How to Use ConnectBot

By Jacob Andrew

Due to the odd screen size and limited keyboard, it's easy to get frustrated using ConnectBot on a smartphone. Unlocking the ability to open an SSH session from your handheld device, however, only requires a few adjustments. By adding a full keyboard, understanding the new swipe-based commands, and entering the connection address alongside the username, you can begin easily opening multiple SSH sessions from a portable device.

Preparing to Use ConnectBot

ConnectBot uses a phone's "trackball" as the "Alt" key. If your phone does not have a trackball -- a small, physical button, typically at the center bottom, used for common tasks -- the ConnectBot team recommends downloading a "full keyboard." (A list of such keyboards is found under "Resources.") These full keyboard apps add an "Alt" key to your phone's virtual keyboard.

Opening a Session with ConnectBot

After you open the application on your phone, connection is relatively simple. When you open the program, it immediately prompts you to open a session. Set your connection type to either Telnet, SSH or Local using the pull down list -- SSH is the default option and the most secure. In the box next to the connection type, enter your SSH terminal and username, with the format "[username]@[address]:[port number]", minus the quotes. For example, if I wanted to connect to IP address as user "user1" on port 22, I would enter "user1@". When connected, tapping your Android device's "back" button will allow you to open another session.

Navigating within ConnectBot

ConnectBot utilizes the features of a touchscreen to give new control over SSH sessions. When multiple sessions are open, you can jump between them by swiping to the left or right with your finger. While in a session, swiping up and down creates two different movements. Swiping up and down on the left side jumps page-by-page through the terminal history. Swiping up or down on the right side scrolls line-by-line through the terminal history.

Caveats to Using ConnectBot

There are a few things to consider when using ConnectBot. Foremost, the program is not designed to work in landscape mode -- the keyboard, in that instance, will occupy the entire screen. Security is another issue. ConnectBot does not close until you fully log out of a session. Pressing the "home" key on a phone that's not locked via password or pin number could leave your ConnectBot sessions vulnerable. To avoid this potential trouble, use ConnectBot on a locked phone, and use the "back" button to fully end your session before exiting the program. Finally, ensure that you're on an encrypted wireless signal, particularly if you use standard, unencrypted Telnet instead of SSH.