This is what I'm doing when I log into a FTP:

ftp user:password@server
ftp: user:password@server: Unknown host
ftp> echo HELLO WORLD!
ftp> quit

I'd like to do a one-line FTP command...

ftp user:password@server -command "echo HELLO WORLD"


"echo HELLO WORLD" | ftp user:password@server 

Something similar... as part of a script I'm trying to create. Nothing is getting transferred, I just need to echo some instructions and this is the easiest way I've found to do it between two of my systems.

  • 1
    Wait, FTP is not for that! FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol. You need SSH. Sep 14, 2011 at 18:30
  • when you need to drive some nails and all you have is an ironing board... you make do with what you have. I'm trying Telnet, but FTP works. Limited control of second system and what not... FTP echo works even if it's an "Ironing board".
    – WernerCD
    Sep 14, 2011 at 18:50
  • Well, it didn't work for me... nick@AccessDenied:~$ ftp ftp> echo "hi" ?Invalid command ftp> Sep 14, 2011 at 18:53
  • 1
    ftp doesn't have an echo command. lftp does, but it's purely local, so I don't see why you'd want to do that by itself....
    – poolie
    Sep 14, 2011 at 20:12
  • @nickguletskii Yeah... I was trying to get an answer to what I was doing wrong (maybe I could have been more clear). Charles has the answer that works for me (in addition to a cli-php solution that I got on SO).
    – WernerCD
    Sep 14, 2011 at 21:04

6 Answers 6


That really is more of a job for SSH (as others have pointed out), but if you're determined to use ftp, try lftp. It's freely available for all currently supported versions of Ubuntu. You can install it with the command sudo apt install lftp

lftp -u username,password -e "your command;quit" ftp.site.com

lftp documents a -c switch that runs the command and then quits, but it appears to be broken in most distributions. -e will keep you connected unless you issue a quit.

  • 1
    Eeeeew... Plain text passwords... Sep 14, 2011 at 19:02
  • -c does work fine for me on Ubuntu.
    – poolie
    Sep 14, 2011 at 20:11
  • 4
    You don't need to put the password on the command line: one good option is to put it in ~/.netrc and make sure sure that's mode 0600. FTP can negotiate non-plain-text passwords on the wire.
    – poolie
    Sep 14, 2011 at 20:13
  • That works! Awesome. Yes... it's not a "Good" solution, but my options are limited on the second machine so FTP, while ugly, works.
    – WernerCD
    Sep 14, 2011 at 21:03

I found this thread when I was searching for a way to have a single ftp command execute a file transfer from this machine to the ftp server. Here is how:

Create a file with the ftp commands in it: (call it 'ftpcommands.txt')

 open YourFtpServer.com
 user YourUserName YourPassword
 put localfilename remotefilename

Then run the ftp command and feed the file into it:

 ftp -n < ftpcommands.txt

The -n option keeps ftp from trying to log in automatically when it receives you 'open' command.

Hope THAT helps someone. I couldn't find anything online that was this solution, so I had to figure it out myself.

  • 1
    NOTE: if your file transfer fails with a "200" response, try adding the command "passive" right before the file transfer to enter passive mode. Jun 21, 2019 at 9:54

You can't use FTP for executing commands remotely. It stands for File Transfer Protocol. What you actually need is SSH.

All you need to do is install the package ssh on both machines and then follow this guide to set up password-less logins.

And now how to call it:

ssh username@host echo "Hello World\!"

For example, this is me doing it to myself:

nick@AccessDenied:~$ ssh nick@localhost echo "Hello World\!"
Hello World!
  • second system doesn't have SSH. I've actually got something working in PHP via FTP_RAW, but I will see if I can't get this working at some point.
    – WernerCD
    Sep 14, 2011 at 20:57

Complementing @charlesbridge answer, include in your ~/.bashrc file the following:

alias yoursite="lftp -u <username> -e \"<commandA;commandB>\" yoursite.com"

Source the file:

source ~/.bashrc

Now use the alias "yoursite" to logon and execute as many commands as you would like.


Install busybox using:

apt-get install busybox

busybox can work on Linux or embeded system both, then use ftpget and ftpput



Let's assume for the time being you are a hobbyist user or are doing this in a sandpit fashion.

curl() can be used for FTP, even to transmit. wget (wput) also. and there is ncftp (for background asynchronous transfer) and lftp.

.netrc is a good idea, even from root.

But your "echo" is disturbing. If you want easy remote commands install putty-tools and use "plink". There is also "pscp" if you would care to check it out. Professionals may decry these tools, but they are great for your home network, cron jobs, and quick scripting.

These are SSH tools, and can be as powerful as formal products such as Ansible. They require an SSH server, and open ports to reach it, and possibly identity credentials. I apologise if if SSH is off topic for you, the type of script seen in the popular answer by Jack is often seen in sftp transfers (note the "s").

As an aside, you can run CGI like commands from FTP, but this is not generally spoken of, nor publicly encouraged. It involves watching for the transmitted file or using a write only "dummy" file on a customised server.

(Arcane example follows). In the "TK4-" distribution of MVS3.8 on the Hercules (now Hyperion) mainframe emulator, remote job entry is effected by FTP transfer to the file AAINTRDR which stands in for a card reader to read the "cards" in your file.

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