In ssh_config, one can choose to export some environment variables to the host using SendEnv.

Is there also a way to force a given value for this variable, per host? For example, would it be possible to export variable $FOO with value bar only when connecting to host example.com?


You can't give a specific value for an environment variable in ssh_config, but you can certainly send the existing environment variable only to specific hosts.

Host example.com
    SendEnv FOO

To complete the chain:

FOO=bar ssh user@example.com

Finally, the remote server must have the environment variable listed in AcceptEnv in its sshd_config.

AcceptEnv FOO
  • WHAT is precisely what you'd like to avoid? – Michael Hampton Feb 27 '13 at 7:32
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    Having to write an alias in order to send a variable with a given value. – ℝaphink Feb 27 '13 at 7:35
  • Sorry, not much else you can do... unless you can get the computer to read your mind. :) – Michael Hampton Feb 27 '13 at 7:38
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    Thanks for confirming my suspicions though ;-) What I'd have liked would been something like SetVar FOO='bar' in ssh_config ;) – ℝaphink Feb 27 '13 at 7:38
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    The recurring case for me is that old systems don't support TERM=tmux-256color so I'd like a fallback per remote host (with wildcards). – Jed Jun 11 at 15:01

You can give a specific value by using SetEnv in your ~/.ssh/config, e.g.

Host *
  SetEnv FOO=bar

Assuming your server got the following line in /etc/ssh/sshd_config:

AcceptEnv LANG LC_* FOO

Check also: man ssh_config and man sshd_config.

  • 1
    Note for the puzzled reader (like myself, when I first read this): This is new since OpenSSH 7.8, released in August of 2018, and it will take a while for it to become available to the average user through OS updates. (But once it does become common, it will be by far the best solution to the problem) – Irfy Jul 16 at 9:37

Another idea is to set the environment variables in the ssh command and run an interactive shell, eg. i'm trying to invoke an interactive shell with env-var 'MANWIDTH':

ssh example.com 'MANWIDTH=120 bash -li'

You can set per host config values using .ssh/config file. For example:

Host example.com
SendEnv FOO

Note that server must also support it.

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