Terminator: The Tiling Terminal Emulator for Linux Pros

You might have seen some colleagues or YouTubers using a terminal window with multiple terminal sessions running in it.

gnu screen

Some pro Linux users do the multiple split pane with screen or tmux commands. These commands work in any terminal application but involve a steep learning curve.

If you want multiple terminal sessions in the same application window without the complexity of the tmux or screen commands, Terminator is your friend.

No, not that terminator. This terminator 👇

terminator htop neofetch cmatrix

The terminal emulators installed on your system may have multiple-tab support. On the other hand, Terminator supports multiple resizable terminal panels.

It emulates something like a tiling window manager and tiles the terminal panel in a single window.

In this article, I’ll show you how to install and use Terminator in Ubuntu and other Linux distributions.

But before that, let’s have a quick look at the features Terminator offers.

Terminator gives you multiple terminal sessions in the same window

Terminator is a GTK application based on GNOME Terminal that uses VTE3 (Virtual Terminal Emulator widget GTK3).

Being an application based on GNOME Terminal it has some dependencies linked with the GNOME Desktop Environment.

However, I found the application relatively lightweight, even with the GNOME dependencies. Perhaps it should not be a problem to use it on other desktop environments.

From the outside, Terminator might look like any other terminal emulator. But the possibilities are endless with Terminator and I will show them to you in later sections.

terminator htop multiple
Someone please tell me how many htop is enough htop

Features

Let me summarize some of the main features of Terminator:

  • Terminals in tiling layout
  • Supports multiple tabs
  • Drag and drop terminal panel (great mouse support)
  • Keyboard shortcuts akin to tiling window managers
  • Saving layouts and profiles so one can get a quick head start
  • Extensible through plugins

Installing Terminator

Installing Terminator is as simple as installing any other package because it is available in the official repositories of all mainstream distributions you can name.

For your convenience, I have listed the commands for some major distributions below.

For Ubuntu and Debian based distributions, enter the below command to install Terminator:

sudo apt install terminator

For Fedora and Red Hat based distributions, use:

sudo dnf install terminator

For Arch and Manjaro based distributions, enter the below command to update and install Terminator:

sudo pacman -Syu terminator

Note: You might not get the latest version of Terminator in some of the Long term release distributions’ repos.

One can also install Terminator using the Graphical Package Manager provided by your distribution. But, there is no fun in installing a Terminal Emulator from the GUI.

Using Terminator

When you launch Terminator default window will look like a simple Terminal window. But, with some patience, it can work like a tiling window manager inside a single window.

terminator default window

Terminator allows you to use the mouse for creating new panes by splitting the present one horizontally and vertically.

terminator right click option

However, you’ll be a lot faster with keyboard shortcuts. It takes some time to get used to the keys but you’ll get there eventually.

Here, I opened htop in the first panel as shown below.

terminator htop

To create a new terminal panel to the right, just enter Ctrl + Shift + e shortcut keys. Secondly, I have used neofetch in the right panel, as shown below.

terminator htop neofetch

Lastly, I created another panel below the one with neofetch using Ctrl + Shift + o shortcut keys and launched cmatrix here. It’s one of those useless but amusing Linux commands.

terminator htop neofetch cmatrix

Above is the final screenshot of what I did in this walkthrough. Now you understand why I said that Terminator creates a tiling window manager like environment in a single window.

This tiling feature will come in handy if you need to open many terminals without installing a Tiling Window Manager. Terminator also supports tabs but the tiling feature is the USP of this application, in my opinion.

Terminator is one of the few applications that come with great documentation. If you need more information, please take a look at its documentation.

Conclusion

I believe all terminal emulators support tabbed interface. But you’ll have to switch between the tabs and it’s not convenient when you have to keep an eye on multiple sessions simultaneously.

Terminator may not look as good as Blackbox or GNOME Console. But it has features that seasoned Linux users love.

It serves a purpose that may not what every Linux user needs or wants. I leave it up to you to decide if it is worth your time.

Become a Better Linux User

With the FOSS Weekly Newsletter, you learn useful Linux tips, discover applications, explore new distros and stay updated with the latest from Linux world

It's FOSS

Great! You’ve successfully signed up.

Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.

You've successfully subscribed to It's FOSS.

Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.

Success! Your billing info has been updated.

Your billing was not updated.