There are many sites and YouTube videos explaining how to connect the pi zero to a laptop or desktop using a USB cable, then access the pi zero from the laptop using ssh. Here is a link to one guide.
I followed a guide on YouTube but had a few problems connecting to the pi zero w using ssh through Linux. Each time I put in:
ssh firstname.lastname@example.org -p22
I got a blank line which then timed out and displayed:
ssh: Could not resolve hostname raspberrypi.local: Name or service not known
I successfully connected to the pi zero w using putty on a Windows 8 machine. Putty is ssh with a nice GUI interface. Windows is 'plug and play'. I run Linux without a GUI, so have 'plug, learn and play' instead. Time to learn.
I fired up nm-applet, using the command:
Then I went to 'Edit connections'. The pi zero w will often be the highest numbered 'Wired connection'. In my case it was 'Wired connection 2'. Edit this. Go to the IPv4 Settings tab. Select Link-Local Only for the method. See a screenshot showing the setup below.
After saving the updated configuration, the ssh command works.