Home » 2012 » November

Making PuTTY prettier and nicer to work with

PuTTY has been my go-to SSH client on Windows for years but I’ve found that it does require a couple of tweaks to turn it into the (almost?) perfect SSH client. Below are some tweaks to improve PuTTY.

Display characters the way it’s meant

For years I’ve put up with PuTTY displaying certain accented characters or other symbols in a bad and nasty way. This will cause tools likeĀ aptitude and tmux to look really awful. It was not long ago that I found that this behavior could be fixed by setting the proper charset. Go to Window > Translation > Remote character set and change it to UTF-8. Lines drawn by tmux have never looked so good. It also removed an annoying display glitch I was having with irssi.

If this doesn’t work make sure Bash is set to use UTF-8 by adding

export LC_ALL=en_US.UTF-8
export LANG=en_US.UTF-8
export LANGUAGE=en_US.UTF-8

to your .bashrc.

More about setting up an UTF-8 environment.

Change the default font

By default PuTTY uses Courier New but I’m not really fond of it. Instead I use Consolas bold at 10pt. Using this font with these settings gives fuller text that’s better readable and nicer on the eyes. At least in my opinion.

Use PuTTYtray

I use PuTTYtray so I can set a transparent background. Just set alpha to 220 and the transparency is just perfect. PuTTYtray also has support for hiding your terminal in the system tray, but I personally don’t use that. If you don’t need either then I suppose standard PuTTY will be good enough. I do recommend to install PuTTY along side PuTTYtray though as it ships with some useful tools for key generation.

Change right mouse-button behavior

By default a click on the right mouse-button pastes anything you’ve got on your clipboard to the terminal. If you’re aware of this than it’s fine, but sometimes it can cause some inconvenience. Instead, change its behavior so a right mouse click will show a context menu which aside from pasting from the clipboard also adds some other useful shortcuts. You can find this setting under

Window > Selection > Action of mouse buttons and set it to Windows. The default is Compromise.

Full screen

If you use multiple screens (or not) you may already be resizing your terminal to fit the screen. Instead of full screen with the window border, title and scrollbar there’s also a full screen mode that removes this and uses the entire screen as your terminal space. To do this you need to enable this in

Window > Behaviour > Full screen on Alt-Enter. Doing so will let you use Alt + Enter to go to full screen.

Other settings?

In case I’ve missed any useful tweaks that improve usage of PuTTY I’d like to hear about them in the comments.

Using the IRC client irssi

Ever since I got my Raspberry Pi I’ve been using irssi for my IRC needs. Pidgin used to be my favorite client of choice for IRC and almost any other protocol. What makes irssi great is that I can keep it running on my Raspberry Pi and can resume my chat sessions wherever I am on whatever device (phone, iPad, iPod Touch, Laptop, Desktop) thanks to SSH and tmux.

These are some of the common shortcut keys I use a lot:

  • alt + p for page up
  • alt + n for page down
  • alt + left/right for switching tabs
  • alt + 0..9 for switching tabs

Aside from alt + p and alt + n you can also use PageUp and PageDown, but when I use my iPad via iSSH and my Bluetooth keyboard those keys aren’t available, and command + up / command + down don’t seem to work in iSSH.

And some other commands:

  • /who to list the users in the current channel
  • /join for joining a channel
  • /server for connecting to a server, this will replace your current connection though
  • /connect like the above, but keeps other connections intact
  • /help to show most commands, if not all

You can do a lot more with irssi than this. For example, you can write your own plugins. I haven’t had the need for this and I only use IRC for basic chatting really. If there’s a cool feature I’m missing out on I’d be glad to learn about it, so leave a comment if it’s worth mentioning.