What is a good terminal emulator on Linux?

A good terminal emulator is a sufficient reason to choose Linux over Windows or Mac. Any power user of Linux would agree on that. By accessing the shell, a user can easily perform tasks that would be impossible, or too repetitive to perform from a graphical environment. But the choice of your terminal emulator is important since it can be the single application that you use the most. I will try to give you a well furnished list of good terminal emulators on Linux, from the classics, to the most exotic, but always efficient and original.

If you deem a terminal application not cited here worthy, please let us know in the comments. There are a lot of them out there, and most are completely worthy of your attention.

1. Gnome-terminal

Let's start with the "classical" terminals, and for Gnome, Gnome-terminal is as classical as it gets. It supports different user profiles, tabs, text re-sizing, transparent background, and a high degree of customization. As its name suggests, it fits in perfectly in a Gnome environment.

2. Konsole

Also a big name, Konsole is pretty much the equivalent of Gnome-terminal for KDE environments. One of the few additions is that Konsole supports a split-view mode as well as directory bookmarking.

3. (Xfce) Terminal

Xfce users also have their own terminal with xfce4-terminal. The idea is to get a product similar to Gnome-terminal in appearance, but much lighter in terms of resources needed. The result is very customizable, but without user profile functionality or transparent background.

4. LXTerminal

To finish with the most famous terminals for desktop environment, LXTerminal is designed for LXDE environments. As you can imagine, it is even lighter and faster than xfce-terminal, leaving behind complex customization and advanced options, just to keep the tabs.

5. Terminator

Now let's get to the Rolls-Royce of terminal emulators. Terminator is one of the most complete software out there. It includes tab, split-view horizontal and vertical, screen captures, user profiles, plugins, and layout manager. Probably more options than you will ever need. The downside is the weight, and the heavy resource consumption. Up to you what you sacrifice.

6. Tilda

There is also a completely different style of terminal, the so called "drop-down" type. If you like to have your terminal always at the stroke of a key, you might enjoy the next three software options. First, Tilda is the epitome of the drop-down terminal. It is environment free and pretty light. You can set the degree of transparency or even a different background, and then choose from which side of the screen it should appear. Past that, do not expect anything too complex like tabs or split-view. Tilda only does one thing: appear quickly when you need it.

7. Guake

For those of you who like the concept of Tilda, but prefer something more integrated with Gnome, you should try Guake. Concerning the functionalities, they are more or less similar to Tilda. The difference between the two is mostly cosmetic.

8. Yakuake

But KDE users are not forgotten either, with Yakuake, which is basically the alternative to Guake for KDE environments. It proposes the same things as Guake, in addition to a tabbed interface and users profiles.

9. Terra

And for power users, who liked Terminator and want it as a drop-down, I propose you Terra which is the best of both worlds. In between Guake and Terminator, Terra supports split-view and tabs while being a drop-down.

10. rxvt

If your goal is to be as lightweight as possible, and that you want something close to xterm, then rxvt is for you. With no tabs, no customization, no split-view, no anything, rxvt is the must when it comes to ultra-lightweight. If sometimes you need the bare minimum, then rxvt is for you.

11. Sakura

As lesser known terminal emulator, Sakura is based on GTK but does not require a full Gnome installation. Unlike rxvt, Sakura has a few extras, like tabs and color customization, but tries to keep it simple and basic. So if you want the basics in a lightweight environment-free software, Sakura is probably where to turn to.

12. Terminology

One of the most exotic terminal out there is Terminology. Originally designed for Enlightenment, it proposes the classical functions that we kept seeing so far, and also throws in a few more that I have not seen before. Among them, the possibility to stream media straight from the terminal, and even thumbnails for file listing.

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Adrien Brochard

I am a Linux aficionado from France. After trying multiple distributions, I finally settled for Archlinux. But I am always trying to improve my system by stacking up tips and tricks.

34 thoughts on “What is a good terminal emulator on Linux?

  1. Thanks! Sakura was a really good suggestion. I had been using mrxvt (based on rxvt) but was annoyed by the inability to click links. Sakura seems lightweight, simple, and lets me click on urls!

  2. Err... I'm using XFCE, and I assure you can make xfce4-terminal transparent :)
    Thanks, nice article, I'll try some drop-down emulators!

  3. I think these should have been ordered differently but that is pretty much my only gripe about the list. All good terminals ;)

  4. Terminology: Image/video links open inside the terminal.

    FinalTerm: Great command completion. I haven't had much luck with byobu in it, however.

    Terminator: Tried and tested.

    Yakuake/Guake: Quickly hide/access the terminal with a keyboard shortcut. Just nice to have.

    And lots of other options out there. Try them all, find the one you like.

  5. ROXTerm is the best for me. I'm surprised that it's not included in this list. It has everything you need in a terminal and it's very fast. I'm finding it way better than Gnome Terminal, Konsole or XFCE Terminal actually.

    • That assumes that /tmp isn't a memory based filesystem like tmpfs. I haven't had /tmp on disk for several years, so I think the risk you are pointing out is overblown.

    • I can't see issue that user which uses terminal can see swapped data on disk using the same (or root) account also. Question is — why user should be able to see data on terminal, but shouldn't to see them in lower level?

  6. Actually Mac has a pretty nice terminal. You can get it looking nice and swanky, plus it has nice drag and drop capabilities. Of course I love linux, I just felt it unfair to imply that Mac was devoid of terminal opportunities :)

    • Exactly. In fact iTerm2 is one of the best terminal emulators that I've ever seen, and it is for OSX, not Linux.

  7. After trying guake and tilda for sime time and searching for an even better solution for a drop-down terminal I found altyo. It is actively maintained and has a lot of features/options.

    https://github.com/linvinus/AltYo

    I really like it and if you're into dropdown terminals, give it a shot:

    arch aur package: altyo-git

  8. I use terminal on Mac OSX without any problems. I used also gnome-terminal in gnome2. Unfortunately gnome become completely useless in version 3, thank you MATE for replacement.

  9. Thanks for this! I'll definitely have a look at Terra. My current stand-by is Yakuake with screen (indispensable on the lighter terminal emulators, I think), but no split views.

  10. Ah, yes. Terminal emulators.

    For when an actual Terminal is just too hard.

    And hitting 'Ctrl-Alt-Fx' is too many keypresses at once.

    • An actual terminal is pretty hard for most people most of the time.

      (n.b. Ctrl-Alt-Fx takes you to... a terminal emulator.)

  11. rxvt-unicode is my choice too. Other than being very lightweight, especially when you have dozens of open terminals, power-users tend to rely on shortcuts, and several terminal emulators tend to hijack them for menu access (Alt-F / Alt-B are typical examples). This doesn't happen in rxvt.

    I find terminals like Terminator to be very good, but only in very occasional situations. Others, like the default distribution terminals, tend to be overly bloated.
    Most of the features that most terminals have are replaceable by a good ~/.Xdefaults and screen/tmux. These are also useful when you need to remotely reattach to an open terminal via SSH, thus avoiding the need for VNC.

  12. > A good terminal emulator is a sufficient reason to choose Linux over Windows or Mac.

    Yeah a good reason for geeks. Dude Mac is unix based os and got a really pretty simple terminal. No, a terminal is not a reason to use Linux over other OSes. For talking to the kernel you dont need a beautiful terminal.
    Btw thanks for your article and ah just to let you know, i'm still Linux user but hate people bringing stupid resons for using an OS over another.

    Have a nice day.

  13. Great post!

    I would make just one correction to it: gnome-terminal removed transparency from version 3.7 and above, and it appears that it wont have it back for a while:

    https://bugzilla.gnome.org/show_bug.cgi?id=698544

    However, the MATE folks had forked gnome-terminal, calling it mate-terminal, and this fork still have transparency. I switched to mate-terminal because of that.

    Thanks for the tips of the other terminals.

  14. When I saw the title of this piece, I thought maybe someone had some answers for me finally. I must be the only person in the entire world who needs a serial terminal emulator in Linux. I support an old system that has serial terminals only, no networking. I've replaced some of the terminals with Linux PC's to give some of the users Internet access at their desktop. I've searched for a decent serial terminal emulator and have only come up with minicom. Not the sexiest solution but it works. Are there any other serial terminal emulators for Linux out there? Windows has plenty but it doesn't seem to be a hot spot in the Linux world.

  15. i use Xfce terminal and it not only has the capability for transparent background, but it can also work in drop-down mode, just like guake.

    (my version is: xfce4-terminal 0.6.3)

    • "Transparency" is a *horrible* reason to recommend a terminal emulator.

      One uses the terminal to get work done, not to look at eye-candy. Unless, of course, you're twelve.

      • Hey, james, do you have a point or you are just bashing every one to get some attention?

        Numerous times I had used the terminal while watching some tutorial over the transparency, or a movie, and this is a important feature to me. It was this feature that pushed me away from gnome-terminal, and i even considered moving away from gnome, and i am not the only one.

  16. Thanks for the article. It is always nice to see what people are using, or whatever is out there to use.
    I myself find the PAC manager (Perl Autoconnect Manager) the best client out there, as it has tabs, connection manager, pre-post scripting, power clustering (you define a cluster of servers, execute the command on one terminal, and the command gets executed on the whole cluster).

    http://sourceforge.net/projects/pacmanager/

    • pac manager is excellent. I use it for one year to connect via serial to my router and cisco server via ssh etc.

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