SSH Shortcuts

Let's say that you have a server you SSH into very often. Let's also say that sshd on that server is running on a non-standard port to avoid annoying scanners (we'll using 53718 in this example). To SSH into this server, you run the following:

ssh -p 53718

What a mouthful! There's got to be a way to avoid typing that much! A technique I've often seen people use is to create a shell alias for this:

alias example='ssh -p 53718' # in bash

So now all I'd have to do is run example. Piece of cake, right?

But what if you're using scp? Or sftp? Or rsync? Or git remote add? Or Vim's netrw plugin? Suddenly your simple shell alias doesn't seem so cool!

However, there is a solution to this! Enter your SSH config file.

Your SSH config file, located at ~/.ssh/config, can do a lot of cool things. To replicate our example above, we'd add this to our configuration:

Host example
  User rob
  Port 53718

Now all I need to do is ssh example, and voilĂ ! It works! It's four characters longer than the alias, but the shortcut is applied to the following commands as well:

scp example:that-important-file.txt .
sftp example
rsync -ar example:my-project/ .
git remote add example ssh://example/~/my-project
vim scp://example/that-important-file.txt

If you're interested in shortening the Git example even further, see my blog post about it.

Your SSH configuration file is very powerful; I recommend checking out man ssh_config for more options to play with!

Published on 2011-10-19