FTP to WordPress Using Cyberduck

This tutorial is designed to aid in explaining how to download and configure a free FTP client on the Mac called Cyberduck, and then find, upload and enable new themes for your WordPress installation. This tutorial assumes you already have WordPress installed on a server, and that you know your login name and password for that WordPress installation. Free FTP clients also exist on Windows and you should be able to follow along pretty well with any FTP client. Some make it even easier than Cyberduck. Personally I’m fond of WinSCP on Windows.

Screenshots were taken using WordPress 2.7. Earlier versions of WordPress will show different screens because they redesigned the interface, but if you look for the words I highlight you should be able to muddle through. For example, Themes are always in Appearance, but where they put Appearance changed between revs.

I’m using as my example a website called Gangs Out of Downey.

Install Cyberduck

Navigate to http://cyberduck.ch and download Cyberduck which is a free* FTP client for OSX. FTP means File Transfer Protocol, which is just a fancy way of saying put stuff from here to there. Once you’ve downloaded, and the disk image has mounted, drag the Cyberduck application to your Applications folder.

*they ask for a donation so if you like Cyberduck – donate!

Cyberduck as Default FTP Application

Cyberduck will ask permission to be your default app for FTP – make your own decision on this one!

Open Connection

In the upper left of Cyberduck you’ll see an Open Connection button that will let us start setting up your server access.

Authenticate to Your Server

1 – enter the server name (In this example, we’re going to access the server at gangsoutofdowney.org. )
2 – Port 21 is for ftp, if you have secure ftp access, pull down the FTP button to SFTP and the port number will change appropriately.
3 – Enter the Username for WordPress
4 – Enter the password for WordPress

Cyberduck Shows Your Files on the Server

We’re going to be messing around in your wordpress directory so double click wordpress. For others who have not put the wordpress files into a separate folder, they may be visible already at this level, if they are, skip to the next step in this tutorial.

Go Get Some Themes

Next we need to actually get some themes. I suggest:
as a site but there are tons of places out there offering free and paid for WordPress themes. Look for ones that say "widget ready" and also pay attention to how many columns you want. A standard wordpress theme has 2 columns – the main body plus a sidebar, but many prefer to have three columns, the main body and two sidebars. This part is all personal preference.

The main thing to remember here is that you can’t really mess up too badly here – put 20 themes on your site, flip between them till you decide, and all the time your content is safe and secure, it’s just the look and feel of the site that you’re changing. Pay attention to where your browser downloads the theme. When downloaded it will be a Zip file. Double click the zip file to expand it to a set of folders. For this example I’ve chosen a theme called Gear.

Back to Cyberduck

You’ve downloaded your theme(s) to your computer and unzipped them, now you’re ready to upload them using a process called File Transfer Protocol, or FTP. Looking at the screen shown, you see many individual files ending in .php and a few folders. For some reason the developers of WordPress decided to put themes in the folder called wp-content. I think of content as the information YOU generate, the exact opposite of what a theme file or a plugin is. Oh well, open up wp-content anyway.

Open Themes

Next open your themes directory.

Drag Theme from Finder to CyberDuck

Some FTP clients give you two windows, one for Your Stuff, and one for Their Stuff, but with Cyberduck you can only see the server. No worries, just open a Finder window nearby and drag the theme file from the Finder window onto Cyberduck’s window in the Themes folder. If you drag it properly you’ll see a green plus button, then just let go.

Watch Transfer Window

If you like to watch a pot boil, you may enjoy watching the transfer window to see progress. The theme files are just a pile of text files so transfers are very fast. That’s one thing that makes it fun – you can upload tons of themes in such a short amount of time.

Your New Theme Folder in Place

When the transfer progress window shows complete, you should now see your new theme file in place. In this example, you can see we now have a folder called gear.

Log Into WordPress Through the Browser

Navigate to your domain and look on the page under Meta for Site Admin. Or, just point your browser to your domain /wordpress/wp-admin. Note again that if you put wordpress in the top level, you’ll just go to yourdoman/wp-admin. In our example we have put wordpress in a subdirectory so we would just point our browser to http://gangsoutofdowney.org/wordpress/wp-admin

Note the look and feel and information displayed here on this example web page. When we get a different theme in place you SHOULD see all the same info, just rearranged and different colors.


Enter your Username and Password and click Log In. This is the same login information you used in your FTP session.

Changing Appearance

In the left Sidebar find Appearance and click it.

Click Themes

A small menu will pop down below Appearance and you can click on Themes. It is the first in the list so it may be selected automatically.

Select Your New Theme

Shown here are several theme files. Above is the current theme, in this example WordPress Default. Down below you can see three themes graphically represented. The far left one is the one used for our example, called Gear. Click on the theme you want to activate.

Activate the Theme

In WordPress 2.7 they added a step – you have to also Activate the theme after you select it. I guess this was so you could see a preview of whether it was the one you meant. Look in the far upper right for a link that says "Activate" followed by your theme name. In this example it says Activate Gear.

Verify Your New Theme

Your new theme should now be the one on top in the Themes window. WordPress gives you two links to Visit Site, choose one and click away to see your snazzy new theme!


As you can see the Gear theme is now in place but all of the same information is still displayed, it just looks completely different. Remember, experiment, play, have fun, stretch your imagination on what your website will look like. You can swap themes every day if you like – your readers will be confused and go out of their minds, so I don’t REALLY recommend this, but you could if you want to! Enjoy.

2 thoughts on “FTP to WordPress Using Cyberduck

  1. NosillaCast @ podfeet.com - January 25, 2009

    […] FTP to WordPress Using Cyberduck Tutorial […]

  2. […] So if you ever need to use FTP for a new WordPress theme, and you’ve got a Mac, try this: http://www.podfeet.com/wordpress/tutorials/ftp-to-wordpress-using-cyberduck/. Terra Nova Nurseries bouquet/Deb Wiley photo Thanks Allison! Here’s a big bouquet for […]

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