Upgrade Your Linux Terminal with Tilix

Upgraded Terminal With Tilix Featured

Most distributions come by default with a simple to use, but also somewhat lacking in features Terminal. Thankfully, there are many alternatives you can turn to as an upgrade. Some might excel as far as customization goes, others offer more features. Tilix works as a nice middle road between those choices. Let’s see how you can use it to turn your terminal into a modern, beautiful, and efficient workspace.

Install Tilix

If you’re using Ubuntu or a compatible distribution, you can install Tilix by firing up your existing terminal and typing:

Alternatively, you can find it in its software center.

Upgraded Terminal With Tilix Install

For instructions on how to install it on other distributions, visit its official page at GitHub, and scroll down to the “Getting Tilix” section.

Better looks

Start by improving your terminal’s looks. Run Tilix, click on the three lines menu button, on the top right, and choose “Preferences.”

Upgraded Terminal With Tilix Hamburger Menu Preferences

Move to the “Appearance” group of options, and change “Terminal title style” to “Small” for a more compact title line.

If you wish, from the “Theme variant” pull-down menu, you can also switch to a dark theme.

Upgraded Terminal With Tilix Dark Theme

Like many other popular terminal emulators, Tilix supports transparency. But it also supports background images. Those options are bound together, though, and you can’t use them both at the same time.

Return to the Preferences window, and notice the profiles section at the bottom left. Select the default, active profile, and move to the “Color” tab, to tweak Tilix’s looks.

The reason the background image didn’t show up is that the terminal window is fully opaque. To fix that, increase the “Transparency” value found here.

Upgraded Terminal With Tilix Colors And Transparency

Of course, if you hadn’t chosen a background image, increasing the transparency here would turn your terminal window see-through, if that’s what you’d prefer. You can also choose different “Color schemes” or create your own, by choosing the colors you’d like to see in your terminal from the colored boxes in the same window.

Upgraded Terminal With Tilix Top With Wallpaper

Also note that you can increase the “Unfocused dim” value, to have the contents of your terminal turn darker when you are working on something else.

Tiles and Sessions

As its name suggests, Tilix is a tiling terminal. This means that you can split its window however you want into sub-terminals, horizontally or vertically.

Upgraded Terminal With Tilix Split Vertically

On its top-left corner, you will find two buttons with which you can split its window. The first one, with a “tall” rectangle, splits the window vertically and adds a new terminal to the right.

Upgraded Terminal With Tilix Split Three

Next to it, the button with the “wider” rectangle splits the window horizontally, adding a new terminal to the bottom.

You can split each sub-terminal into even smaller ones using the same buttons. To move between them, either click on them or use Alt and the number in their title. To re-arrange the sub-terminals in the window, pick them up and drag them around like any window on your desktop. Dragging them outside the window’s boundaries creates new, individual windows.

Upgraded Terminal With Tilix New Session Button

You can have multiple terminals and sub terminals grouped into different sessions. Think of each session as a separate workspace you can switch to.

The button with the plus sign, to the left of the two buttons we saw above, creates new sessions. To switch between them, use the pull-down menu on the top left of the window, which displays a sidebar with thumbnails for each session. From there, you can also close any session by clicking on the small button with the “X” symbol on its top right.

Upgraded Terminal With Tilix Save Session As

If you like a specific arrangement of sub-terminals, you can click on the “hamburger” menu button and choose “Save As…” to export your decision to a JSON file.

To return to it in the future, choose “Open…” from the same menu and then your exported file.

Note that this saves only the arrangement of sub-terminals in a session, but nothing regarding their contents.

Bookmarks and Search

Two other functions you will probably end up using every day are bookmarks and search.

Click on the title pull-down menu, on the top of a sub-terminal, and from the menu that pops up, choose “Assistants” and then “Add Bookmark…” to add a bookmark to the path you are in in the selected sub-terminal.

Upgraded Terminal With Tilix Add Bookmark

To quickly move back to it, return to the same spot, but instead of “Add Bookmark…”, choose the plain “Bookmark” entry. Alternatively, you can use the shortcut Ctrl + Shift + B. Both lead to a window with your saved bookmarks, from where you can choose the one you want.

Upgraded Terminal With Tilix Bookmarks Window

You can seek any string displayed in a terminal or sub-terminal by clicking the button with the magnifying glass on the top right. This will make a search bar slide down from the top of the active terminal that you can use to search for something that was displayed there.

Upgraded Terminal With Tilix Search Terminal

Another useful feature of Tilix is the option to synchronize the input between different terminals. First, enable the option by clicking on the “hamburger” button on the top right and enabling “Synchronize Input.”

Upgraded Terminal With Tilix Sync Input

A small keyboard icon will appear on the top right of each sub-terminal. All sub-terminals where this icon is blue are linked, and anything you type in one of them will also be entered in the others. To unlink one of them, click this icon to turn it gray.

Upgraded Terminal With Tilix Sync Buttons

By combining everything will saw up to now, you will be able to juggle multiple tasks in a beautiful terminal that feels like a true extension of your desktop.

As a closing note and the cherry on top, if you add a new shortcut to your window manager with tilix --quake as the command, you will be able to recall and hide your terminal with a single keypress, as popularized by the Guake terminal emulator. You have to register your own keyboard shortcut to launch or close it though, as it doesn’t come with a shortcut to launch it in quake mode.

Odysseas Kourafalos Odysseas Kourafalos

OK's real life started at around 10, when he got his first computer - a Commodore 128. Since then, he's been melting keycaps by typing 24/7, trying to spread The Word Of Tech to anyone interested enough to listen. Or, rather, read.

16 comments

  1. I don’t often look at terminal emulators but ‘terminology’ really impressed me. Aside from tilting, it’s got a nice LS alternative built in. Plus the ability to view videos, images and various docs directly from the terminal.

      1. I came across this a few days ago. It’s not a terminal but an electron-based app simulating one of the nicest terminals I’ve ever come across. It’s called: eDex-UI (Open Source, github / GitSquared / edex-ui). It’s an appImage so very easy to run.

        Unlike most terminals, it actually handles any file on your system (docs, images, videos) because it’s actually a full screen GUI app itself but… so easy to lose sight of that. Nice functional effects, very cool sci-fi feel. Would love to run this full-time, tbh, because it feels like my old DOS prompt (where I could run any and all files).

        Downside: Own a modern i5, ssd for storage and this thing runs “hot”. My CPU went up over 10 degrees, fans kicked in and cpu usage was hovering around 15% without any interaction on my part. Sadly this kills the usability aspect for me but still worth a look.

        1. Ooh, nice! I think I’ll keep it in mind for a future article!

          But… Damn, a TERMINAL (ok, “terminal-alternative”, since it’s “an electron-based app simulating one of the nicest terminals you’ve ever came across” – that’s still, basically, “a terminal emulator” :-D ) increases your temps by TEN DEGREES?

          I must retype this. In caps. I’d also bold it and make it blink if I could:

          TEN DEGREES?

          I’ve got an ancient i7 2600K with an I-don’t-remember-which-but-it-was-supposed-to-be-a-mid-range-but-really-good-performing-cooler (my other PC runs a Hyper 212 EVO, so, something along the same lines). The CPU’s temp didn’t increase by ten degrees not even when I ran the utterly optimized (not) Arkham Knight! Are you SURE it’s “an electron app”? Could it be a… Crysis mod?!? :-D

          1. > I must retype this. In caps. I’d also bold it and make it blink if I could: … TEN DEGREES?

            Ha! :-D I’ll test again in a few days on a clean boot. My fans rarely kick in (except when I’m doing long USB transfers of large files) and I rely on a taskbar widget (Linux Mint) that provides continuous CPU Temp updates.

            I don’t know what’s a normal temp but I usually see 112-117 degrees F for most simple operations. This has always seemed high to me. Even on a cold boot, in a cold room – I see post start-up temps of 108 F.

            I’m currently running firefox (7 tabs), geany (2 tabs), file manager and smplayer (mkv/720p) and the current temp is shifting between 113 and 115 F.

            > Ooh, nice! I think I’ll keep it in mind for a future article!

            That’d be great! There are, apparently, a bunch of config options (a little like conky in that respect). Dig deep into it with an easy to follow writeup (it’ll save me a lot of work afterwards! LOL :-D).

  2. If something was sorely missing in the LInux ecosphere, a terminal emulator was it. This terminal emulator fills out a much-needed gap in the Linux world.

    1. Indeed. Terminals and Notepad clones are almost extinct in Linux-land :-D

      Kidding aside, you are right in that it’s not necessary, but it’s nice having the options if you’re interested in “something more”. This “something more” changes from user to user, and Tilix had me at the drag-your-terminals-around bit.

      If only it offered a way to also save *the contents* of each session…

  3. I guess its a personal thing? Because usually the terminal program that comes with Fedora, CEntOS….Ubuntu…..ZorinOS….openSuSE and Linux Mint, all seem to be just fine for me. I don’t have a need to be moving around in a tiled terminal, too busy for that. I also don’t spend a lot of time in the terminal to begin with, although I do use it daily, but I don’t need all those bells and whistles, just a decent font some transparency and I’m good. But still it IS a good thing to be able to install / remove whatever you want to from your Linux distribution without having to stress about “breaking something”….(Ever try to remove Internet Explorer?…or Microsoft Edge?….nightmare!

    1. I agree, I have always found the default terminal more than sufficient. The one change I make is the color, black background with green lettering. Terminal colors are just a matter of personal choice. I find the black/green colors easier on my eyes.

      1. Yeah, and while I prefer a more “dynamic” color scheme?….(light blue on a black background with about 25% transparency)? That’s pretty much it regarding customizations. I mean, it’s like you said….everyone’s tastes are different. I’m just glad that I’m even ABLE to alter/edit my terminal….with Microsoft your get black and white (cmd)…..or blue and white (Powershell) and that’s pretty much it!

  4. Tilix seems pretty cool, I will give it a try. I use XFCE4 on Ubuntu so I have come to like the XFCE4 terminal. On it you can open another terminal tab(s) & perform other functions, only difference is you must click between terminal displays. No biggie AFAIK.

  5. I’m just a lowly home user but this seems pretty helpful to me. I often have more than one terminal open, arrange them like tiles, keep them on top, etc etc. This sounds like an easier way to do the same thing.

    1. Ah, something tells me you’ll like one of my latest articles you can read here about how to arrange every single window on your desktop Exactly-As-You-Wish on KDE. You can basically take everything you say you’re already doing on your terminal sub-windows and apply it to the desktop itself. Check it out here: https://www.maketecheasier.com/better-manage-application-windows-kde/ .

  6. Ooh, nice! I think I’ll keep it in mind for a future article!

    But… Damn, a TERMINAL (ok, “terminal-alternative”, since it’s “an electron-based app simulating one of the nicest terminals you’ve ever came across” – that’s still, basically, “a terminal emulator” :-D ) increases your temps by TEN DEGREES?

    I must retype this. In caps. I’d also bold it and make it blink if I could:

    TEN DEGREES?

    I’ve got an ancient i7 2600K with an I-don’t-remember-which-but-it-was-supposed-to-be-a-mid-range-but-really-good-performing-cooler (my other PC runs a Hyper 212 EVO, so, something along the same lines). The CPU’s temp didn’t increase by ten degrees not even when I ran the utterly optimized (not) Arkham Knight! Are you SURE it’s “an electron app”? Could it be a… Crysis mod?!? :-D

  7. Hi,
    Just looking around for help: “Can tilix (equivalent to tmux as i think) – Can tilix be installed on Oracle linux? (OL comes compatible with RH kernel builds).
    requirement : – multiple terminals for Devops build work using terminals (easily detachable, attachable, background execution etc).
    Can anyone suggest ?
    Thanks,

    1. Sorry, but I’m not familiar with Oracle Linux. If I find some time in the future, I’ll look into it, but I think it would be better if you directly asked Tilix’s creators/maintainers.

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