Many people use BitTorrent clients to download popular movies, music, and television shows for free, although this practice is illegal in several countries. But legal issues aside, distributing files through torrents is an excellent way to reduce server bandwidth and spread them quickly. For example, many Linux distributions will distribute their ISOs using torrents in addition to their server mirrors. BitTorrent makes distributing large files easy and fast because the files are hosted on users’ computers.
In order to download the files associated with torrents, you need a BitTorrent client. KTorrent, a KDE project, is a feature-rich client that is completely self-contained from the moment you start searching for torrents until the last chunk finishes downloading. Ktorrent is available for download in most Linux repositories and requires minimal KDE dependencies to run.
Searching for torrents
There are two ways to search for torrents:
1. the traditional way, using your web browser and opening the torrent file in KTorrent, or
2. searching directly within KTorrent. By default, there is a search bar in the top toolbar. From there you can select the engine you want to use.
For example, if you select bitjunkie.org and then type some keywords into the search bar, pressing enter will automatically switch to the search panel and bring up a new tab. This panel behaves like a web browser, giving you the ability to navigate backward and forward. Once you find the torrent you want, click the link, and a dialog will appear asking if you want to download it or save it. Click “download”, and it will bring up another dialog asking you where to download.
To add or remove search engines, click “Settings” and select the “Search” icon in the left column. From this dialog, you can also clear search history and open searches in an external browser like Firefox.
One thing to love about KTorrent is the flexibility it offers you. In the download dialog, you can select exactly which files within the torrent you want to get, rather than being forced to download multiple files you might not even need. This is particularly useful if the person who created the torrent added his own advertisements or useless images, or if you want a particular episode of a TV series.
In the “Torrents” panel, you will see information about your download, such as the current status, amount of data downloaded, seeders, leachers, etc. At the bottom of this panel are several buttons that will give you more information in the bottom pane. “Status” gives you a visual representation of the chunks available and downloaded. “Files” gives you a detailed list of each file and how much of it has completed. “Peers” shows you current seeders/leechers and their location. “Chunks” shows you which chunks are downloading, from which peer, and the download speed. “Trackers” provides critical information about the torrent’s trackers. From here you can add trackers, remove then, or update ones that might have failed to connect.
KTorrent offers a plethora of plugins that add to its rich collection of features. From RSS syndication to a built-in media player that supports KDE’s Phonon backend, most users will be able to find something, if not everything they need. Some plugins I found extremely useful are:
1. Download Order – decide the order in which files in a torrent download.
2. Search – the previously mentioned search feature.
3. Web Interface – to control Ktorrent remotely from a web browser.
The amount of tweaking you can do in Ktorrent’s configuration is extensive. You can specify default ports, maximum download speeds, connection limits, proxies, seeding settings, specify file and disk settings, and select a default save location for your files. The interface is quick and easy to use, while users who expect a powerful file-sharing application will not be disappointed. Ktorrent is free software released under the GNU General Public License and is available for download for Linux, versions of BSD, Windows, and Mac OS X.