Get This App: Prompt

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I’m a bit of a command-line nerd: I cut my teeth on a VAX machine back in the early ’90s, and I was legitimately excited when I heard that Mac OS X would include a Terminal app. And while there may not be a user-accessible command-line in iOS, that doesn’t mean I can’t use my 21st-century tablet or smartphone to get to a 20th-century blinking cursor. For just such an occasion, I turn to Panic’s Prompt.

Prompt is a secure shell (SSH) client for iOS that lets you log in to remote or local systems. In and of itself, there’s nothing terribly new about an SSH client, but what makes Prompt stand out from the madding crowd is a simple, elegant interface and no shortage of functionality.

If you’ve got a lot of remote connections to maintain, Prompt can help you by letting you save your frequently used servers; you can then later access them with just a single tap. You just need to specify the server, port (in case you’re running a server that doesn’t use the default SSH port), username, and password (or you can have Prompt ask every time).

If you hate remembering passwords, but don’t want to sacrifice security, Prompt even allows you to upload a cryptographic DSA or RSA keyfile via iTunes File Sharing or import one from iOS’s clipboard. You can secure Prompt itself by specifying a PIN that needs to be entered whenever the app is opened while connections are active.

Prompt and courteous: The ability to set up quick access to custom keys is one of Prompt's best features.

My favorite feature of Prompt, though, is configurable custom keys. The command line has its own particular—and, many would say, arcane—vocabulary, and while it uses more or less standard keys, iOS’s virtual keyboard buries some of those less-frequently typed characters, like the pipe (|) or the forward-slash, a couple of levels deep. Prompt adds those and other handy keys—the cursor keys, page up and page down, escape, control, and tab—to a quick bar at the top off the keyboard. However, if those aren’t the keys that you need, you can customize them by tapping and holding on one and changing it to whatever you like.

Even better, Prompt has excellent autocomplete support; it can recall the commands that you use frequently and offer a pop-up, à la iOS’s autocorrect, so you don’t even have to finish typing—just tap the suggestion bubble instead. If you find that this feature gets in the way, or if you’re just that hardcore, you can opt to disable this feature.

Prompt has a few other handy features: It can automatically detect local servers that are available via Apple’s Bonjour technology, it can maintain multiple open connections simultaneously, and it can even execute a custom command upon making a connection. There are a few display options, too: You can choose from three different font sizes and decide whether you prefer white-on-black or black-on-white (the lack of classic phosphorescent green-on-black does make me sad, though). And, of course, Prompt is available on both the iPhone and the iPad, so you no matter where you go you’ll be sure not to miss your connection.

Developer: Panic
Platforms: iOS (Universal)
Price: $8

This story, "Get This App: Prompt" was originally published by TechHive.

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