The power of the command line
I believe that you should only use the mouse when you don’t know what are doing. That is why graphical interfaces exist. If you have a repetitive task, then clicking the same thing over and over shows that you are poor engineer. You need to take control of your tools to work in the smartest way.
PuTTY is a fine example of having both options. You can clicky-clicky all you want and waste hours of of your life pushing your mouse around the screen. Or you can run a lot of the repetitive PuTTY actions from the command line.
But first thing is to introduce to using the keyboard to get around Windows and open the DOS box. It always surprising how so few people know that Windows can actually be driven using the keyboard and very rarely need to use the mouse.
You need to note the directory that you installed PuTTY to, something like this would be the default.
and now we are ready to go:
So, we are ready to start PuTTY, click start, and PuTTY menu will be clearly displayed.
So lets create a telnet session for a device in our network by entering the details, entering a name in the Saved Sessions box and the clicking on the Save button
Getting to grunter
So normal people would click on Start, All Programs, PuTTY, PuTTY, Click grunter and the Open.
Lot of clicking for not much gain I would say.
Starting Windows programs on the Command Line
You can start just about any program in Windows from the commad line. I am always surprised by how many people don’t know this. Lets look at starting Windows Notepad from the CLI. That is, from a DOS box, just type the command “notepad” and the away it will go.
None of this clicky clicky business.
But we can make this even faster.
Fastest Way to open the the command line ….
The fastest way to open the Windows Start box is to press Control-Escape which will open the Windows Start menu (as if you had clicked on the Start button).
Then press the “r” key (for Run), and type “cmd” and the Windows DOS box (or whatever you choose to call it) will open on your screen.
Fastest way for Notepad would be ….
If you are thinging laterally, you would realise that the fastest way to open Notepad would be:
- press Command-Escape (together)
- press R
- type “notepad”
- and press enter
Ok, now we are starting to get much quicker at getting things done.
Where’s PuTTY ?
So you might think that it would be very easy to just type PuTTY using the same technique. But alas, it does not. Give it a go and do something like this:
you will get…..
It’s all about system paths
MS Windows uses a concept of paths to go searching for where programs are located on your hardware. When using the DOS box, the operating system has no context about where your programs are located on the hard drive. When using the GUI, the information about where the program is located, is contained in the Shortcut that you are clicking on.
You could start PuTTY by typing something like this:
but that is too much typing for me.
We can tell Windows that the directory where the PuTTY program is and to look in there for the program as needed.
To the Control Panel System tab then
In the Control Panel, System Properties, select the Environment Variables button at the bottom:
and then select Path in the System Variables section, and press the Edit button.
and it will look like this ( you need to be a little bit careful here not to delete the content, if you think you have mis-types then just press escape and start over), on the end of the line enter the following text exactly (including the semi colon):
This set the path variables to include the PuTTY program directory in the search path. You only have to do this once. Windows will set the the Environment Variable permanently from now on.
You will need to logout at this point, or restart. The Path Variables are only read once at boot time.
When you come back, open the DOS box again (Ctrl-Escape, R, cmd, Enter – just to remind you), and type path to confirm the variables are in place.
Alrighty then, lets try that again
Ctrl-Escape, R (for run), PuTTY
and we get PuTTY opening just like we were doing clicky-clicky all day.
Ahh, the speed and the comfort!! Can you feel that ?
But you’re right, I want even less clicking…..
BUT, I still have to click on grunter and then open with my mouse hand. Is strikes me that PuTTY was built by people who are really CLI centric so there would have to be options for doing more.
Sure enough. In Section 3.8 of the Help file, cleverly titled “The PuTTY command line” we get the following details.
To start a connection to a server called host:
putty.exe [-ssh | -telnet | -rlogin | -raw] [user@]host
If this syntax is used, settings are taken from the Default Settings (see section 4.1.2); user overrides these settings if supplied. Also, you can specify a protocol, which will override the default protocol (see section 184.108.40.206).
For telnet sessions, the following alternative syntax is supported (this makes PuTTY suitable for use as a URL handler for telnet URLs in web browsers):
In order to start an existing saved session called sessionname, use the -load option (described in section 220.127.116.11).
putty.exe -load “session name”
Even better is this bit
18.104.22.168 -load: load a saved session
The -load option causes PuTTY to load configuration details out of a saved session. If these details include a host name, then this option is all you need to make PuTTY start a session.
You need double quotes around the session name if it contains spaces.
So now I can open a DOS box (Ctrl-Escape, R, cmd, Enter – just to remind you again), then type:
YES! Freedom from the mouse!
A little review then
If you spend all day connecting to equpment, you need to get the connection done as fast as possible. Spending all your life clicky-clicky on the cute little mousey is just distracting you from the task at the hand. It just not geek enough, and you need to be hardcore.
This technique shows a really fast way to get connected to your devices. It works best for SSH devices although it does, kind of support telnet, just not very well.
You can now use the Windows Command Line to connect directly to a SSH host by using this syntax:
putty.exe -ssh firstname.lastname@example.org
or you can use telnet
You will need to spend some time learning the keyboard shortcuts that I talked about. Pretty quickly they will become second nature and you will have even more speed and confidence as you move around your network.
This really is only just the start of what can do with PuTTY, and there are lots more things. If you have a favorite then please contact me using the contact form or put something in the comments and I would be pleased to add it or write it up.
Other Posts in A Series On The Same Topic
- Putty - Fixing Right Click Paste (9th January 2011)
- Putty, the Command Line and NO clicky clicky (5th October 2009)
- Putty - Recommended Default Settings for a Network Engineer (21st September 2009)
- Setting the Defaults for PUTTY (20th September 2009)