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 and provide GUI face-lifting, etc. All are 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.

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

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


Rated Products

Dave's Telnet  

The only package to offer all three essential criteria

Our Rating: 
License: Free (Open source)
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.
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A very popular mature package offering xterm emulation only

Our Rating: 
License: Free (Open source)
A very popular mature package.
Only offers xterm emulation.
Read full review...

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.


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Looking for a Telnet client that will allow me to upload ANSI files without corrupting them. mTelnet will let me upload, but the ANSI looks awful. Downloads files perfectly though.

> 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