Working with Remote Resources

A modern desktop needs to be able to communicate with network resources over a wide range of protocols. Jorge O. Castro shows how to connect to these remote resources and use them transparently in your day-to-day work.


In today’s connected world, users find themselves managing data on any possible number resources. While keeping data on a local filesystem is still the most commonly used method of accessing files, we are increasingly using networked resources as a means of sharing and backing up data. A typical case would be a web developer copying his/her pages over to a web server using an FTP or WebDAV client, or perhaps copying them over to an SMB share on the corporate network. While these methods work, GNOME offers a transparent method of dealing with these networked resources that makes dealing with them as simple and easy to use as the local filesystem.

Let’s Get Connected

Utilizing these GNOME VFS features takes minimal effort, everything is provided for you out-of-the-box. Once you learn how to use remote resources in this manner, you’ll find them a valuable tool in getting work done. First, let’s access the connection dialog, you can do this by selecting File, and then Connect to Server from any file manager window.

Connect to server

From this dialog we can connect to any remote host via a number of protocols. If you are on a LAN and are unsure of what host you need to connect to, you can click the Browse Network button and see what servers are available on your network.

To connect to specific hosts, you can choose which protocol to use by choosing one via the dropdown, and then filling out the rest of the

Connect to a Samba share

Let’s start with something simple, like accessing a remote shell. We’ll use this as our first example, using ssh. Since the actual protocol is just an option, you can apply this technique to FTP, WebDAV, or Samba. Fill in the login credentials, and for Name to use for connection, you’ll want a friendly name, since Nautilus will name the shortcut after whatever you put in there. After everything is filled out, just click Connect. GNOME will then display a new icon on your desktop:

ssh desktop shortcut

What GNOME has done here is taken your remote host, and “mounted” it onto your desktop. You can now open this folder, and manipulate files and directories as if they were on your local machine. If you’ve already setup password-less authentication via ssh, then GNOME will respect those settings and never prompt you for a password, otherwise, it will utilize the keyring feature to keep all your remote passwords in one place, accessable via your keyring password. One thing to consider when doing this is the speed at which your network is in, there might be a considerable delay depending on network conditions.

You can have as many desktop shortcuts to these remote hosts as you need. The icons themselves have labels which remind you what protocol you are connected to, so you can have multiple kinds of connections to the same machine. For example, when I am at work with my laptop, I connect to a certain host via SMB since I am on a LAN. I also have another shortcut, except connected via ssh, so when I am on a foreign network I have a secured connection.

Another useful feature is that with multiple shortcuts you can drag and drop files between two remote hosts rather quickly, regardless of what protocols those hosts use. But GNOME doesn’t just put an icon on the desktop, the ideal goal is for this transparency to apply to all applications. GNOME applications take advantage of this via the file dialog.

ssh desktop shortcut

As you can see, the desktop shortcuts have also been added to the dialog box. In this example, I’m using screem to save files on my remote host. It is important to note that I do not need to set this up on an application to application basis, GNOME applications will merely pick up the new shortcuts as you add them. A caveat is that not all applications take advantage of this new dialog just yet, but most of them do. I can, however, work around that issue by saving the file locally, and then dragging it to the remote folder.

Once you’ve set up folders to your most commonly used network resources, you’ll find that they become useful and will save you time in the long run. This is especially true if you use multiple machines, or a laptop, since the shortcuts remain on your desktop across sessions. Future developments, such as command-line tools will allow for even greater functionality, such as scripting these shortcuts across a deployment, for example.


  • For more information, you can scan this chapter in the Gnome User’s Guide. (Note, this documentation has not been updated to include Gnome 2.8, but it is still useful)

Discuss this story with other readers on the GNOME forums.


Posted on January 10, 2005, in January 2005. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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