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.
If you’re using Ubuntu or a compatible distribution, you can install Tilix by firing up your existing terminal and typing:
sudo apt install tilix
Alternatively, you can find it in its software center.
For instructions on how to install it on other distributions, visit its official page at GitHub, and scroll down to the “Getting Tilix” section.
Start by improving your terminal’s looks. Run Tilix, click on the three lines menu button, on the top right, and choose “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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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