One of my daily challenges is getting access to the hundreds of different web sites that we host in order to make edits, tweak file permissions, or fix bugs. It’s easy to remember a handful of different URLs, login IDs, and passwords, but my photographic memory only has a 5-1/4″ floppy for storage, so as the number grows I need help.
One tool that’s helped me achieve more ninja-like response times is WinSCP, a free GUI-based FTP/SFTP client. Like most FTP clients, it lets me maintain a list of stored sessions that I can open in a flash, but what sets it apart is the slick integration with the popular PuTTY SSH client.
I came to WinSCP by a round-about path – for a long time I used FileZilla for SFTP and PuTTY for SSH, but the effort of maintaining a separate list of site logins for each tool ate up valuable brain cycles and finger motions that could have been used profitably for other tasks. When I discovered WinSCP, it was like a floor wax and a dessert topping in one – the tool lets you launch both PuTTY and SFTP sessions to a given server in a single stroke. Sometimes you need a little command shell, sometimes you need a lot – now you don’t have to choose.
Setting up the PuTTY integration takes a few minutes, but it’s fairly simple. In WinSCP, open the Preferences dialog and select the Integration / Applications heading on the left. Enter the path to your PuTTY installation (you need to install PuTTY separately), and set the other options the way you like them – the most useful one lets you pass the session password to PuTTY so you don’t need to enter it again. You can set it to launch a PuTTY session every time you connect to a server via SFTP, or you can just use the convenient button on the main toolbar to launch PuTTY when you need it. Either way, the seconds you save by not having to re-enter the login ID and password each time can add up in the long run.
One minor annoyance that I recently solved was setting the color preferences for PuTTY when launched from WinSCP – I knew how to do this with stand-alone PuTTY, but the integrated version always came up with a blue-on-black scheme that was a challenge for my aging eyes. To fix this, just use the normal PuTTY settings dialog (in PuTTY, right-click on the title bar and select Change Settings), but be sure to select “WinSCP temporary session” in the list of saved sessions, and save your changes to that.
WinSCP has a host of other features I haven’t even explored yet, including remote directory-synchronization functions and extensive scripting and command-line support. You can also generate Windows shortcuts to saved sessions, which could be stored with
your other project files to make your life still easier.
If you want to spend more time with your family and less time searching for passwords, I’d recommend giving WinSCP a try.