FTP Quick Guide: How To Connect & Edit Files

If you are updating your theme or plugin files through the WordPress dashboard editor, you’re doing it wrong.

Files like your theme’s functions.php, if edited incorrectly, even if one little semicolon is missing or out of place, can whitescreen the front end and back end of your site. And there is no Edit — Undo function inside of WordPress to quickly rescue you from trouble.

If you can’t log in to access the WordPress editor, how are you going to fix it? Answer: the way you should have been editing in the first place.


You have probably heard the term a lot, but you may not know what it means. FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol. You can find out much more about its history here.

More importantly, you might not know how it works. Let’s fix that.

In this article we will be using the Cyberduck FTP client. It is open source and has versions for both Mac and Windows. (It’s free, so if you try it and keep using it make sure to donate.)

  • Get it here: cyberduck.ch
  • Follow the installation instructions to get it working on your computer.
  • Come on back.

Getting Connected with FTP

The most difficult part of using FTP is filling out the credentials correctly to get connected. Thankfully, the bookmarks tool in Cyberduck means you will only have to do this once.

Make sure you have your FTP credentials handy. If you are a Synthesis customer, your FTP credentials are available in your Customer Portal.

The following screen shots and instructions will take you step-by-step through the connection process:

Step 1: Click “Open Connection”


Step 2: Click the Dropdown


Step 3. Select Your Protocol

This can differ depending on your host. If you have trouble connecting with one, try another.

Synthesis Customers should choose SFTP (SSH File Transfer Protocol), as indicated in the Customer Portal.


Step 4: Add Your Credentials

Enter in the fields for Server, Username, and Password.


Step 5: Click on “Connect”

Once your credentials have been entered, click connect.


Step 6: Bookmark it

Bookmark it now before you forget, that way next time all of this can be accomplished with one click!

In the top menu:

  • Bookmark –> New Bookmark



Important FTP Ground Rules

Now that you have installed Cyberduck we need to lay some ground rules before going any further.

1. Save a copy of the file to your computer before editing.

There is no undo or trash in FTP. Once you delete or replace something it is gone … unless you saved a copy. Always be safe rather than sorry.

2. Use a text editor.

To edit document files you will want to use a text editor, some of our favorites are: