During my transition from Windows to Ubuntu linux there were very few applications that I couldn’t find a suitable Linux alternative for based on what I was accustomed to on the Windows side. In fact I did a quick scan of the application landscape before my transition and made sure that for any road blocks I could come up with some solution. For example I knew Microsoft Outlook would be a problem. Outlook was and is the best mail client when your server is Microsoft Exchange. It has features and functionality nothing in a Linux alternative has been able to do yet. So my only solution until Thunderbird, Evolution, etc. can figure out MAPI, or openMAPI, or work better through EWS, is to use our Outlook Web App or boot a Windows VM where I can still have native Outlook. [This whole linux mail client for Microsoft Exchange could be another blog post altogether.]
Anyway one piece that truly surprised me during my transition was a suitable SSH client. I hadn’t previously even thought to research this as I was sure Linux would have some great SSH clients well outpacing any Windows counterparts. I’m not sure why I assumed this, maybe just thinking SSH is more of a Linux service than a Windows one and so the clients must be better…. Regardless I quickly found that finding a Linux client that could do even half of what my Windows SSH client could do was an effort with no happy ending. I had been using SecureCRT on Windows for a few years and really got spoiled by everything it could do and quite easily. Granted SecureCRT goes above and beyond your typical telnet/SSH client like the well known PuTTY. Being a paid application as well means if you are considering using it you probably will be using it quite extensively for work and it is able to fill some void for you where the basic apps like PuTTY fell short. Beyond the extensive SecureCRT feature list, the interface that allows you to group similar hosts/connections, configure tabs, set transparency on your sessions, colors, etc. all just make for a UI that stays out of your way and helps organize the complexity of connections you might need to configure. Alas, there is solely a Windows version of SecureCRT and so I emailed them about expanding their horizons to other OS’s yet had to move on.
After much research and trying a few of the top contenders I had to settle with using SSHMenu. Now I don’t mean to knock it as its great for what it supports, it just doesn’t have any of the more advanced features someone in an enterprise or IT focused environment may come to need. I am able to group hosts into a drop down tree like view and open those groups all in tabs. Each host leverages the Gnome Terminal profiles and I can set each one to a different profile so I can have my DMZ hosts have red text and my cloud hosts have green text, etcetera. I also had the need for a good Linux RDP client and stumbled upon Remmina a while back. At first I wasn’t impressed but tried it again a few versions later and now I’m thinking of using it for RDP and my SSH connections. It even has a gnome applet so I can integrate it into my menus.
Now, roughly 2 years since my transition to Ubuntu linux I get a surprise email from VanDyke Software (the company behind SecureCRT) stating they have released a beta SecureCRT for Linux! I must say I’m impressed on multiple levels. Even though the software is labeled as beta it is not lacking anything of value from the Windows client. The user interface integrates well into my Ubuntu desktop and they have a Mac version as well. So for those of you out there who have been looking for an enterprise grade SSH plus client on Linux, well you can finally stop your endless search. For those who don’t think it’s worth the $99, than more than likely Remmina or an SSHMenu type app should fill your needs quite nicely. Sometimes simply ONE of those features, when you can’t find it anywhere else, makes SecureCRT worth its $99 every day you use it. VanDyke’s tagline on their website is “We Listen. Then we make software better.” It took a couple of years, but they did listen AND make it better and I’ll stand behind that any day.