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TechTip: SuperPutty, the Enhanced PuTTY SSH Client GUI

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Using SuperPutty as a window manager for the PuTTY SSH client allows for SSH, Telnet, and SCP support on Windows.

 

The PuTTY client has been providing terminal emulation for SSH and Telnet support for a little over 10 years now. PuTTY provides Windows a program to connect to the command line of Linux and UNIX machines. With a few other programs like PSCP, Pageant, and PuTTYgen, you can also gain file copy and SSH key support very easily.

 

PuTTY itself does what it does very well, but it's lacking a few options like tabs and the ability to manage stored connection sessions in a simple-to-use interface. SuperPutty is nothing more than an enhanced window GUI to fill these few basic needs where PuTTY is lacking.

All the PuTTY Parts

There are seven tools total in the PuTTy set of utilities. Each program is just an executable file that can be downloaded and used independently of the other programs, or you can download the Windows installer to get all of the tools together except for PuTTYtel. This tool is packaged separately and is not restricted by any cryptography laws; therefore, it's safe to use in countries with cryptography restrictions.

 

The bare minimum tool required to use SuperPutty is the PuTTY SSH client itself. All other parts, like using Pageant for SSH keys or using PSCP for command-line secure copy, can be considered add-on components.

Installing  and Using SuperPutty

There have been a few useful connection managers for PuTTY the last few years, but all the various project development seems to have ceased to exist for each one. SuperPutty is no different, but luckily the project has been forked and shown to have regular releases and bug fixes over the last year or two from a new author. The new forked package can be found at http://superputty.vanillaforums.com/.

 

Once SuperPutty is downloaded and the program installed, the only required setup is to provide the path to where you have stored the PuTTY executable file. Optionally, the PSCP program can be specified as here as well.

 

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Figure 1: Here's the PuTTY and PSCP executable path.

 

After SuperPutty is loaded, you'll be presented with a simple window. From here, you can type host information in the top menu bar to connect manually, create sessions that you can save, open the PuTTY configuration menu, and import and export information into the session manager.

 

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Figure 2: Start with the main SuperPutty window manager.

 

Creating a new session is extremely simple. Right-click anywhere in the PuTTY sessions window area and choose New. Enter the session details and choose Save. The Putty Session Profile option actually is the settings configurations from the PuTTY program itself. PuTTY allows you change many settings, such as terminal and keyboard options, window behavior, translations, colors, and connection-specific settings. You can then store and save these if you want to use different emulation settings for different hosts. From SuperPutty's perspective, you simply choose these profiles for the hosts when you're setting up saved sessions.

 

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Figure 3: Create a new saved session in SuperPutty.

 

To edit the default settings or set up new profiles within PuTTY itself, click Tools and then PuTTY Configuration on the SuperPutty window. PuTTY does allow you to create these sessions, but managing them in a nice clickable user interface and being able to open multiple tabbed sessions is where it's lacking. Thus the reason for SuperPutty.

 

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Figure 4: PuTTY's configuration menu is simple.

 

After connecting to any host, your SSH screen will look something like this. You can see the tabbed connections and see how easy it is to switch back and forth between multiple connections to the same host or many hosts.

 

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Figure 5: You can have multiple SSH connections to one host.

 

Transferring Files

To enable copying files from the Windows machine to the remote hosts, you'll need to download the PSCP utility from the PuTTY suite. You can then either right-click the saved host session and choose file transfer, or connect to the host from the menu bar while selecting the SCP option protocol. This allows the Windows machine to copy files to the Linux machine, which is pretty handy.

Manipulating Tabs

Another very cool feature of SuperPutty is the ability to move and manipulate the connection tabs that are open on the screen. This allows you move and place the screens below, above, side to side, or even separate the tab off the toolbar completely. This comes in handy if you want to make comparisons of screens or if you're using one screen to read a manual file of a Linux command and the other to actually execute commands of actions.

 

To manipulate screens, grab the Input the Connection tab, left-click and hold, and drag the tab down. A colored screen appears with some navigation areas. Here, you drag the screen to the section of the SuperPutty program that you want to move the tab to.

 

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Figure 6: Move connection tabs off the main toolbar.

 

Other Protocols

PuTTY and SuperPutty allow a few other protocol connections other than just SSH. The following protocols are supported: Telnet, RAW, and RLogin. The RLogin protocol is a remote terminal session manager on UNIX and Linux.

Generating and Using SSH Keys

Although this isn't directly related to SuperPutty, PuTTY does support creating and using SSH keys for authentication through two of the other utilities. The PuTTY Pageant tool is the authentication agent putty relies on to load and pass key credentials to and from the host. The PuTTYgen utility creates RSA and DSA public/private key pairs. Download both of these utilities to get started with creating and managing keys.

 

There are already quite a few resources and guides on the Internet giving directions on using PuTTYgen and Pageant. A few of those helpful guides are listed here.

 

 

Like PuTTY in Your Hands

Just because you're running Windows, doesn't mean there are no good tools out there for connecting to and working with the Linux command line. PuTTY fills a large void by providing this command line client, but SuperPutty makes it a little more aesthetic to use with ease of saving sessions and tabbed support.

Max Hetrick

Max Hetrick is an Information Systems Assistant for an electric utility. He has experience with installation and maintenance of both Windows and Linux operating systems from the PC to server levels. Max is also an open-source software advocate. He welcomes all comments and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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