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I'm using putty on win7 as client, to log into ssh on a debian server. But I've met a strange problem about keyboard behaviors on putty console.

I noticed that it's about keyboard config in putty. After reading the manual of putty, I successfully made backspace key to work, but still have troubles about ESC, arrows, home and end, and F1-F12 keys.

Here is my keyboard config in putty

Here I list their behaviors below. It seems that the mismapping of ESC is the root cause.

  • ESC => ^[
  • up => ^[OA
  • down => ^[OB
  • right => ^[OC
  • left => ^[OD
  • home => ^[[1~
  • end => ^[[4~
  • F1 => ^[[11~
  • F12 => ^[[24~


Here I will show why I think esc is mismapping:

When in a correctly working ssh console, I press esc, it should show nothing.


But in this malfunctioning ssh console, I press esc, it shows ^[.

root@somemachine: ^[

I ran od -c on both ssh console, and pressed esc, they gave the same output.

(normal one)
root@opengg:~# od -c

(malfunctioning one)
$ od -c
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I had the same problem, i solved with this solution: – jncruces Oct 28 '15 at 10:16
up vote 11 down vote accepted

The problem is the value of the TERM environment variable does not match the configured terminal characteristics - specifically the "Home and End keys" and "Function keys and keypad" settings.

These can be hard to get right.

What is expected by the Debian server.

Type infocmp -I to see what your computer is expecting.

$ infocmp -I 
#       Reconstructed via infocmp from file: /usr/share/terminfo/a/ansi
ansi|ansi/pc-term compatible with color,
        rmul=\E[m, il1=\E[L, kbs=^H, kcbt=\E[Z, kcud1=\E[B,
        khome=\E[H, kich1=\E[L, kcub1=\E[D, kcuf1=\E[C, kcuu1=\E[A,

khome=\E[H means that the server expects to receive three characters ESC [ H when you press Home.

You can look at what is expected for other values of TERM

$ infocmp -I xterm
#       Reconstructed via infocmp from file: /usr/share/terminfo/x/xterm
xterm|X11 terminal emulator,
        is2=\E[!p\E[?3;4l\E[4l\E>, il1=\E[L, ka1=\EOw, ka3=\EOu,
        kb2=\EOy, kbs=\177, kbeg=\EOE, kc1=\EOq, kc3=\EOs,
        kdch1=\E[3~, kcud1=\EOB, kend=\E[4~, kent=\EOM, kf1=\EOP,
        kf10=\E[21~, kf11=\E[23~, kf12=\E[24~, kf13=\E[25~,
        kf14=\E[26~, kf15=\E[28~, kf16=\E[29~, kf17=\E[31~,
        kf18=\E[32~, kf19=\E[33~, kf2=\EOQ, kf20=\E[34~, kf3=\EOR,
        kf4=\EOS, kf5=\E[15~, kf6=\E[17~, kf7=\E[18~, kf8=\E[19~,
        kf9=\E[20~, khome=\E[1~, kich1=\E[2~, kcub1=\EOD,
        kmous=\E[M, knp=\E[6~, kpp=\E[5~, kcuf1=\EOC, kcuu1=\EOA,

Here you can see that, if TERM were set to xterm, this server would expect to receive ESC [ 1 ~ when Home is pressed (khome)

If the above is too cryptic, try infocmp -L

You can also do things like tput khome | hexdump -C if you know the terminfo capability names for the keys you are interested in.

$ tput khome | hexdump -C
00000000  1b 5b 48                                          |.[H|

or, arguably more legibly

$ tput khome | hexdump -e '12/1 "%3_u" "\n"'
esc  [  H

or to see what another TERM setting might mean

$ TERM=xterm tput khome | hexdump -e '12/1 "%3_u" "\n"'
esc  [  1  ~

if the output is empty the server thinks that terminal type (TERM) doesn't have that key.

What is actually sent by Putty.

To see what Home actually sends, run vi, press i (for insert mode) press Ctrl+V then press Home and press Esc to exit insert mode.


Adjust Putty config (or TERM) until what is sent matches what the other end expected.

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+1 for a clear explanation. – Yitzchak Oct 4 '11 at 14:51
Making sense, but the problem is I can't even get ESC to work, let alone home. Seems like I have to solve ESC first, right? – Rufus Oct 4 '11 at 14:59
If the ESC key produces ^[ as output, it works as designed. – ktf Oct 4 '11 at 15:03
@Rufus: ktf is right. Your problem is not the Esc key since the other key definitions in no way depend on how the Esc key is defined. ^[ is short for Ctrl+[, Just as ^A is short for Ctrl+A. [ is the 27th "letter" and Esc is the 27th control code (see ASCII table) – RedGrittyBrick Oct 4 '11 at 15:23

There is no mismapping of the ESC key - ^[ means Control-LeftSquareBracket which is ASCII 27 which is ESC

If you suspect the keys to give wrong sequences, check them with od -c and compare them to the infocmp output:

 $ od -c
 (hit F1 Ctrl-D Ctrl-D)

Output may be (033 is ESC):

 0000000 033   [   1   1   ~

Compare it to the output of infocmp (here \E means ESC):

 $ infocmp -1 | grep 'kf1='

Short introduction to infocmp output:

kbs = Backspace

kcub1, kcud1, kcuf1, kcuu1 = Cursor Keys

kf* = Function keys

kpp / knp = Page up/down

khome / kend = Home / End keys

kich1 / kdch1 = Insert / Delete keys

Using these Informations it should be easy to configure your putty for your system correctly.

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Until you find a full solution try using vi-style keys instead of the arrows.
H => left
J => down

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