For many website development purposes, you can do everything through a browser, especially when you’re building on something as easy as WordPress. Sometimes, though, you want extra power, and that’s where SSH (Secure Shell) comes in. Assuming your host allows this access, some activities can be done much faster through SSH, if you know what you’re doing – and yes, it’s important that you know what you’re doing before you start playing around in here, as you could cause significant damage.
For a long time, a free app named PuTTY has been the undisputed champion in terms of the best tool to SSH from a Windows machine. However, with the recent Anniversary Update, Windows now offers a Bash shell supported by Canonical, the makers of Ubuntu Linux. This is a big deal for Windows to be opening up to Linux in this way, and has made a lot of developers very happy. When it comes to SSH, though, how does it stack up against PuTTY?
Well, it’s fine. It’s probably adequate. That’s as high of praise as I can give it. You’ll be ok if you do choose to use that for your SSH purposes, but it isn’t nearly as good as PuTTY. I suspect it will get better; this is an early beta preview so we can’t be too surprised by its bare bones functionality.
Here are the big three features of PuTTY that I quickly noticed were a huge advantage compared to Bash on Ubuntu on Windows.
It might seem like I’m being picky, but the font size for Bash on Ubuntu on Windows was too small for me. I could read it, but not from a natural working distance. In PuTTY, not only is the default size bigger, but you can also adjust font size, font face, font colours, and a lot of other things about the appearance.
Update: I tried it again soon after writing this (see why in my next post) and the font size was significantly increased. There still isn’t the customization options of PuTTY but the defaults are now much more usable.
It wasn’t long before I realized I could only have one Bash on Ubuntu on Windows window open up at a time. That means I can only be SSHing to one website at a time. Much of the time this is fine, since you’re typically only working on one at a time. Sometimes, though, it is valuable to be able to do things like copy a file from one site to another, then check from the other to make sure it landed in the right place before going back to the first site for another file. Bash on Ubuntu on Windows can’t do that.
Copy and Paste
How much do you copy and paste things in a day? I definitely do it a lot. As far as I could find, there is no way to copy out of or paste into Bash on Ubuntu on Windows. PuTTY’s isn’t the most intuitive paste function – you use the right click of your mouse, not the standard CTRL-V – but it is there, and once you get used to it, you can copy and paste like you would in any other app.