The Best Terminal Emulators for Linux

If you’re a fan of Linux, you know the exact reason why it’s awesome – the command line. Though many outsiders view it as only a “hacker tool,” it’s actually one of the best tools available for any operating system. The Linux shell has the ability to install software, manage your operating system and basically everything else.

To interact with the command line, you’ll need a terminal emulator. There are many terminal emulators available –¬†perhaps too many. There are a lot of good ones and a lot of bad ones out there. It is because of this reason we’ve decided to create a list of five great terminal emulators available on Linux.

Note: most if not all programs on this list can be found in your distributions package repository. You can install them by using your package manager.

1. Terminator


What can I say about Terminator that many people haven’t already said? It’s packed full of features. Like most modern terminal emulators, you’ll be able to have multiple tabs open. However, that’s not the only feature Terminator has to offer. Terminator can also open multiple terminals in one window, allow you to set multiple windows to open custom commands instead of the shell, broadcast the commands from one terminal window to the other and the list just goes on and on.

If you’re looking for a terminal emulator that has features on its features, it’s a super handy tool. Maybe a large amount of features isn’t something that everyone wants, but for those that do, it’s probably the best choice.

2. Yakuake


Do you like the the idea of having access to your terminal at any time? With Yakuake, when running, pressing the F12 key drops it down for you to access. The program was created and inspired by the drop-down console available in Id Software’s Quake franchise.

Like most modern terminals, you’ll have the ability to open multiple tabs, will be able to start windows with custom commands, and will have custom color schemes. Yakuake also has support for custom skins, so you’ll be able to download as many as you want to customize it. If you’re a fan of advanced features and options, but also love the drop-down style, consider Yakuake.

3. Guake


Much like Yakuake, Guake is a Quake inspired terminal. It, too, has many features to speak of. For example: you can run a command instead of the default shell at startup, change shell custom color schemes, have custom skins, and many, many other things.

Both programs are great options. The only real difference is performance. If you have great hardware, this shouldn’t be too big of an issue. Use what you prefer. However, if you’have a weaker machine, consider going with Guake. It’s a bit lighter on the system.

4. Termite


Not a fan of over-complication? Prefer a terminal emulator that keeps it simple? You may want to give Termite a serious look. Termite is specifically designed to interact with tiling style window managers, but no matter. Termite is a modal application (like Vim). It is very, very keyboard-centric, Everything within the program can be edited and tweaked in the config file. Termite sports a lot of modern features (color schemes, transparency, fonts, etc). Termite is a great option for those looking to go lightweight.

5. Rxvt-unicode


Much like Termite, Rxvt-unicode is set up with a configuration file. If configured right, you’ll be able to take advantage of all the features it has to offer. For example: Want to change up the color scheme, font, load a custom command instead of a shell or anything like that? It’s as simple as going into the configuration file and writing a few lines. When it comes to lightweight terminals, rxvt-unicode is a serious contender.


The command line is a powerful tool. By just using it, you’ll learn a lot about the distro you use as well as some things about Linux in general. It’s great. This is why having a terminal emulator that you prefer is key. It helps you get into the mood, your comfort zone if you will. With the right tool, you’ll be able to realize just how useful it can be.

Do you have a favorite terminal emulator for Linux? Tell us what it is in the comments!

Derrik Diener
Derrik Diener

Derrik Diener is a freelance technology blogger.

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