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Feature: Tools & Utilities

Terminator runs multiple GNOME terminals in the same window

By Bruce Byfield on May 14, 2008 (4:00:00 PM)

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In a sense, the desktop is the best thing that ever happened to the command line. Because a virtual terminal runs in a graphical environment, it boasts all sorts of enhancements that the unadorned shell lacks -- everything from multiple tabs to easy selection of display fonts and background and foreground colors. Perhaps the resulting power and convenience explains why, even at a time when the emphasis is on giving every application a graphical interface -- no matter how inappropriately -- people still write useful utilities for virtual terminals. A good example is Terminator, a program designed to perform one simple function: displaying multiple instances of the GNOME terminal within the same window.

You do not need to be a hardcore developer to understand the usefulness of this function. Consider the default options for displaying a man file while deciding how to run a program: Either you use a tab or else open another terminal. Neither option is completely satisfactory. With a tab, you have to click back and forth between the two terminals. With a second terminal, you can view both at the same time, but you generally have to pause to rearrange the terminal windows. In both cases, the more terminals you use, the more you compound the problem.

By contrast, by opening new terminals within the same window, you have no trouble viewing them together. Moreover, if you have multiple windows open and you move away from the terminals to do something else, you only have to find one window, not two.

Currently at version 0.8.1-1, Terminator is available in a tar file from the project site, and as a native package from an increasing number of distributions, including Debian, Fedora, and Ubuntu. Its dependencies are limited to python, python-central, python-gnome2, and python-vte, all of which except the last are standard packages you may already have installed.

The basic command to start Terminator is the same as its name, and you can modify the application's behavior with a few basic commands. Adding the -m parameter starts a Terminator terminal maximized, while -f starts it full-screen. To start the application without title bars, scroll bars, or borders, add -b -- an option that is especially useful when starting maximized or full-screen. If you want to start with a profile different from your default, you can specify it with -p profile=profile name. Similarly, if you want to run a shell other than your default, you can use -e=command.

No matter how you start Terminator, taking advantage of its functionality is straightforward. You can create a new command line by splitting the current one vertically or horizontally, either using the right-click menu or keyboard shortcuts. The main criteria for choosing which option to use is mostly which gives you the most space, but, otherwise, you can subdivide the Terminator window indefinitely so far as I can see; I gave up after I had eight nested terminals.

To move between terminals, you can use either the mouse or the key command Ctrl-Tab to cycle through them, or Ctrl-Shift-N to move to the next one and Ctrl-Shift-P to move to the previous one. When you are finished, you can close all the terminals from the menu on the title bar or Ctrl-Shift-q, or close each one separately from its right-click menu or using Ctrl-Shift-w. In most other ways, working with Terminator is exactly the same as working with a standard GNOME Terminal -- but much more convenient.

The only way that Terminator differs from a standard GNOME Terminal is that it does not display the GNOME Terminal menu. That means, of course, that you cannot change profiles on the fly, change the zoom, or open a new tab using the mouse. You will also need to remember that to paste from the rest of the desktop to a terminal, the command is Shift-Ctrl-v, and not the usual Ctrl-v.

Terminator is simultaneously such a simple and such an efficient program that sooner or later it seems likely to become part of the standard GNOME Terminal features. The only mystery seems to be when that will happen -- and why such an obvious benefit wasn't added many releases ago.

Bruce Byfield is a computer journalist who writes regularly for Linux.com.

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on Terminator runs multiple GNOME terminals in the same window

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Terminator runs multiple GNOME terminals in the same window

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 66.192.64.73] on May 14, 2008 06:28 PM
This is why XFCE is better than everything else. With smart window placement, all I do is hit ctrl-shift-N to open multiple new terminals without overlap - as many as my monitor resolution can handle. And it works for everything managed by xfwm - not just xfterm.

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Terminator runs multiple GNOME terminals in the same window

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 148.205.188.243] on May 14, 2008 07:04 PM
This is why ion3 is better than anything else. Thanks to the tiling/tabbing window management, you can work in this way not only with terminals, but with every kind of application. F2 to open new terminal, F3 with command completion to open other applications. The tiling/tabbing works with all applications.

There's really no better way to work with 20+ open windows, where you use and compare say 3-5 windows at a time.

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Terminator runs multiple GNOME terminals in the same window

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 99.202.173.229] on May 14, 2008 08:02 PM
GNU screen can give similar functionality in a real console, over ssh, in any term emulator, and has many other nice features, like detaching or split windows...

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Re: Terminator runs multiple GNOME terminals in the same window

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 198.150.224.3] on May 14, 2008 08:17 PM
That's what I use. I've found it a necessary tool when remotely controlling my home desktop.

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Terminator runs multiple GNOME terminals in the same window

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 190.66.168.83] on May 14, 2008 08:57 PM
That's why Konsole is better than everything else, etc....

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Terminator runs multiple GNOME terminals in the same window

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 90.201.191.11] on May 15, 2008 12:07 AM
Konsole supports split windows?

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Terminator runs multiple GNOME terminals in the same window

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 216.140.92.5] on May 15, 2008 02:31 AM
gnome terminal owns you all ... etc etc

at the end of day everyone is on command line he he ..

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Terminator runs multiple GNOME terminals in the same window

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 162.40.173.200] on May 15, 2008 04:35 AM
Konsole + Yakuake have had something quite like this for awhile, haven't they?

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Terminator runs multiple GNOME terminals in the same window

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 128.12.188.47] on May 15, 2008 06:06 AM
er... screen. Obviously.

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Terminator runs multiple GNOME terminals in the same window

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 194.113.59.77] on May 15, 2008 07:42 AM
terminator is good, but gnome-multi-terminal have many more useful features. Unfotunately, gnome-multi-terminal was based on gtk1 and never written in gtk2. Is uglier, but yet more usable. Maybe terminator will evolve in the next period.

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Terminator runs multiple GNOME terminals in the same window

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 10.45.43.71] on May 15, 2008 10:37 AM
We (the Terminator team) are adding more features and we will have some exciting things in the next couple of releases.
Some features will be copied from gnome-terminal and some from gnome-multi-terminal. More contribution is always welcome and you can file wishlist bugs, or grab the current development code from http://launchpad.net/terminator/

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Terminator runs multiple GNOME terminals in the same window

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 24.185.33.32] on May 16, 2008 04:59 PM
This is pretty cool! Thanks for taking the time to develop it!

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Terminator runs multiple GNOME terminals in the same window

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 74.201.195.82] on May 21, 2008 05:18 PM
Works great on Centos 5 Thanks!

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Terminator runs multiple GNOME terminals in the same window

Posted by: Anonymous [ip: 78.186.192.165] on June 13, 2008 11:13 AM

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