The Best Tabbed SSH Solution in Windows 7

PuTTY has been the standard SSH utility for all of my Windows based workstations since approximately 2002.  It is a clean, easy to use, lightweight utility that reliably allows various SSH/SSL functionality from a Windows client.   However, PuTTY has grown to become a very strange and atypical application.  The last version published was in April of 2007 (that is LITERALLY 4 years ago). It has a gigantic list of feature requests and bug fixes.  Yet, it is still unexplainably the mainstay and flagship SSH client… And I really just don’t understand why that is.  I mean really… 4 years?  There are two Microsoft OS releases in that time that a developer should be considering features and usability within.  I simply don’t get it.

Well, I’m initiating a changing of the fucking guard.

Vast amounts of Google research has yielded me a very sufficient and actively developed fork of PuTTY called “KiTTY“.   KiTTY is obviously based on PuTTY’s source, so it retains all the reliable and usability – but it also adds a slew of new and highly requested features that seem to be destined to never reach a build of PuTTY. Some of the biggest for me are:

  • Session based username/password saving
  • Send to tray functionality
  • Transparency (not the “real” transparency… it overlays the wallpaper.  But at least it’s trying!)

Sadly, even in it’s actively maintained state, KiTTY does not support a tabbed interface.  I MUST have a tabbed interface.  I have searched the ends of the internet for a GOOD and FREE client for SSH that can support a tabbed interface.  This simply does not exist in a single package.  You can fork out some cash for something like SecureCRT; or you can use something sub-par like Poderosa.  But meh, who wants to do either of those things??

One has to resort to a connection manager software, such as Putty Connection Manager, Super Putty, or (by far the best) mRemoteNG.  I strongly recommend mRemoteNG.  It has a vast amount of configurability, supports VNC, RDP, and other protocols on top of the SSH capabilities; and it runs very well and seemingly bug free on a Windows 7 installation.  The other two certainly cannot say that.

mRemoteNG even allows you to choose a custom path for your PuTTY executable (so, browse to kitty.exe)  😛

I followed these steps for an awesome tabbed SSH experience like no other; with support of multiple protocols, high amount of configurability, and even transparency!  I recommend every sysadmin do the same thing.  I’m sick of PuTTY being the undeserved king of this realm.

  1. Download KiTTY and save it wherever you like
  2. Download mRemoteNG installer, install it
  3. Open mRemoteNG and then click on Tools, Options.  Click the “Advanced” button on the bottom right.
  4. Set your custom PuTTY executable path to your KiTTY executable
  5. Create some sessions, set the protocols, even save the usernames and passwords if you like
  6. Triumphantly raise your hands in the air, as you have the best possible SSH setup known to man.  Here’s a screenie of my setup at home.  I disabled transparency because my laptop doesn’t perform very well with it enabled.

82 thoughts on “The Best Tabbed SSH Solution in Windows 7

  1. Vanberge Post author

    That is SIX key presses not including the servername…

    Vs a maximum of 4 mouse clicks. Not to mention managing multiple putty windows. :-*

  2. mickeyvb

    LOL@directory structure…

    ‘van-pod/touch/private/var/mobile/library root# cookies’

    or

    ‘van-pod/touch/private/var/mobile/library root# log’…

    just make sure you don’t ‘rm’ that!!! ; )

  3. Lance

    *sigh* Why do none of these Putty “connection manager” wrappers work with the Putty Authentication Agent (Pageant )? There’s no need to save passwords if they would just integrate with your resident SSH agent. While I agree, mRemote is probably the best out of those available, it’s still not quite there. I think the putty developers classify all this tabbed stuff in the same boat as terminal transparency – in the “pointless frippery” department. 🙁

  4. Vanberge Post author

    Lance,

    Actually if you install putty from the installer…. Then use mRemoteNG to point to that putty executable… It does work.

    I even went as far as to keep using Kitty, but rename it to putty.exe and place it in that folder. It uses Pageant as well…

  5. HAJ523

    How did you get around the fact that kitty saves it’s sessions to a different registry location than putty does. from what i can see mRemoteNG doesn’t have an configuration as to what reg location to look at and there for sessions created in Kitty with the ohhh so useful after login commands cannot be accessed when you create a new connection in mRemoteNG.

  6. Vanberge Post author

    HAJ523,

    The mRemoteNG has its own session manager that overlays either a putty or kitty configuration. If you set up your sessions in mRemoteNG, you can use either putty or kitty without issue in my experience.

    I normally only set the default user ID and then log in with a pageant added key.

  7. putty

    mRemoteNG has no proxy support, making it slightly useless imo.

    Not to mention that tabs are simply unnecessary. Putty doesn’t need updating, it works fine.

  8. Alexandru Matei

    Thanks. I tried mRemoteNG and MobaXTerm. I like most MobaXTerm, thank you for this article and your suggestions, they helped me a lot.
    Have a nice day!

  9. JWilliams

    Piotr:

    Thanks for the pointer to xshell, that is a great program! For an tabbed ssh client, I like it much better than mRemoteNG / KiTTy, and it is more elegant than MobaXTerm, which includes a lot of features I do not need.

  10. Sander

    Problem with most tab-managers is that they either can’t embed KiTTY (And sometimes even a newer PuTTY version is causing problems) or they don’t get focus on the window after (alt)-tabbing

    A while ago I ran across MTPuTTY, http://ttyplus.com. It allows KiTTY to be embedded (Jeey clickable links via SSH!) and I can switch programs/tabs without loosing the focus on my SSH session.

    And personally, the looks are just great 😀 Simple and plain.
    I also tried programs like mobaxterm, too much fancy colors, and even more options I don’t even want to use in a SSH client. And it doesn’t embed PuTTY/KiTTY afaik, and no clickable links.

  11. Ben

    This is the best set up I’ve been able to come up with as well – but there’s one catch. It doesn’t appear mRemoteNG supports public key authentication? And it doesn’t detect Kitty’s saved sessions (As I’m assuming they’re looking at different locations in the registry?).

    If anyone has a solution to this problem, please post it here!

    Thanks for a great writeup anyway!

  12. Didier

    MobaXterm really made my day! Thanks Vikas! It has all the features I ever wanted: I often have to connect to remote servers and routers and type commands which are always the same (edit configuration files, backup routers configuration, analyze log files, …). MobaXterm is really the ideal tool for doing these sysadmin tasks!

  13. kerryc

    Anyone use Penguinet from Silicon Circus? Although hasn’t been developed much recently, it’s definitely very handy, also can handle scp. It’s 15 GBP which is a decent price.

  14. JerkyChew

    chousey / vanberge – You do know that if you put Putty in your path (or System32), you can win + r | putty hostname, right?

  15. Esobeso

    Putty-ND is really simple and has tabbed sessions. Install Terminus fonts and you have a very practical and fast SSH terminal.

  16. Vanberge Post author

    JerkyChew that doesnt get you tabs.
    I have yet to try out this MobaXterm app as of yet – But I am still using this same setup with mRemoteNG and KiTTy over a year and a half later.

  17. s3rgi0

    Thanks for this post, I have been using MTPuTTY with KiTTY for half a year now, but will certainly give mRemoteNG a spin 🙂
    MobaXTerm I found to be too much for what I need though.

  18. stefan

    mRemoteNG is completely useless if you need to jump into different networks via jumphosts. You can`t configure tunnel or key auth from mRemoteNG. You have to configure it first in putty… so why I need mRemote?
    It`s not possible to execute a command on the remotehost at login to jump to another host. mRemoteNG is colorful but a console just needs to be black and useful 🙂

  19. Sarge

    This combination is fantastic. I used securecrt for a very long time and was stubborn to leave.. This is the best of every world, kudos to the author.

  20. LocalTroll

    Thanks for the post and all the suggestions on the way!

    I use mremoteNG mainly for windows servers and workstations.
    It wraps a lot but have some issues. Other hand it is a .net stuff so I am looking for a serious alternative. Which can be centralised (like mr.NG probably could – but never used) and – multiplatform.
    To the pros of mremoteNG – it can handle vnc and citrix sessions too…

    MobaXTerm looks fine – I wish I were the founds – they already deserve the price they asking for the paid version but this time I will stick to open source solutions.

    Leaving out .NET and java based bloatware with favour to multi-os.

    Going to check the rest soon. I hope!
    Thanks for all!

  21. Theo

    I downloaded mRemoteNG and Kitty, both as the portable version.
    Unfortunately I’m not able to select a saved Kitty session in mRemoteNG at “PuTTY Session”, it only shows me the “Default Settings”.
    I tried more things, setting the path under Tools, Options, Advanced to the Kitty executable. Also copied the Kitty executable to the mRemoteNG directory, rnamed it to putty.exe tc.
    Please help, thanks Theo

  22. Jürgen Kärner

    Thanks a lot Vanberge !

    ..been looking for a “ssh multitab setup” with possibilities to store the credentials for a long time 🙂

    Thanks !

  23. DavidD

    Does anyone have experience using these with Windows 7 Enterprise (annoying Unknown Publisher messages from latest PuTTY and KiTTY). And I cannot get my SafeNet eToken 72K (Java) to work. I have also tried PuTTY-CAC and PuTTYsc.

  24. John

    Tried DameWare. Super simple, nice interface. Almost perfect, doesn’t implement the home and end keys correctly though. Pressing home at the end of a command doesn’t move the cursor to the start of the command, it moves it to the start of the line before the command, and if you press another key it inserts a character at the end of the command and also returns the cursor to the end. Nice app, surprised they left that out. I use home and end too much, I’m going to try something else. Side note, PuTTy does it right, i.e. pressing Home moves the cursor and insertion point to the start of the command.

  25. John

    Multi-Tabbed PuTTy works fine for me (home and end work correctly). Using with PuTTy, can’t speak for Kitty.

  26. David M

    SuperPuTTY allows you to use kiTTY also.

    One super annoying aspect of mRemoteNG is when you click on the Window is does not necessarily become active, you have to click in exactly the right place.

    There are no such problems with SuperPuTTY.

  27. Eric

    Well… Using ssh for years, I second for MobaXterm. Simply a rocking tool with indeed almost all features one could ask for. Even no need for a seperate XMing anymore. ssh, scp, (s)ftp, vnc, rdp, tunneling and X-forwarding all packed in 1 executable. portable? yes. customizable? yes. macro’s? yes. tabs? yes (and yes… a decent sysadmin WILL use tabs now and then, especially when you can use the ability to place 2 or 4 of them aligned to eachother and execute 1 command to the visible sessions at the same time).

    Any drawbacks? Yes. The free version does not let you save unlimited sessions. just about 10 or so. That’s pity for an environment where dozens of servers are need to be controlled. Many companies have putty at hand just bezcause it’s free and mnore or less does the job. So the annual fee Moba is asking is not very…. clever. Better be a one time fee.

    However… You ARE able to pay a one time fee and use that professional version. But after a year for any new updates of the tool you need to pay again. Don’t like that.

    But otherwise Moba rocks.

  28. Pingback: MiniBOFH.org » Tabbed SSH solution in Windows

  29. shahulvm

    After trying all, I would say SuperPutty is the best tabbed lightweight client.
    mRemoteNG has more graphics to it and finally the awesome mobaterm.

    I use Superputty for day-2-day work and mobaterm for invoking remote x windows

  30. PuTTY-nd

    putty-nd is a tabbed style ssh/telnet suite basing on the putty. It is only for windows and built on mingw.
    It is great that it works and stable. Yeah, that is what I am good at.:-)

  31. erm3nda

    Vry usefull comparison. Have all needed protocols into one app with some GUI help.
    I always used Putty, but its annoying closing and reopen windows every time.

    However, SuperPutty, as says shahulvm is lightweight.

    Thanks.

  32. Rob

    Thanks for the post. My only comment is that while Putty does have a long list of features, there have been constant updates with the latest release in August 2013.

  33. Marc

    I have tested both, and still felt like there was no easy way to execute a shell script after login, so I revert back to putty connection manager

  34. Dimitri

    Great find.
    Only thing is, if I select kitty as the custom ssh path, it opens in a popup window instead of a tab.
    Anything in the config I missed?

  35. Vanberge Post author

    Hmm – not sure dimitri. Mine works fine. You could try renaming kitty.exe to “putty.exe”.
    Are you setting it from Tools, advanced section of MremonteNG ?

  36. DVGsam

    I could not recommend MTPuTTY enough.

    It supports encrypted passwords, has a tabbed interface, and is lightweight and simple.

    I tried all the ones mentioned here and other sites, but this one meets all my requirements.

    http://ttyplus.com/

  37. martin

    Frankly I don’t understand people with obsession having transparent background. I consider it one of the most annoying feature there is (along with animated window during its movement).

    Agreed though, the most needed feature of PuTTY is support of tabs (like, e.g., OSX’s iTerm2).
    I tried many alternatives but I always fall back to PuTTY – I just can’t find better client ..

  38. Eric

    mRemoteNG’s UI is a bit sluggish tbh.

    I’ll be sticking with MTPutty, it has less bells and whistles, but delivers on the useful features.

  39. Martin

    Great, I found myself needing accessing my servers from Wincrap 7 and wasn’t sure about what would be the best tabbed *free* client, thanks a lot.
    Btw, “Triumphantly raise your hands in the air, as you have the best possible SSH setup known to man.” LOL!!!
    But although I had a good laugh with your ingenious phrase I have to argue here: best SSH setup known to man is urxvt+tmux+fish shell 😀
    Cheers.

  40. SteveM

    Many of the other Term-Ems don’t support it either, so I’m not knocking your choice of which is best. But RemoteNG doesn’t support COM ports. WTHN, Kitty does! So if I want a COM port connection, I have to run Kitty stand-alone.

  41. Joel M

    Is there a single, solitary SSH client on windows that ISN’T just a crap rehash of PuTTY? If I have to convert one more key to PPK I could just scream.

  42. zolt

    Hi,
    is there splitted view possibility to watch more terminal window on one tab ( like in superputty? )
    Sometimes I need to run e.g. tail -f on log files on more servers simultaneously, as I see, if I need to watch all the 4 outputs, I have to switch between the tabs manually.
    Thanks!

  43. jon

    I’m using putty with MTputty with ppk keys. So you need pageant and puttygen.
    Then you can have multi-tab with password-less and hotkeys.
    I think Kitty could work with MTputty but havent tried that.

    smartTTY is really good, it does what mtputty+putty do with tabs and has password authentication.
    The drawback is that its takes a few steps to a different server to another tab.
    In addition you cant change color, I’m not a fan of black terminal.
    Setterm doesnt seem to work with smartTTY, so your stuck with black.

    I’ve used nremote, but this uses putty+puttygen for authentication and is not as flexibile as smarTTY

    Tried kitty, password feature is nice, but doesnt have tabs 😀
    Tried Terminals, but buggy trying to setup new connections
    Tera Term doesnt work on my win8

    MobaXterm free version is pretty good, however doesnt have inbuilt password, but with putty+puttygen can work well. supports everything the other versions and more.

    My picks
    Well you need to have putty installed with all of the session and keys that are generated with puttygen or pageant. If you need tabbed sessions.

    Then for the front-end,
    MobaXterm or
    smartTTY

  44. Robert

    I don’t understand why a tabbed interface is required. I hate tabs. Give me separate sessions so I can use Windows’ alt-tab any day.

  45. Vanberge Post author

    Robert,
    For me it’s the same workflow as a tabbed browser. I’d rather not be alt-tabbing through every browser window. I regularly have 10+ ssh sessions going at once, so I’d rather have them organized in a tabbed interface.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.