Terminal Emulator

Benedikt Meurer

System development
Software developer

Andrew Conkling

This manual describes version 0.2.4 of Terminal.

Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts. The complete license text is available from the Free Software Foundation.

March 2005

Table of Contents

Introduction to Terminal
What is a terminal emulator?
What makes Terminal special?
Getting started
Starting Terminal
When you first start Terminal
Working with multiple terminals
To open and close terminals
To modify a terminal window
To work with the contents of terminal windows
To change the terminal title
To recover your terminal
To customize the toolbars
To switch between different encodings
Preferred Applications
Advanced topics
Command line Options
Files and Environment Variables
Hidden options
Frequently asked questions
About Terminal

Introduction to Terminal

What is a terminal emulator?

The UNIX operating system was originally designed as a text-only system, controlled by commands entered with a keyboard. This is known as a command-line interface (CLI). The X Window System, Xfce, and other projects have since added a graphical user interface to UNIX, thats what you are actually using now. But the addition of a graphical user interface doesn't mean that the CLI is dead. The CLI is still around and is frequently the easiest, fastest, and most powerful way to perform a certain task. In fact, power users would be lost without the CLI.

Terminal is what is known as an X terminal emulator, often referred to as terminal or shell. It provides an equivalent to the old-fashioned text screen on your desktop, but one which can easily share the screen with other graphical applications. Windows users may already be familar with the MS-DOS Prompt utility, which has the analogous function of offering a DOS command-line under Windows, though one should note that the UNIX CLI offer far more power and ease of use than does DOS.

Terminal emulates the xterm application developed by the X Consortium. In turn, the xterm application emulates the DEC VT102 terminal and also supports the DEC VT220 escape sequences. An escape sequence is a series of characters that start with the Esc character. Terminal accepts all of the escape sequences that the VT102 and VT220 terminals use for functions such as to position the cursor and to clear the screen.

What makes Terminal special?

Terminal's advanced features include a simple configuration interface, the ability to use multiple tabs with terminals within a single window, the possibility to have a pseudo-transparent terminal background, and a compact mode (where both the menubar and the window decorations are hidden) that helps you to save space on your desktop.

The following key features are available:

  • Multiple tabs per window
  • Customizable toolbars, which can be changed using an integrated graphical toolbar editor
  • Ability to configure nearly every aspect of Terminal in the Preferences dialog
  • Good integration with the Xfce desktop environment in particular, but also with every other Linux desktop
  • Session management support
  • Real multihead support (both MultiScreen and Xinerama mode)
  • Standards compliance (see the freedesktop.org website)
  • D-BUS based terminal service facility to minimize the number of processes in the system
  • High degree of maintainability by making best use of GTK+ and GObject.

Besides these key features, Terminal supports all features you would expect from a modern terminal emulator.