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Softpanorama Bulletin
Vol 24, No.08 (August, 2012)

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History of WinSCP Development


WinSCP was created by Martin Prikryl and like most OFMs is a one-man project. This the only high quality, active development project of OFM that is using GNU license,

He started this project in March 2000, while working in the IT department of University of Economics in Prague. The temporary name “WinSCP” (Windows Secure CoPy) was chosen until a nicer name was thought of (which never actually happened). Along with Filezilla, WinSCP was one of the first GUI clients for SSH on Microsoft Windows but from the very beginning it has higher quality. As a client, I prefer it to Filezilla any time of the day.

This is an interesting product, not only due to talent and persistence of the author, Martin Prikryl but also because its popularity exposed one interesting feature about OFMs. Early OFMs were often used with one panel on a floppy drive and the other on the local hard drive. Predominant mode of usage of modern OFMs is with one panel of a remote site (sftp, ftp or other filesystem) and the other on the local hard drive).

Due to this specialization WinSCP has several interesting features:

Another distinctive feature of WinSCP is that it one of the few OFMs which supports scripting interface.

At the same time set of saved sessions is flat list, which became badly manageable as soon as you have  have several dozen of sites to connect. Using a standard panel OFM approach it is easy to make them a tree with groups, but so far this was not done. 


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Don't let it die like many other interesting OFM project from malnutrition

WinSCP is a Czech project which was started by Martin Prikryl around March 2000 while he was working at IT department of the University of Economics in Prague . As it is an open source project released under GPL with a single developer, there is a great danger that it dies from malnutrition.  So far, thanks God, this did not happen and the project is now 13 years old.  For OFM this is a pretty substantial term equal to the life span of Norton Commander (it lasted from 1984 to 1997 -- 13 years). It is also the only major OFM project that was launched in XXI century and managed to reach wide audience.

According to Martin Prikryl, the original idea came from Jan Havlicek.

In fact he wanted the tool a great deal. And he bothered me for weeks until I finally decided to implement it for him, without actually needing it myself beforehand. He was also the first one who spread the word about WinSCP on the Internet, before the project pages were set up.

During late 2000 distribution of the first releases of WinSCP 1.0 was started. The first WinSCP site was set up in October 2000 with the address It was designed by Katerina Sramkova. Version 1.0 supported the SCP protocol over SSH-1 only. There were several publicly available builds of the 1.0 release. Beside this there was never another release of the 1.x series. In addition to the English version, there was also a Czech one.

As version 1.0 was the first major project Martin Prikryl, its design suffered from multiple shortcomings.  But he did not abandon his project like many OFM authors do, but decided to continue, rewriting it from scratch. The resulting new version was released in October 2001 as version 2.0 beta. This version introduced SSH-2, public key authentication, alternative Explorer interface and several other features. It took approximately a year to stabilize this version and release a production version. It was version 2.2, released in January 2003.

Version 3.0 also introduced support for the alternative to SCP, the SFTP protocol. Over time it evolved from the alternative to the primary protocol. Despite this, an established name “WinSCP” was preserved.

After the author left the University the project was moved to SourceForge. That move was completed in July 2003 ( While WinSCP was an open-source project since its beginning, with the  migration to SourceForge it adopted the GPL license.

Since September 2003, WinSCP is also available as a plugin to the FAR file manager. Version 3.4 released in September 2003 was the first localized version since 1.0. There were Czech, Japanese, Russian and Spanish translations. Many other translations were introduced in later versions.  March 2005 the WinSCP site moved the second time. The new address is and the site is partly hosted on TeamForge. File downloads, CVS and other features are still hosted on SourceForge.

In May 2005 wiki with the documentation became available.

In April 2007 version 4.0 was released, introducing support for the old insecure FTP protocol to finally cover all file transfer needs of WinSCP users. In December 2007 WinSCP became available as a plugin to the Altap Salamander file manager. 

The current version as of Feb 2013 is 5.1.4. Version 5.2 which is in beta improves user interface:

Scripting interface

WinSCP offers scripting interface that you can use to automate many operations that it supports, including file transfers, synchronization and other operations. You can use either Windows command interpreter which is adequate for simple tasks or Windows Scripting Host.  For example here is a script that uploads a single file:

option batch abort
option confirm off
open [email protected]
put examplefile.txt /home/user/

You can assemble as many commands as you wish  into a script file. You can also use the /script command line option to pass the script to the WinSCP executable. For example you can embed the complete command line into a Windows batch file (.bat), like as follows:

@echo off /script=myscript.txt

If you have many ssuch files and execute them often you can make a shortcuts to desktop(either to batch file (.bat) or you can enter full command line in the shortcut icon properties.

If the wrapping batch file takes filename as command line parameter you can use it by dropping files on the icon. Windows automatically run the batch file and passes path to dropped file as a command-line parameter.

In a similar way you can put the shortcut to the batch file into Explorer’s ‘Send To’ context menu (c:\documents and settings\username\sendto). 

You can use WScript.Shell to execute WinSCP console interface tool and feed the script commands (using input stream), without creating temporary script file:

var shell = WScript.CreateObject("WScript.Shell");
// run (make it log to XML)
var exec = shell.Exec(" /log=log.xml");
// feed the commands
    "option batch abort\n" +
    "open mysession\n" +
    "ls\n" +
// wait until it finishes and collect its output
var output = exec.StdOut.ReadAll();
// optionally print the output
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Fifty glorious years (1950-2000): the triumph of the US computer engineering : Donald Knuth : TAoCP and its Influence of Computer Science : Richard Stallman : Linus Torvalds  : Larry Wall  : John K. Ousterhout : CTSS : Multix OS Unix History : Unix shell history : VI editor : History of pipes concept : Solaris : MS DOSProgramming Languages History : PL/1 : Simula 67 : C : History of GCC developmentScripting Languages : Perl history   : OS History : Mail : DNS : SSH : CPU Instruction Sets : SPARC systems 1987-2006 : Norton Commander : Norton Utilities : Norton Ghost : Frontpage history : Malware Defense History : GNU Screen : OSS early history

Classic books:

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