Updating Mars Society chapter/project web sites
from WebDAV-enabled applications

If you need to upload multiple files to a web site or prefer to use a drag and drop interface to update a web site instead of a browser-based file upload and download procedure, the WebDAV protocol is just what you need. WebDAV (Web Distributed Authoring and Versioning) is an Internet standard protocol that can be used to access and save documents directly to web servers that support the WebDAV protocol. WebSite Director Express supports the WebDAV protocol through an Apache add-on module, which is installed on a WebDAV-specific web server on the chapters.marssociety.org domain. More details about the WebDAV protocol can be found at http://www.webdav.org.

WebDAV is rapidly replacing FTP as the preferred method foruploading files to web sites. The main reasons for that evolution can be found in the following answer from the WebDAV FAQ:

Since DAV works over HTTP, you get all the benefits of HTTP that FTP cannot provide. For example: strong authentication, encryption, proxy support, and caching. It is true that you can get some of this through SSH, but the HTTP infrastructure is much more widely deployed than SSH. Further, SSH does not have the wide complement of tools, development libraries, and applications that HTTP does.

DAV transfers (well, HTTP transfers) are also more efficient than FTP. You can pipeline multiple transfers through a single TCP connection, whereas FTP requires a new connection for each file transferred (plus the control connection).

FTP access requires direct login accounts on the web server, leading to unmanageable security problems for large user communities. Since WSD Express provides WebDAV access to the web server, login access is managed by WSD accounts, which allows for easy administration of login access through the WSD browser interface.

Accessing a WebDAV-enabled web server requires the use of a WebDAV-enabled client application. There are a rapidly growing number of WebDAV-enabled applications for a variety of platforms. Some of the more commonly used WebDAV clients are:

Windows WebDAV Clients

Microsoft Web Folders (built in to IE 5 and 6 and Windows 2000 and XP)
Microsoft Office 2000 and XP (using Web Folders)
Macromedia Dreamweaver 4.x and MX
Adobe GoLive 5.x and 6.x

Web Folders and WebDrive are both "drive-mappers" that map a web site to a local drive or folder. Once installed and connected, the web site looks like just another hard drive on your local machine, and you can drag and drop files to and from the web site as if it were a local hard drive. Office 2000/XP, Dreamweaver, and GoLive support opening documents directly from the web site and saving directly to the web site, as well as a variety of site management functions.

Windows 2000 and XP have Web Folders built in, so no installation should be necessary. Internet Explorer 6 also has Web Folders built in. If you are using IE 5.x on Windows 95 or 98, use the Installing Web Folders for IE5 instructions to install Web Folders.

Some Windows XP machines have a broken Web Folders installation. Microsoft includes a Web Folders repair utility built in to Windows to correct the problem. Use the following steps to fix the problem:

  1. Click on the "Start" menu in the lower left corner, and select "Run..."
  2. Type in "webfldrs.msi" and click the "OK" button.
  3. Click on the "Select reinstall mode" button.
  4. Select *ALL* of the checkboxes *except* for the second one ("Reinstall only if file is missing").
  5. Click on the "OK" button.
  6. Click on the "Reinstall" button.
  7. After the reinstallation is complete, reboot the computer.

Macintosh WebDAV Clients

Finder (built in to Mac OSX)

Unix WebDAV Clients


Once you have one of those WebDAV clients installed, you only need to point it at the appropriate web site. For any chapter or project web site, the URL would be:


Where "repository" is the repository directory name of the chapter or project web site. The ":8080" at the end of the hostname is the port number that the WebDAV-enabled web server is listening on. The "WSDSource" directory at the end is a special directory that tells the WebDAV server to allow updating files directly on the server. The same files are also visible outside of the WSDSource directory, but are read-only through WebDAV. Some WebDAV clients, such as Web Folders, require the "http://" at the beginning of the URL, so it's easier just to always include it when setting up the initial connection to the web site. When connecting to the web site you will be prompted for a username and password. Since WSD Express is providing the WebDAV interface, you need to use your WSD username and password to establish the connection.

More Information

WebDAV Resources

DAV information at LiteracyTent

WebSite Director Express WebDAV Tutorial

SimsHost Web Folder Tutorial

Updated Friday, February 13, 2004