Best Free Telnet-SSH Terminal Emulator


Terminal emulators provide a telnet or SSH connection to UNIX like servers. Commercial products can emulate a wealth of terminal types, provide GUI face-lifting etc. All very nice, but this can leave the emulator feeling sluggish. Free implementations are more focused on the job at hand — providing a fast no-frills connection.

There is no shortage of candidates so I am presenting a couple of mature offerings followed by some modern projects.

Most free products only offer a narrow range of screen emulations, typically vt100, linux or xterm. As a full time support analyst, I considered support for the following features as my essential criteria.

  • Configureable function key sequences
  • Configureable answerback message
  • Local printing

Without the abovementioned accessing or supporting legacy-green-screen-systems is likely to be problematic.

In a Hurry?

Go to details...  Go straight to the Quick Selection Guide


Dave's TelnetDave's Telnet was the only package to offer all three essential criteria—albeit some manually. It offers emulation for linux/xterm/vt100/vt220/vt320/vt440.

Dave’s Telnet replaced my commercial product for a week with only a couple of minor points. Copy and paste functions seemed clunky and it failed to connect to one hostname, I had to specify the IP address.


PuTTYPuTTY is another very popular mature package, but only offers xterm emulation.

It does not appear to support an answerback message or configurable function keys. However, in the case of function keys this may not be applicable to xterm emulation. PuTTY has been incorporated into many related projects.

Both choices are maintained, but new releases are infrequent.


Other Free Terminal Emulators:

The following two packages I reviewed just missed a recommendation, but remain on my watch list.

Poderosa provides a modern tabbed environment offering vt100/xterm/kterm emulations and the ability to extend with plugins. It offers no obvious support for my criteria, but proved robust as a basic terminal emulator with a useful context menu available from right click. Another interesting feature is auto complete based on previously typed commands. This may be of interest to system administrators or those requiring basic remote access. Requires .NET v2 to be installed. Unfortunately this project seems to have gone the way of the Dodo with no updates since 2006. This is a great shame for a project that could easily have become my hands down winner over time.

Terminals is a more general remote access package including a vt220 terminal emulator. It provides a tabbed environment offering the ability to connect using telnet/Remote Desktop/VNC and others. It also provides over a dozen network analysis options, including ping, traceroute and whois. Again no obvious support for my criteria. I encountered stability issues using Windows 2000, although no definitive list of supported versions is given. This may be of interest to system administrators looking after a wide range of machine types. Currently being actively developed.

Quick Selection Guide

Dave's Telnet

Gizmo's Freeware award as the best product in its class!

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Offers all three essential criteria, emulation for linux/xterm/vt100/vt220/vt320/vt440
Copy and paste functions seemed clunky, have to specify the IP address.
114.6 KB
Open source freeware
This product is portable.
v1.2.7.32 released 03 June, 2013 View changelog here
Windows 95/98/Me/NT/2000/XP/Vista


Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Another very popular mature package.
Only offers xterm emulation.
1.3 MB
Open source freeware
A portable version of this product is available from the developer.
View the changelog here
Windows 95/98/Me/NT/2000/XP/Vista, Unix

This software review is copy-edited by Ian Richards. Please help edit and improve this article by clicking here.


free, terminal, emulator, ssh, telnet

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> Unfortunately this project [Poderosa] seems to have gone the way of the Dodo with no updates since 2006

Someone picked up the project earlier this year. Two new versions of Poderosa have been issued in the month at