First impression of Panic’s “Prompt” – an SSH client for iOS

Update: See Panic’s response at the end of this review.

Prompt just came out and the likes of Johns Siracusa and Gruber are predictably raving over it so I bought it. Panic are the makers of the likes of Transmit and Coda so I knew it wouldn’t suck, but I also knew it was a 1.0, meaning it’s unlikely that it’ll replace iSSH just yet. Let’s just assume that I think it’s brilliant, looks great, has some fantastic features and that you’re going to buy it so I can get on with the bits I think need attention.

Prompt looks good. Very good.

There are two things that will stop this from becoming the day-one touchstone for SSH. Firstly, a problem it shares with iSSH is one of no way of sharing settings across devices. This is a minor niggle, but I’d like to see DropBox or settings storage from someone at some point. Not keys, though, obviously, because that’d be bad m’kay.

The other oversight is one that may end up being a dealbreaker for the likes of me. I’m a Sysadmin. I manage servers for a living. I need to do SSH from anywhere I can get a phone signal. What I need is to be able to fire up an SSH client and have it take me to where I was last time. I usually manage this with “screen -DDRS iphone” which checks if there’s a screen session named “iphone” and restores it or creates it if it’s not already there. Without the ability to set a command for the connection, this cannot be done with Prompt and I’d need to manually restore the screen session every time which, believe me, can be a nightmare in an area with a poor signal, like rural Scotland where I live and work.

Until this is rectified, I’ll not be recommending Prompt to serious sysadmins, although for casual users, it’s fantastic. Once I’ve used it a bit more, I’ll give it a proper going over from the point of view of a working server admin.

Update: Panic commented on this review on Twitter: “Really appreciate the feedback! I’ve already filed a feature request on Initial Command.” I can’t say fairer than that. Also, It’s turned out that Prompt makes use of the Command key on Bluetooth keyboards, something that all the other SSH apps do not do. They described the methods they used to get that to work as “unholy”.

Jared Earle is a writer, photographer and systems administrator. You can find him on Twitter most of the time.