The default Terminal app on macOS works just fine, but it’s far from the only option available. Whether you’re looking for something with more features, something more customizable, or just something that looks cool, you’ve got a lot of options. These aren’t your only alternative terminal apps for your Mac, but they’re some of the best we’ve seen.
Of all the items on this list, iTerm2 is the closest to a go-to replacement for the Mac’s Terminal app. Plenty of people who work on the command line install iTerm2 when they set up their Mac and then never even think about any of the alternatives.
One of the main features iTerm2 supports is split panes. While the Mac Terminal app supports tabs (which iTerm2 does as well), split panes let you keep a better eye on what you’re working on. Another key iTerm2 feature is built-in search, which makes poring over pages-long log files much easier.
If you frequently paste items into your terminal, the built-in paste history will also prove to be very handy.
Looking at the list of plugins and themes, you’ll see tons of options available. The hyper-search plugin adds a search function similar to iTerm2, while hypercwd opens new tabs in the same directory as your current tab.
Not all plugins are quite this useful. The hyperpower plugin simply adds screen-shake and particle effects to your terminal, making everything you type look more impressive.
Alacritty’s GitHub page describes it as a “terminal emulator with a strong focus on simplicity and performance.” Performance is the key word here, as unlike a lot of terminal apps, Alacritty uses your graphics card to accelerate its performance. That means scrolling through long screens looks much smoother than many other apps.
While other apps on this list are extremely configurable and customizable, Alacritty aims for sane defaults so you don’t have to configure it. You still can, but its developers hope that it will work for you out of the box.
Terminator has been around for years and offers some features you won’t find in other terminal apps. One such feature is its drag-and-drop support, which lets you drag and drop a folder or file from Finder into the terminal window. This automatically inserts the file name as text, which can be useful.
Another feature is Terminator’s automatic logging. This auto-generates logs of all your terminal sessions. It’s handy if something went wrong, and you want to double-check the steps you went through to reproduce the problem.
If you miss the old days when computers were much bigger, Cathode might be for you. This app doesn’t add the functionality that some of the other terminal apps on this list do. Instead, it aims to make your terminal look straight out of the days when computer screens had two colors: green and black.
Cathode doesn’t stop at giant green letters and numbers on a black screen. The app adds curvature to the screen, as well as scan lines, jitter, a glow effect, and more. The terminal actually does support multiple colors, so your favorite vim color schemes will still work.
As you can see, there are a wide variety of alternatives to the standard Mac Terminal app. Every item on this list is available free of charge, so feel free to try out a few of them before you decide to settle on one. If you’re looking for more reasons to use your new terminal, check out our article on how to quickly find out all of the terminal commands available on your Mac.