best terminal emulator for linux 2020

Do you prefer terminal emulators over GUI? But there are times when the terminal’s decent styling seems boring. In such cases, you look for more options to customize the terminal just like we do while choosing Linux distros.

If that’s the case, your wait is over as we bring the list of best terminal emulators for Linux that you can use to refresh your monotonous daily work. Along with the styling, you can also turn the single terminal into a multigrid, observing the activity of each terminal simultaneously.

Before you hop on the listicle, if you’re not familiar with a terminal emulator, let’s first understand what the terminal emulator is.

What is A Terminal Emulator?

A terminal emulator is a software similar to other GUIs applications with functionality to enable communication with your host computer. Let’s not confuse between the Terminal and Terminal Emulator. Terminal represents a piece of hardware, i.e., keyboard/monitor, while the Terminal emulator mimics a terminal through which a user gives a command to perform an action.

Terminal Emulator is a GUI application program that allows windows to take input and display output to the user in text format. Multiple terminal window programs can be included in the system.

Moving forward, let’s look at the best terminal emulators available. We’ve compiled the list based on various parameters such as color support, fonts, customization, lightweight, etc.

Top 10 Linux Terminal Emulators

1. Terminator

Terminator is the first non-default Linux terminal emulator that I tried and am still relying upon it. Terminator first introduced me to the better arrangement of terminals in a grid-like structure.

Terminator Grid structure
Terminator: Grid structure

The best part that I like about terminator is that it lets you open multiple terminals either in vertical or horizontal mode and monitor the activity of each terminal at the same time.

Key highlighting features of Terminator:

  • Multigrid-like structure
  • Save multiple layouts and profiles
  • Terminal reordering using drag and drop
  • Third-party plugins

The default and classic emulator always restrict you to single screen monitoring; however, you can open a new tab or new terminal. But multiple terminals in a separate window give more control and comfort.

Terminator is inspired by gnome-multi-term and much of the behavior is borrowed from GNOME terminal. Moreover, you can also number the terminal and create a group of the terminal.

How to install?

You can run the command below to install the Terminator.

sudo apt install terminator

Note: All the given commands are based on Debian-based Linux distros. You can replace the command with your running distros package manager. This applies to all the installation instructions mentioned ahead in this article.

If you find any error like “unable to locate package”, then you need to add terminator PPA into your package manager repository by running the command:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:gnome-terminator

2.  Terminology

The name may look similar to terminator but terminology stands way apart from the Terminator. Terminology uses the elementary toolkit to give cutting edge design to the terminal user interface.

Terminology
Terminology

Key highlighting features of terminology:

  • Understand the full file path, URL links, and email address
  • Local file display
  • Configuration panel
  • Display progress bar for downloads

Terminology is the most stylish and powerful emulator that also offers various pre-installed themes and wallpaper.

Terminology themes
Terminology themes

Using Enlightenment Foundation Libraries (EFL), Terminology works in X11 and Wayland windowing system and allows the video engine to run inside the terminal.

Another feature that will excite you is the lighting effect from the corner side while pressing the backspace keypad and glittering rectangular cursor.

To add more comfortability, Terminology also layouts the control panel with buttons to open and modify the behavior of the terminal.

How to install?

For quick installation of Terminology, you can run the command:

sudo apt install terminology

If you find any error, you can check out the list of dependencies from here that you need to install.

3. Cool Retro Term

If you’re a 90s’ kid and want to dig into your past where you had big back tv with flickering cathode screen, you would definitely love the cool retro term Linux emulator.

The cool retro term is mainly focused on simulating the style of the 90s cathode ray screen with a color variant. The visual look is seamlessly attractive with an outwardly raised concave screen.

Cool retro term
Cool retro term

Key highlighting features of Cool Retro Term:

  • Old Cathode display
  • Customizable, and reasonably lightweight
  • Vintage visual settings

The typing cursor also ignites with yellow flash during typing commands, and the flickering line runs from top to bottom.

The cool retro term comes in various visual settings such as Default Amber, IBM DOS, Monochrome Green, Vintage, and Futuristic. It uses the QTermWidget terminal widget that also powers the ubuntu-terminal-app.

The cool retro term is also available for macOS. You can download it from here and follow the instructions as given for each Linux distro.

How to install?

For quick installation of cool retro term, you can run the command:

sudo apt install cool-retro-term

If you find errors like “Unable to locate the package,” you can get the package or AppImage of cool-retro-term from here.

4. KDE – Konsole

Konsole is the default terminal emulator for the KDE desktop environment. Hence, it uses KDE Framework, QT library, and xcb windowing system.

Konsole
Konsole

Key highlighting features of Konsole:

  • Multi-language
  • Bookmark Tab
  • Multiple profiles with its own configuration
  • Multi-tab for each window

The unique feature that Konsole offers is the native languages. If you love your local language, you can switch to your own choice of primary language such as Hindi, Punjabi, Arabic, Russian, etc. Konsole also provides the facility for default fallback language.

Konsole change application language
Konsole: Change application language

If you want to save your current location path, you can also bookmark the tab and store it in the folder.

But if you want to open multiple terminals to form grid structure, you may find it hard as KDE lacks to split view in left/right or top/bottom simultaneously. However, you can open multiple tabs in each window terminal.

How to install?

For a quick installation of Konsole, you can run the command:

sudo apt install konsole

5. Tilix

Tilix has one of the best default stylings, which may look similar to GNOME. But Tilix is way better with the menu button available to open terminal right or down to form the grid structure.

Tilix
Tilix

Key highlighting features of Tilix:

  • Multi-session creation
  • Custome titles
  • Background image
  • Process completion notification

Tilix allows creating a single or group of a session window with each having its own configurations. You can also save the current session and load from the system.

You can also create multiple panels by splitting the terminal vertically or horizontally.

How to install?

For quick installation of Tilix, you can run the command:

sudo apt install tilix

Tilix is mostly available in every Linux distros repository. But if you find any difficulty, you can check out the instructions given here.

6.  Guake

I find Guake very amazing as it allows me to run the instant command without hiding my current application window. Guake is one of the best drop-down Linux terminal emulators for the GNOME desktop environment.

Guake Drop-down emulator
Guake: Drop-down emulator

There are also other drop-down terminal emulators such as Yakuake, part of KDE family, and Tilda, but they have minimal customization. Guake is highly inspired from the Quake emulator.

Key highlighting features of Guake:

  • Instant access to a terminal with a single keystroke
  • Autoconfigure and script execution at the login

You can swiftly pull the terminal from the top bar by pressing a single keypad. F12 is the default keystroke which you can change later. Terminal stacks over the current application instead of replacing it with new windows.

Moreover, you can also open multiple terminals and reset the color of the focused window.

How to install?

For quick installation of Guake, you can run the command:

sudo apt install guake

If you’re unable to install it, you can directly get the source code from the git repository from here and follow the installation guide.

7. GNOME

Ubuntu and its derivatives feature the GNOME desktop environment that comes with default GNOME terminal emulator. The default styling includes a decent green text hostname and light grey background.

GNOME terminal emulator
GNOME terminal emulator

Key highlighting features of GNOME:

  • Custom cursor and font style
  • Multi-tab and Fullscreen mode
  • Script execution on startup
  • Audible notification

Apart from the general appearance settings, you can also create various profiles with specific customized setting values. You can also perform multiple tasks using personalized shortcuts.

You can also customize the default terminal window size and zoom in or out to change the text size.

GNOME adds fluency to work with text as it understands the hyperlinks and email addresses, which redirects to the corresponding application to open.

How to install?

For quick installation of GNOME terminal, you can run the command:

sudo apt install gnome-terminal

8. Xfce

Xfce desktop environment is known for its lightweight experience that ships with the Xfce4-terminal emulator. Xfce emulator is mainly focussed on running over the old hardware devices.

Xfce4 terminal emulator
Xfce4 terminal emulator

Key highlighting features of Xfce4-terminal:

  • Export output in a plain text file
  • Change terminal title

Xfce4-terminal allows opening multiple tabs but is restricted to the individual terminal at a time. You need to use a mouse pointer to switch between tabs to monitor the multiple terminal actions at once.

Xfce emulator is based on the Vte terminal widget library, like gnome-terminal. Similarly, Xfce does not provide many options to customize, except terminal preferences that include general and appearance settings.

How to install?

For quick installation of Xfce, you can run the command:

sudo apt install xfce4-terminal

If you find any difficulty, you can download the tarball source from here.

9. Alacritty

Alacritty is considered to be the fastest terminal emulator that uses your GPU to optimize the speed.

Alacritty is a cross-platform, performance focussed and simplest terminal emulator. Being the fastest, some people may find it the best emulator, but it also lags to offer the style customization options.

Alacritty
Alacritty

Key highlighting features of Alacritty:

  • Cross-platform
  • GPU accelerated
  • Colored emojis

Another thing that you may dislike about the Alacritty is third party tool dependency. Installing Alacritty is a lengthy process that may initially force you to stay on the same emulator rather than struggle with the installation.

How to install?

If you’re using Debian-based Linux distro, you can install the alacritty using snapd application package.

sudo apt update
sudo apt install snapd
sudo snap install alacritty --classic

For other Linux distros, you can follow the command given here, or you can download the pre-built binaries from here.

10. Tilda

Tilda is also a drop-down emulator based on GTK with no border window. You can press the default F12 or customized keystroke to open the terminal that pulls out from the top.

Tilda
Tilda

Key highlighting features of Tilda:

  • Dropdown
  • Highly configurable
  • Toggle search bar
  • Auto-hide terminal

Tilda is limited to work only on Xorg-based desktops, and it does not support Wayland; hence doesn’t work on Ubuntu 17.10 onwards.

How to install?

For quick installation of Tilda, you can run the command:

sudo apt install tilda

If you find any difficulty, you can download the pre-built binaries or follow instructions given here.

So the list of top ten emulators ends here, but not the list of terminal emulators. You can also try other terminal emulators available such as Lilyterm, Tilda, eterm, roxterm, etc.