APPENDIX E: Using Archie

Written by Tobias Reckhard (jester) on 2 Mar 98 for the FAQ for alt.binaries.sounds.mods.

1. What is Archie?

Archie is a service to help find files on FTP servers in the Internet. Archie servers maintain databases about FTP servers around the world, which they continually scan to update their databases. Because the resources necessary to maintain an Archie server for the Internet are immense, there are only realitively few of them in the World (see section 3 for a list). The quality, i.e. reliability and up-to-datedness of the information of the different Archie servers vary, depending somewhat on their geographic location. An Archie server typically knows a lot about the FTP servers close to it, less about far away sites. This means the Archie server closest to you may not find the particular file you're looking for because it doesn't exist on an FTP server in your country or neighbouring countries. Should this be the case then move on to the next server close to you. You probably shouldn't begin with very remote servers because their responses will be rather slow and they will answer your request largely with remote sites, which means slower downloads than from near sites too.

It is important to note that Archie servers monitor only FTP sites, not the Web. However, should you be using the Web, you're probably familiar with the numerous Web search engines.


2. How can I use Archie?

There are four ways to access Archie, direct access using an Archie client, access via World Wide Web pages, access by a Telnet interface and access by email.


2.1 Archie clients

Archie clients use the Archie protocol (defined in RFC xxxx) to communicate with Archie servers in their native language. See section 4 below for links to pages with Archie clients. Unix users with X-Windows have the xarchie program at their disposal.

The modes of operation of the clients are program-specific, preventing a detailed description. In general, you will be able to specify an Archie server to use and input a search string that the server is to be queried for. You will probably also be able to select how your input string will be matched with database entries. There are seven possibilities concerning this 'search type', judging from xarchie, at least, them being exact, substring, subcase, regular expression (regexp), as well as 'exact' variants of the latter three. Exact mode is the fastest search method of all. The restriction is that the user string has to match the string in the database exactly, including case. This is for those people who know exactly what they are looking for. An example might be "".

Substring (case insensitive) mode means a simple, everyday substring search. A match occurs if the the file (or directory) name in the database contains the user-given substring. For example, "is" will match "islington" and "this" and "poison".

Subcase is the case sensitive companion to substring mode. "TeX" will match "LaTeX", but not "Latex" or "TExTroff".

Regular expression mode gives you the power to use regular expressions in your search strings. They are a topic of their own, however, and I have not mastered their art fully yet (fully? Hah! I know a *bit* about them). They resemble the common concept of wildcards used to specify parts of filenames, but are more complex and thus powerful.

The exact variants indicate a stepping approach to the search process. In a first pass, exact mode is used. If no matches are found, the second mode specified is used. For example, in exact substring mode, should the exact search fail, a second search pass will be performed, using substring mode.


2.2 Web Archie access

Many sites now offer Web interfaces to Archie servers. See The list in section 3 or one of the Archie server lists mentioned in section 4 for specific URLs. There are two types of Web interfaces, the ones with forms and the ones without them. The form interfaces are fairly intuitive and straightforward to use, you are supplied with entries for the search string, the type of search (see 2.1 on this) and the Archie server to be used, to name the most important points. The formless interfaces look rather bland, from what I can tell you are only prompted for a search string and that's it.


2.3 Telnet Archie access

You can use the Telnet protocol to access Archie servers too. Telnet is an Internet protocol (i.e. based on TCP/IP) to login to remote hosts across the net. Unices have always offered Telnet clients, Windows 95 has one too. The operation is pretty simple, you supply your Telnet client the host you wish to telnet to and login on that host. If you're connecting to an Archie server, it will tell you in an opening screen which name to use to login. Since the individual servers differ in their commands, I will not even attempt an explanation here. You're probably best off issuing the command 'help' or '?', which should give you a list of available commands with the option of specifying one of them to aquire help on it. Or it will at least tell you what to do in order to receive an explanation of the usage of the interface. A last remark: the resources in section 3 give addresses in the form of ''. These are email addresses, not Telnet! Use only the host part of the address, i.e. everything trailing the '@' in your Telnet connection.


2.4 Archie by Email

This is handy for people who either don't have Web access or want their information in a storable fashion (not like a Telnet session). Email Archie clients work much like listservers for mailing lists. They parse commands sent to them by email, either in the subject line or the body of the message (or both), and respond by sending out emails themselves. As with Telnet, the actual commands depend on the server software and vary, so I won't go into an explanation. Again, it's best to send an email to the site you're interested in, specifying only the word 'help' in te subject line and on the first line in the body of the message. Be sure to send pure ASCII, I doubt any of the servers understand HTML email. You should receive an email describing how to use the server rather soon. From my experience, Archie and FTP by email are very reliable (of course, for FTP your mail account has to be large enough).


3. List of Archie servers

Source: Look there for up to date information.

Continent     | Access| Address                               | Location
              | Type  |                                       | Country /
              |C|T|W|E|                                       | State / Org.
North America | |x| |x|                 | Nebraska
              | |x| |x|            | New Jersey
              | |x| |x|             | New Jersey
              | |x| |x|                 | New York
              | |x| |x|                | Maryland
              | |x| |x|                 | Canada
              | |x| |x|            | Canada
              | | |x| |  | NASA
              | | |x| |
              | | |x| |     | CSB/SJU
              | | |x| | | Rutgers Univ.
              | | |x| |
Europe        | |x| |x|     | Austria
              | |x| |x|            | Austria
              | |x| |x|                | Finland
              | |x| |x|         | France
              | |x| |x|         | Germany
              | |x| |x|                | Italy
              | |x| |x|              | Norway
              | |x| |x|              | Spain
              | |x| |x|                 | Sweden
              | |x| |x|               | Switzerland
              | |x| |x|            | United Kingdom
              | |x| |x|             | United Kingdom
              | | |x| |

Note: All of the sites mentioned should be accessible with native Archie clients.

Ack, no! Look at for the rest. I like ASCII tables, but this is turning into real work!


4. Resources / References

See for a review list of FTP and Archie clients (Windows only, it seems). offers a brief description of Archie, a link to a form-based server and two links to lists of Archie servers.


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