Have you noticed that articles about Linux terminal emulators usually say something like “the terminal is not scary”? Well, they’re not wrong. The terminal emulator is just an application; there is nothing inherently “scary” about it (the commands you run in it are potentially dangerous). And since it’s an application like any other – say, a music player or a messaging app – you can easily replace it.
The majority of Linux terminals emulate the functionality of VTxxx devices developed by DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation), but there are emulators for other devices (IBM, HP, ADDM…). Linux terminals are very similar to each other, especially those based on the VTE software library. The difference is mainly in additional options that you can enable to improve your workflow.
While most people will be happy with the default terminal provided by their Linux distribution, some might want to switch things up. If you’re feeling adventurous, here are 5 best Linux terminal emulators perfectly capable of replacing your current one:
1. AltYoGreat if you want: a drop-down terminal with many tab management options
2. KittyGreat if you want: a modern terminal optimized for speed
Kitty has a smart feature that’s relatively uncommon among Linux terminal emulators – OpenGL rendering. Instead of taxing the CPU, it relies on the graphics card for faster and smoother output.
You can open multiple instances of Kitty and organize them neatly in one container. Several tiling layouts are supported, and you can even save a layout (with all running apps and commands) as a session and load it at any time.
3. ExtratermGreat if you want: advanced options for managing command output
4. UrxvtGreat if you want: extensibility and speed
Urxvt also supports custom line height and letter spacing for better readability. You can use urxvt in server-client mode, where it runs as a background process (server) to save memory and to open new urxvt windows (clients) much faster.
If Perl is your favorite programming language, then urxvt might be your favorite Linux terminal emulator. There are quite a few Perl extensions for uxrvt that you can enable to introduce features like tabs, clickable URLs, and clipboard management. Of course, you can try your hand at writing custom extensions.
5. Xfce TerminalGreat if you want: a beginner-friendly terminal with optional drop-down mode
You can drag-and-drop a file from the file manager into Xfce Terminal and have it display the full path to file. The terminal window background can be transparent, and you can use Xfce Terminal in Compact Mode, which hides window borders, decorations, and toolbars.
The best of all is the optional drop-down mode that makes Xfce Terminal work like other popular drop-down terminals (Guake or Tilda, which is on this list). Make sure to read the official documentation to ensure the drop-down mode is properly set up.
As always, the choice is up to you, so pick a terminal that suits your level of experience. With so many terminal emulators striving to be more user-friendly and easier to customize, even complete Linux beginners shouldn’t have trouble choosing – and using – one.
What do you look for in a terminal emulator? Which one is your favorite? Can you recommend some other terminal emulators for Linux? Let us know in the comments!