Tabbed SSH Sessions in Putty

If you’re a Windows user who uses Putty to ssh to your server you may be annoyed by the fact that you must have a separate window for each ssh session. I know I am, as tabbing through windows to find the right browser window is made just a little bit harder by flipping through those black screens.

Anyway, I went searching. There are ways to fix this. Unfortunately only one worked for me.

  1. Putty Connection Manager – is a nice interface that imported my Putty sessions automatically. Unfortunately double clicking on them launched the session but, apart from a new tab showing, the terminal window itself remained grey.
  2. Superputty – is very similar to Putty Connection Manager but didn’t work either. It doesn’t import Putty sessions automatically, it had to be done manually through a menu. Even though I didn’t have any sessions it warned that imported sessions might overwrite Superputty sessions. When I double clicked on a session it loaded Putty in a new window.
  3. WinTabber is a general purpose tabbing app that makes it easy to tab any sort of windows. However, during the install it offers to install Putty so they know their market! You can use CTRL and the number keys to switch quickly between tabs, just like I’m used to on other operating systems. This worked fine, but the free version has a limit of 4 tabs. Don’t worry, the registered version only costs $5 so it’s not going to break the bank.

In Mac OS X and Linux the terminals I use support tabs so I’ve always thought it odd there wasn’t an ssh client bundled with Windows. How do you handle ssh sessions in Windows?

Author: Donncha

Donncha Ó Caoimh is a software developer at Automattic and WordPress plugin developer. He posts photos at In Photos and can also be found on Google+ and Twitter.

12 thoughts on “Tabbed SSH Sessions in Putty”

  1. Ooops, I spoke too soon! I just found out that ctrl-r is bound to “release tab” in Wintabber. At least it can be remapped or disabled, but that’s something to watch out for if you use the history function in Bash.

  2. And another odd Wintabber issue. When I click on the (maximized) terminal window behind my browser focus goes to the terminal but the browser still floats overhead. I have to alt-tab or click the bar at the top of the window.

  3. Typing server passwords into an insecure OS seems like a bad idea. Why would you use Windows to ssh to anything?

    I understand running Windows in a VirtualBox or VMWare machine so that you can test browser compatibility (preferably with some automated testing harness and very restrictive network access), but actually using it to admin servers seems rather dangerous.

    1. Jesus- how’s r you doing with your raging paranoia – I type passwords into putty on a Windows machine – my trousers didn’t fall off or anything!

  4. I used to use SecureCRT before my switch to Linux. It has the capability of tabbing, and tabbing anything from SSH, Telnet, Serial ports, and a handful more protocols. Unfortunately, it’s not free. But, if you’re willing to shell out $$ for a specific feature, this is the app to go for.

  5. I too had the blank tab issue with Putty Connection Manager. I solved it by using the “Enable additional timing for PuTTY capture” setting on the main Options page. I set it to 1 ms and that fixed it for me.

  6. Update to my previous reply. The “additional timing” setting only occasionally fixed the issue. I’ve moved on and now trying to use mRemoteNG.

  7. My screen is grey as well. It seems that putty is executed but not being put into the window, it remains in the background.

    1. I went back to using multiple Putty windows. Even where I found something that works (and I can’t remember which one it was now) the focus would move to the application menu when I alt-tabbed and I could only change tabbed sessions with the mouse. Grrr.

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