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Unix Dweeb

Using PuTTY to connect to Linux

Jun 27, 20235 mins

PuTTY can do a lot more than allow you to log into Linux from another system. It also allows you to tailor your window in several ways.

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PuTTY is a great tool for connecting between systems of different types. In case you’re not familiar with the tool, the name has no connection to Silly Putty. Instead, the capitalization of the TTY part of the name suggests its connection with the acronym tty. It provides an easy way to log into a Linux system from Windows as well as many other systems.

Say you want to log into your Linux system from a Windows system. This tool will allow you to set up a connection (IP address, host name, etc.) and control the size, colors and font to be used. This post explains how to set PuTTY up to optimize your view of the Linux command line. PuTTY was actually born on Windows to make this kind of connection possible.

First, install PuTTY on your Windows system using the link shown below.

Once PuTTY is installed, you can provide it with the details needed to make your connections.

When you open PuTTY, the category Session will be highlighted on the left side of the window. Add your Linux system’s IP address in the Saved Sessions box in the middle of the configuration tool. Look for this:

Host Name (or IP address)
  |                                |   

You can then enter the hostname of the Linux system.

Load, save or delete a stored session

 Saved Sessions
  |                                |   

The connection type should be SSH (the default).

Click the Save button on the right.

Next, select the new entry by clicking on the hostname and click Open on the bottom of the window. You should be prompted for your username and password.

That said, the default window settings are not likely to tickle your fancy. The white lettering on a black background, the 80x24 resolution and even the default font (10 point Courier) might leave you wanting a larger, more colorful and easier-to-read setup.

Fortunately, you can change all of these things. Just open the PuTTY configuration window again, click on your Linux system from the Saved Sessions list and get ready to make the changes.

Changing the size of the window

To change the size of the window, select Window from the left panel. Change the settings in the Columns and Rows fields. For example, you might change Columns to 120 and Rows to 40. Then click on the Apply button at the bottom. If you already had a PuTTY window open for that system, it will change size immediately. If you like the new window size, make sure you save the changes by clicking on the hostname under Sessions and the Save button on the right.

Changing the background and foreground colors

To change the colors for your PuTTY window, open the PuTTY window, click on the hostname under sessions and then select Colours from the left panel. To change the background color, select Default Background. You then have two choices on how to make the changes. You can enter 0-255 to specify the amount of each of the red, color, green and blue settings to use. Here’s a sample of such settings and the color that would result:

255, 255, 255 = white
0, 0, 0 = black
0, 255, 0 = light green
100, 0, 100 = purple

After clicking on Default Background, you can also just press the Modify button underneath the list of colors. This will bring up a window providing a large grid of colors that you can select from. It allows you to precisely click on the color that you want.

Do the same thing for the Default Foreground (font) color. Once you’ve selected your colors, select your hostname again under Sessions and click on the Save button.

Changing the font and font size

You can also change the font that you use and its size. You can then select the font under Font settings by clicking on the Change… button.

Open the PuTTY window and select the hostname and click on Load on the right side.

Click on Appearance under Window on the left.

Under Font Settings, you’ll see the font and font size currently in use. Click on the Change… button on the right and select the font, font style (e.g., regular and font size) and the font size (e.g., Courier, bold, 14). Then click OK at the bottom.

Make sure you save your changes by clicking on Session (top left) and your Linux system under Saved Sessions and click on Save.


PuTTY is a great tool for connecting to other systems, but tailoring your settings so that they work well for you will always make it nicer to use. Keep in mind that each system you connect to will have its own settings. If you log into several systems at the same time, the colors can help you keep track of which is which.

Unix Dweeb

Sandra Henry-Stocker has been administering Unix systems for more than 30 years. She describes herself as "USL" (Unix as a second language) but remembers enough English to write books and buy groceries. She lives in the mountains in Virginia where, when not working with or writing about Unix, she's chasing the bears away from her bird feeders.

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of Sandra Henry-Stocker and do not necessarily represent those of IDG Communications, Inc., its parent, subsidiary or affiliated companies.

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