XFTP sports an intuitive graphical user interface to FTP, based on the X Window System and the look and feel of OSF/Motif.

Project Description

Developed as a replacement for FTP, LLNL XFTP enables our scientists and engineers to more easily transfer and manage their files by using an intuitive point-and-click graphical user interface. LLNL XFTP is based on the OSF/Motif look and feel. Its main window is divided into four sections:
  1. The main menu bar at the top.
  2. The diagnostics log at the bottom.
  3. The file transfer controls in the center.
  4. The "left" and "right" host sections to either side of the file transfer controls.

The host sections offer views into the directory structures of up to two hosts. The hosts may be any combination of local and remote hosts (the local host is the computer on which LLNL XFTP is running). Additional windows can be popped up to display directory entries in a tabular format or with additional entry information.


LLNL XFTP provides powerful file transfer capability. One of LLNL XFTP's most impressive features is its ability to easily perform third-party file transfers, that is, transfer files between two computers, neither of which is executing LLNL XFTP. Mechanisms are provided for selecting a group of files to transfer. In fact, entire directory substructures can be transferred with a few clicks of the mouse.

With LLNL XFTP, the user is able to view local or remote files, using either the built-in viewer or any combination of external viewers of the user's choice, e.g., EMACS or XV.

LLNL XFTP also offers elaborate directory browsing and directory manipulation functionality, which works identically for both local and remote hosts. The user is able to:

Usability Enhancements

LLNL XFTP has many features that enhance its usability. For example, LLNL XFTP automatically caches:

The purpose of each cache is to reduce the amount of typing and mouse movement required. For example, to apply a wildcard expression to select directory entries, a list of recently referenced wildcard expressions for that host is presented to the user; the user can double click on an existing wildcard expression to apply it. The caches are automatically preserved across LLNL XFTP sessions.

Finally, LLNL XFTP presents the user with a graphical user interface for easily tailoring the program's behavior. The user can specify, for example, whether or not a verification dialog that lists entries to be deleted will pop up before the operation is performed. An extensive on-line help facility, much of which is contextual, is provided. However, experience has shown that the user interface is so intuitive that the user rarely needs to access the help package.


Portability was a major concern during design and implementation. To ensure that LLNL XFTP would be widely available on a variety of platforms, we chose industry standards for the operating system (UNIX), the programming language (C), the window system (X Window), the file transfer protocol (FTP), and the look and feel (OSF/Motif). As a result, LLNL XFTP can be ported to virtually any UNIX platform with minimal effort. Some of the systems LLNL XFTP runs on include:

Download the LLNL XFTP source code.

LLNL XFTP can be freely used and distributed with a few restrictions. LLNL XFTP is copyrighted, and Lawrence Livermore Nuclear Security, LLC (LLNS) reserves all rights.

To obtain a license to commercialize LLNL XFTP, contact LLNL's Industrial Partnership's Office, P.O. Box 808, L-795, Livermore, CA 94551.

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Last modified on January 28, 2008
For information about XDIR, contact: -- Neale Smith