How to Use Guake Dropdown Terminal in Linux

Guake Featured

For years, the terminal in Linux has remained unchanged. After all, there are not many things to fix or improve in a window where you enter commands. At least, theoretically.

Guake practically proves this mindset wrong by bringing the terminal to the 21st century – and your fingertips. With a plethora of parameters and functions that transform “that virtual space where we enter commands” into a multitasking powerhouse.

Let’s see why it’s worth it to invest some time to configure Guake, to upgrade how you interact with your computer.

Upgrade to a better terminal

Since Guake is one of the most popular applications of its kind, you can find it in most distribution repositories. Search for it in your distribution’s “app store” front-end using its name. If you prefer the command line, you can install it in Debian-based distributions with the command:

sudo apt-get install guake

Guake Install From Distro Front End

First manual run

Guake doesn’t run automatically after it’s installed. At least, not yet. The first time you use it you have to search for it and run it “manually” from your desktop environment’s main menu or by typing “guake” into a terminal.

Guake Manual First Run From Menu

Always available

After running the application, a pop-up appearing at the top-right of your screen will remind you that you have instant access to its window by pressing F12. This button works as a toggle, allowing you to both display and hide the window. By default, it appears from the top of the screen, covering all of its width and half the available vertical space.

Guake First Run With Default Settings

Let’s customize

Right-click anywhere in the app, and its main menu will appear. For the time being, ignore the other options and select Preferences. From there, you’ll be able to customize Guake to look and function as you wish.

Guake Right Click Menu Preferences

General Options

On the General Options tab, enable “Start Guake at login” so that the application will run automatically whenever you log in to your desktop.

We also recommend changing the “Prompt on close tab” option from “Never” to “With process running.” This way, whenever you try to close a tab where a process is active, Guake will show a warning to help avoid inadvertently terminating something useful.

Guake Properties General

Main Window

In the Main Window tab, you can modify a set of parameters that define how the application window looks. We recommend increasing the “Max tab name length” to 150 from 100 to make it easier to see what’s active in each tab.

Although we like the default approach to how the application appears on our screen, you can choose from a variety of options that can drastically change Guake’s appearance. Visit the Placement category to select, among other options, whether you prefer the Guake window to appear at the bottom instead of the top of the screen and if you want its tabs to appear at the top instead of the bottom of the window.

Perhaps the most dramatic change in the look of the application can be found in “Geometry” where you can set the “side” to have its window appear (left, center, right), as well as its width and height. We increased the height a little to gain more usable space in the application.

Guake Main Window Options


The Appearance tab options allow you to change the look of the app. The sheer number of predefined color profiles in the pull-down menu “Built-in schemes” combined with transparency support in “Effects: Transparency:” means you probably won’t have to mess with the rest of the options.

Guake Properties Appearance

Keyboard shortcuts

Continue to the Keyboard shortcuts tab to see a list of all the application shortcuts and, if you don’t like their default setting, modify them. The most important ones we recommend memorizing are:

  • Toggle Guake visibility: the key with which the main application window appears and disappears.
  • New tab: instantly create a new terminal on a new tab.
  • Close tab: closes the selected tab.
  • Rename current tab: rename the selected tab for easier identification.
  • Split tab vertical: split the active tab vertically into two terminals.
  • Split tab horizontal: split the active tab along its width horizontally.
  • Focus terminal above / below / on the left / on the right: four shortcuts that let you move between terminals when you have split a tab into multiple sub-windows.
  • Go to previous/next tab: two shortcuts that allow you to switch to the previous or next tab quickly.

Guake Properties Keyboard Options

Divide and conquer

Using shortcuts or the right-click menu options, you can turn the Guake window into your optimal workspace.

Guake In Action

  • You can divide each frame into as many sub-terminals as you like, horizontally or vertically. You can even overdo it, cramming dozens of almost unusable small sub-terminals in the same tab if you wish.
  • By holding down the left mouse button on a “partition” divider, you can move it to change the “partition’s” width or height, for even more flexibility.

Tabs in Guake aren’t much different from what we’ve come to know from web browsers.

  • By using the default shortcut or the associated key in the tab bar, you can create new ones.
  • Clicking on a tab’s name activates and switches to it.
  • Holding down the left mouse button on one and dragging it allows you to change the order.

And yes, each tab can contain many sub-terminals in completely independent layouts.

After all the above, it’s probably apparent why Guake is a real upgrade over a simple, standard terminal. It is cleverly designed to facilitate multitasking and can morph its appearance according to your preferences.

Admittedly, though, its most important feature is allowing instant access to a set of terminals with the touch of a single button. On each, you can be doing something completely different, and with the same key make the window disappear, not by “killing” but by hiding it, so that your precious processes remain active, waiting for your next call.

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